Monday, January 19, 2009

UTA's $48,000 European Vacation

This is old news, but I have to get it off of my chest. After all, I am a UTA customer. I've endured several price hikes and reduced service in the 25 months since I started using them as my primary mode of transportation.

So, it comes as a great relief to know they are spending my hard-earned money wisely.

Like a vacation to Europe.

The Utah Transit Authority spent at least $48,000 last month taking nine managers and board members, a business booster and three mayors on a weeklong tour of six European streetcar systems.

The itinerary: Vienna, Munich, Zurich, Nice and Bordeaux, with incidental stops in Monaco and Paris. The goal: peruse state-of-the-art trains unlike any used in North America and consider them as possible connectors that can share traffic lanes with cars to link with Utah's expanding light-rail system. The travel tab: An estimated $3,700 a head -- all from UTA tax dollars.

Because we can't learn about stretcars without going to Europe to see them.

And, some of those cities have really modern streetcars systems. Munich's been using electric streetcars since 1895.

That's not a long time at all.

Video, Powerpoint, phones, the internet -- all ways you could learn about these systems for cheaper than a trip to Europe.

Not to mention, there are several places closer to home that have various systems that are worth looking at:

Electric streetcars, often called trams outside North America, once served transit needs in scores of North American cities. Most municipal systems were dismantled in the mid-20th century.

Today, only New Orleans and Toronto still operate streetcar networks that are essentially unchanged in their layout and mode of operation.

Boston, Mexico City, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco have rebuilt their streetcar systems as light rail systems. Buffalo, Calgary, Dallas, Edmonton, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Diego, and St. Louis have installed new light rail systems, parts of which run along historic streetcar corridors and in a few cases feature mixed-traffic operation like a streetcar. Portland, Oregon, has experimented with modern light rail and modern streetcar systems.

Edmonton, Seattle, Vancouver, Whitehorse, and other cities have restored a small number of streetcars to run as heritage lines for tourists.

But, back to Europe. You see, it wasn't a vacation:

The delegates shuttled to seven cities in seven days. [UTA General Manager John] Inglish doubts any of them got more than six hours of sleep a night.

"This wasn't a vacation," [Bountiful Mayor Joe] Johnson said.

Oh, poor babies.

I recently went to Denver for a week. While there, I fought crowds, learned about riot gear, learned about a transit system that used buses and rail, attended about 22 hours of a convention (including sitting on the floor of a hallway one day), wrote multiple blog posts for a blog other than my own, slept on a balcony, and got 6+ hours of sleep exactly once. Oh, and paid for over 90% of the expense myself.

Yet, I still considered it a vacation.

No comments: