Sunday, March 28, 2010

Suggested Reading

Utah has the largest number of students per classroom in the nation. Does that matter?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Worth Repeating

There is nothing inherently convenient about cars, or about any vehicle. It is the system that makes them convenient, and that system includes both the vehicle and the infrastructure. Provide unlimited, subsidized "free" car infrastructure, and cars will be convenient. Run buses often, everywhere, all the time, and buses will be convenient. Put everything in a giant skyscraper with computer-controlled elevators, and elevators will be convenient. Trains, walking, bayou boats, swinging from vines, conveyor belts, scuba diving: whatever it is, if you throw enough money at the infrastructure you can make it convenient.

-- Cap'n Transit, "On the Supposed Convenience of Cars"

You have to go back to the urban limits of old pre-automobile cities with intact transit systems to understand how significant this is. Manhattan doesn't have a big subway system because of the density--Manhattan was once much less dense. It big subway system because a) The subway system was too big to fail, and b) it didn't compete with cars for Right of Way.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bad month for home sales

As expected.

There are far more houses for sale then there are qualified buyers. Some combination of chicanery and stupidity on the part of mortgage brokers/banks/FHA managed to temporarily 'juice' the pool of 'qualified buyers', largely by using the same tactics that credit card companies have: Give everyone credit and charge a savage interest rate.

For credit card companies, it was a great strategy, especially thanks to recent changes in bankruptcy law (2k8?) mandating that credit card debt was not erased by bankruptcy. For mortgage companies, that has worked less well: Home-owners have increasingly decided to walk away from their huge debts.

To use an analogy, the Federal house credit solidified house prices today, by shot-gunning almost ready home buyers into todays housing pool. However, it's a case of diminishing marginal returns. Everyone who can reasonably afford* to buy a house has bought one.

In combination with the next surge of defaults, expect things to get nasty.

*Stable employment, good credit, cash savings for down payment, unlikely to move...

Transit Peak Load and Schools

Non-elementary school age children should ride regular transit buses.

The majority of the day, most roads are empty. The same is true of buses. But for a small portion of the day, both roads and buses are crowded. For buses, that part of the day is murder. Most UTA buses are single-door access During peak times, more people get on and off the bus. Thus, each stop takes longer, and thus the entire ride takes longer.

Apart from solutions suggested elsewhere, the idea of simply doubling capacity appeals--add more buses. After all, over half the people on buses are on the bus during those hours. Why not have more buses during those hours? Simply put, a lack of buses and drivers.

And thus my argument for putting teenagers on regular buses: Because the 'peak' of use for school trips and work trips don't line up. Schools trips peak in the afternoon, work trips peak in the evening. By using regular transit buses for teenagers, a transit agency would be able to support a larger number of buses, and thereby to increase service for work trips during the peak hour, making bus travel faster and more reliable.

It would allow school districts to do away with the enormous limited use bus fleets every school district is obliged to support, while making better use of the public public transit resource.

If fearful parents demand some buses be 'school children only', I am prepared to accept that compromise to increase the size of the available bus fleet for non-school children use for the rest of the day.

Simple, Brilliant, Effective

UTA should do this immediately.

All the TRAX stations have 'Next Train in X Minutes" display. A lot of transit agencies a putting these up, especially on premium services (Light Rail, Streetcar), on the basis that transit riders find waiting less uncertain, and less tedious, if they know when the next vehicle will arrive. It's supposed to help cure the 'bus bob', as people look down the road/track to see if the vehicle has arrived yet. It is comforting to see that the time remaining is declining, certainly, and the signs tend to be accurate within a minute or two, barring accidents.

Are these signs a waste? The TRAX schedule is posted at every station, and the TRAX schedule itself is very simple: The train comes every fifteen minutes, all day, six days a week, and sometimes more often. And none of the buses have the premium next bus service.

It's been an ongoing source of frustration that UTA does not post bus schedules on the poles indicating bus stops, apart from locations serving over a half a dozen buses. On hand, doing so would be expensive and time consuming. On the other hand, the lack is maddening--the alternative is carrying a thick packet of bus schedules, one for each potential route.

But even this is insufficient. Few buses conform to the posted schedule. Most are largely accurate, with a margin of error of no more then five-ten minutes. But this accuracy degrades during the critical peak hour, when most people ride the bus system, providing the impression that the bus schedule is even less accurate than the average. On one notable occasion--a bus, winding through research park, was running an over a half an hour behind schedule.

Up to date, accurate information makes it possible to determine if it will be faster to walk or wait. If a bus on a 30 minute headway is 28 minutes away, it will be faster to walk anyplace within a mile. Or to call a friend, call a cab, or use UCarShare as an alternative.

UTA already has a questions and complaints number at 801.ride.uta (801.7433.882) but it is only in operation during business hours (Monday-Friday, 9-5, and some Holidays). Calling it provides access to a live operator, who will provide a manual look up of the bus schedule for you. But repeatedly calling UTA's hotline to ask when the next bus is coming is gratuitous waste of their time and taxpayer money.

As Google Text (46645), Facebook and Twitter have shown, SMS text integration is not a major issue. Programming an automated service to input the stop #, and return* the time of the next scheduled bus would be relatively simpler.

Life would be so much simpler and better were UTA to simply bolt an additional 'hanger' onto the sign at every bus stop:

Text to

While the fancy signs TRAX has are undeniably nice, they represent a capital investment with an accompanying upkeep and maintenance cost that would be uneconomical to provide for all bus stops. Implementing a SMS-text service is a no-brainer.

*AT LEAST the scheduled arrival time of the next bus. A system involving dynamically collected GPS data would be both more useful to riders (and potential riders), but more complex to implement and integrate.

The Nature of History

I tend to subscribe to an economic understanding of history--shifting economic conditions upset existing economic arrangements, destabilizing the social arrangements that depend on those conditions. This in turn generates a political backlash, typically intended to regress economic conditions, to stabilize the 'new' economic conditions by making further economic change more difficult, or to provide a 'plum' to induce people to take up a new system of social arrangements.

The 17th Amendment was a mistake

The seventeenth Amendment transferred the election of Federal Senators from the State Senates directly to the people.

A survey of relevant historical conditions reveals the rational for this action: A deeply corrupt political system with gerrymandered electoral districts, with strong party bias in each district, ensuring safe seats. With Federal senators elected through the State Senate, Federal senators were effectively insulated from popular opinion.

On its face, this seems like a good and reasonable thing. However, it has been argued that a proliferation of elections is both dangerous and harmful.

I am always impressed by the thoughtfulness of the American Constitution. The modern conception of 'separation of powers' learned in junior high civics classes (Executive, legislative, judicial) was not the one that the constitutions framers were concerned with. Indeed, its worth realizing that the third member of our 'powers' triumvirate was not constitutionally created, but rather a product of Marbury vs. Madison, a court ruling that first declared a legislative action unconstitutional.

The separation of powers the constitutional framers were interested in was the one between the People, the States, and the Federal Government. The balance struck displays and interesting philosophical approach: To the people, all privileges and liberties (aka Rights)--to the Federal Government, certain restricted powers. To the States, all other legislative authority.

The only means of redress the U.S. constitution directly provides to the people is voting. While most of the State constitutions provide opportunities for petition and referendum, it is notably absent in the Federal Constitution.

The argument that Federal senators were intended to be the representative of each STATE to the Federal Government, rather then the directly elected representatives of the people, seems sound. The role of directly elected representative was already filled by the House of Representatives.

The 17th amendment, by breaking this crucial link between the States and the Federal Government, removed State oversight of Federal Legislation. It became possible for the Federal Government to interact directly with political constituencies not represented in State Government.

On one level, it is pleasing that citizens previously 'shut out' now had an increased interest in the political process. On the other hand, there may be a reason that marginal interests are not represented at the State level - marginal appeal.

This suggests a rationale for the modern Federal Governments fondness for non-dominant political interests--both trans-State organizations and ideological extremists. A national constituency can muster resources from multiple locations and then concentrate them on a single candidate in a single race. Similar to the concentration of forces in warfare, it is an effective strategy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Electoral districts display some very strange perimeters.

As I was perusing the vote-map for the house health-care vote, I happened upon the map in the article. For those of your unfamiliar with Utah geography, please note that all three electoral districts reach deep into the heart of Utah's liberal center, Salt Lake City. While generally respecting major geographical or political boundaries elsewhere in the state, I find it hard to understand our current house boundaries as anything but an attempt at political divide and conquer. Salt Lake County is certainly the majority of Utah's population, but to reach so deeply and divisively into the county smacks of political opportunism.

The districts were drawn years ago, and will almost certainly be redrawn after the 2010 census. But it will certainly be worthwhile to apply some GIS analysis to both the 2000 and 2010 districts to determine if there is not some other division of territory that can be made that might have a better perimeter to area ratio, and thereby be less gerrymandered.


The curiously erudite digressions of Wikipedia bear strange fruit.

Ethicist Jacob Appel has noted a decline of mercy, and a concomitant increase in retribution, in American public life. Appel has written:

One of the glaring -- yet too often overlooked -- failings of contemporary America is that we have become a nation obsessed with justice and retribution. We claim to be The Land of the Free, yet we have lost sight of what it means to be imprisoned: denied liberty and access to one's family, subjected to isolation and violence and unspeakable boredom. We have come to believe, in the most pernicious way, that people should get what they deserve. What a sea change it might be in our public discourse and our civic life if we focused instead upon mercy and forgiveness. A merciful and forgiving culture might find itself with less anger, less social disruption, and even less crime.[3]

Historically, America offered redemption to the felon and the criminal: Head West, face horrific dangers, and let your past be forgotten. The nearest thing we have left like that is Alaska. Americans have been fleeing justice to the frontiers since the days that Louisiana was still the frontier.

The percent of the U.S. population in jail is the same as for a third world dictatorship. Our pursuit of 'Justice' has served us ill. We've managed to lock up an astonishingly large number of people, on an astonishingly racist basis (the percent of the black population far exceeds that of the white). California has managed to lead the race, and is now bankrupting itself attempting to pay for it.

Florida has attempted to cement the permanent debasement of our population by denying former felons the vote. That begs the question--if someone served time for their crime, are they not exculpated of it? If they are not, then why are they out of prison? If they emerge before what is deemed proper penance has been paid, why are we imprisoning them in the first place?

If we hope to have a system of 'penitentiaries', rather then prisons, to reform and rehabilitate, there needs be some system of reformation, where the convict can regain some sort of normal social standing. Otherwise, by imprisoning people, it serves only to provide the close association and duration of acquaintance to initiate people into the fraternity of felons, and thereby harden them into permanent criminals.

It pleases me to no end that the 'drug war', while not ended, is slowly being wound down. An end to maximum minimum sentences would also be of great help.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

People want cars

"Mathematically we need more than 2,000 spaces ... people who live in Flushing want cars." There is this entrenched belief that people will own cars whether or not there is space for them, and that if the space is not provided they will park in other places. It has been well demonstrated that providing parking encourages people to own and use cars, but this is largely ignored by these business and community leaders.

Yes, there are clearly some people who want cars. But there are a fair number of people who don't, or can't. And it's not as if there aren't alternatives: This isn't suburban Phoenix we're talking about here: This is Flushing, New York, in Queens County, not more than a couple of miles from Manhattan, NYC. Subways, the Long Island Rail Road, etc.

Sometimes, I think the whole debate could benefit from a little market segmentation. Those extra parking spaces aren't exactly free. $40,000 per space for parking underneath the building. If you asked me "Would you like your home to have a covered parking space?", I would certainly say yes. But were you to ask me "Would you be willing to pay $6,000 a year?", I would certainly say no.

The best product is clearly one a wide variety of people are going to buy. And limiting yourself to a smaller market doesn't help the developer any. It's tempting to say "Let the market decide!" But the city itself has some skin the game: The transit system. You've got a multi-billion dollar legacy system--the city needs it, and there is no way it could ever be shut-down or replaced without disastrous impact to New York City. So there is an incentive for the city to induce people to ride the system--not just return at the fare box, but also essential political backing. You provide more parking, more people drive. More peopled driving means more people agitating for wider roads, and fewer people riding transit.

It's tempting to allow this single project to go forward. But there are two issues: Aggregation and precedent. This one decision means comparably little, but dozens of similar decisions would result in significant impact. The other is precedent. The city imposed a regulation, and someone is contesting it. If the city council punts on this, they have to do the same for every other developer, or other developers will be able to accuse them of having been 'arbitrary and capricious' in the application of the law, a clear violation of the Constitution's equal protection clause. I can't imagine this is the first project to be affected by parking minima, just the first in Flushing to fight it.

Flushing needs to stick by it's guns, which is a hard thing in bad economic times. If the developer goes away, there will be hard feeling in the business community. Innovative solutions are needed. The parking minima regulation is going to outlast this challenge, it cannot be subject to compromise. But that doesn't mean other issues couldn't be.

Death of a Thousand Cuts

Do you want to know how to kill a bus route? It's pretty easy. Once you start the death-spiral, it's pretty hard to undo. All you need to do is cut service, once. Cut it from ten minutes to fifteen minutes.

Lying about the schedule helps, too. Make sure the bus doesn't show up on time. Being late is always good, but being erratically late is better. If you can manage to not show up, once or twice, anybody relying on the bus to make it to work will call it quits and buy a car.

Soon, people will get tired of waiting the extra couple of minutes, and find another way to get where they are going. So buses have fewer people on them. And if there are fewer people on them, you only need half as many buses, right? So you can cut service again, to say, a bus every thirty minutes.

This is about when its time to cut weekend service. Ridership is always lower on the weekends anyway, because you don't have the 9-5 crowd bumping up the numbers, so it's just retail and service workers.

So all the riders that are left are waiting even longer, and some of them find a different way to get where they are going. So you cut service to every hour. At this point, nobody but the most desperate will be riding your bus, because who the hell wants to wait an hour for the bus? A healthy adult with an hour to kill can walk three miles in that time, and probably get there faster than if they had waited for the bus.

Now, add more stops. At this point, the only people riding your bus are probably young, elderly or disabled, so they probably can't walk very far, very easily. And it doesn't cost any money to add more stops, to reduce walking distance. Add some big U-shaped detours, to stop at a library, an old-folks home, or a school. It does make the bus really slow, but at this point, there is nobody left who cares anyway.


When I was reading public comments for the Ogden Streetcar project, this argument came up a couple of times:

Buses are better than rail because they can be changed in response to changing conditions.

This is bunk, and bunk in the worst way. While bus systems typically change route schedules (what time the bus comes) and bus frequencies (how often the bus comes) the rate at which bus routes (where the bus goes) are changed is glacial. Some buses still follow the same routes that trolleys followed fifty years ago.

Any time you try to change a bus line, you will get the people along the bus line coming out in droves. As you would expect. Because you are trying to steal the car out of their garage.

As a renter, it's a lot easier to change where I live then it is to change where I work. Until two years ago, I moved every single year. But I always stayed close to a transit line that took me directly (no transfers) to work.

Making route changes even more difficult is that many of the people who come to the public meeting about the route shift are going to be wretched--old, poor, retired, or disabled. For whom that route is the only form of transportation available, and takes them to critical services--doctors, grocery stores, banks, everything. And they will be furiously angry, because they are afraid that you are going to steal 'their' car.

The funny reality is that most public officials don't respond to public sentiment--they respond to their perception of public sentiment. And nobody wants to be the one who takes grandma's bus away.

Second, I'd like to discuss the idea of 'changing conditions': Conditions don't change. Transit ridership responds to density: Number of people per acre, number of jobs per acre, square foot of retail space. And those change at a pace that is glacial. The build environment doesn't change quickly. Houses last a long, long time. Office buildings last even longer. The hypothetical 'changing conditions' buses are supposed to be able to respond better to? They don't exist. Buses follow the same route trolleys followed decades before because it's still a good route. Still a lot of small houses, 8-12 of them per acre, filled with people still wanting direct access to downtown.

Why they should teach logic in schools:

Class, repeat after me: Correlation does not imply causation.

Every time I re-read this article, the stupider it seems.

Take this bit:
Another U.S. study found the employment rate for car owners was 80 per cent; for those without a car, it was 53 per cent. And there is a clear causal link at work: having a car increases your chances of finding a job.

Allow me to formulate an alternative hypothesis for the same data: "Having a job increases the likeliness you will own a car." Both logical and compelling eh? Have a job, get paid, and suddenly you can afford a car!

Priuses for all!

This is the second time this particular argument has cropped up, and I think it deserves debunking. The heart of the argument is that it would be cheaper to buy every single transit rider a new Prius every five years than to keep running transit.

But like snake-oil salesmen everywhere, Peter Shawn Taylor has elected not to mention some of the side-effects: Massive, massive congestion.

Take I-15, or example. The other day, I was driving I-15 with my brother, who remarked on how un-congested it was. "Thank TRAX" I told him. He protested, but I pointed out that I-15 carries about 150,000 cars every day, and that TRAX carries about 50,000 people every day, many of whom are destined for either downtown or the University. I asked him if he felt like adding another 50,000 cars to I-15, and he demurred.

You can compare the cost of a new rail line to the cost of Priuses, but it's not an apples to apples comparison. If you really wanted to make a comparison, you'd have to include the cost of right of way for the additional lanes, and the cost of 'stations'. Each car requires a cheap and easy to produce station called a 'parking space'. Each parking space needs about 175 square feet. That's about 200 acres, at downtown prices. So of course you don't just build surface parking, you build parking garages. Judging by the number of ones already built in downtown, that's probably a much cheaper way to do it. That runs about....$18,000 per stall, just for construction cost. That's about $900 million.

Now, assume a seven story parking garage is built, with about 7,000 stalls per floor. Including circulation for the cars to get in and out of the parking spaces, call it 200 square feet per car, or 700,000 square feet. That's about 16 acres, or about a one and a half Salt Lake City blocks.

Assume about $1 million per acre for the property, assuming the site is on the periphery of the CBD and no one minds that it's directly adjacent to the freeway.
So for the 'stations', it will cost you about $925 million

Now, add another lane to I-15. The I-15 core project, to widen I-15 through Utah County, was just let for bid, at a cost of 1.725 billion. Now, the distance is certainly greater, so almost twice as long, a billion dollars is probably a better estimate.

So, the additional cost not included in the 'Prius' solution? About 2 billion dollars. The Priuses themselves would run about $6,000 per driver, per year, and a new Prius costs about $21,000. Five years in, that's $51,000 per 50,000 drivers, for another 2.5 billion dollars.

Light Rail (like TRAX) runs $20-30 million per mile, and about $5 million a year to operate. Is public transit cheap? No. But it is far, far superior to the alternative.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sweet sweet synergy

In Curitiba, the municipal government accepted recyclables from residents and paid them in bus tokens. The poorest people had the time to scavenge for recyclables and bring them to the collection centers, so they benefited the most from this policy

Salt Lake City has mooted the potential for a local recycling center on several occasions, as part of it's general sustainability efforts. I have diligently environmental friends who have piles of glass outside their doors, awaiting recycling. There is an old Chinese woman who raids my dumpster for aluminum cans on a semi-regular basis.

I cannot help but believe that these elements can be coordinated to the benefit of all. Part of the problem of recyclables is their low bulk. Garbage is collected weakly, but rare is the household that could fill a garbage can full of recyclables.

Designate a regular pickup day. Have pickup bags of recyclables color-coded as we do for bags of leaves. Pay on delivery at the collection center. Use the money that would be spent on paying for pick-up and collection to pay for the recyclables, at above market-rates, in bus tokens.

Charity and sustainability in one go. Tough to beat.

Toll Roads and Transit

It occurs to me that toll roads and transit may be natural political allies. If I build a toll road, I have a financial interest in being the best possible transportation alternative, and prefer if any alternative roads are more congested than my own, because that provides an incentive to pay for the use of my toll road.

Now, I can improve on my toll road if I charge variable tolls, in response to changing conditions. Because the cumulative effect of additional cars is greater with each additional car, I thereby need to charge more for each additional car.

Because of the Bureau of Public Roads congestion curve, we have a pretty good idea at lane efficiency, and thus of the rate to charge to represent the impact of an additional vehicle on all vehicles already on the roadway.

Ergo, both transit (with dedicated ROW) and toll roads have an incentive for alternatives to be congested, and thus a political/financial incentive to fight against expanded capacity.

Better yet if the toll road is privately owned, because private owners are immune to certain political pressures. I'm semi-perpetually kicking around the idea of a share-based system, with different landowners kicking in land for ROW and receiving shares in return, with the shares entitling them to revenue from the toll road... Now, if a transit agency were to buy into such an arrangement, providing capital for construction of the facilities, and receiving right of use for its vehicles in return, you could have a very interesting system.


It infuriates me when the Cato institute uses Amtrak's subsidies as a protest against high speed rail (HSR). I've been to France. I've written the TGV. And now I've ridden Amtrak. And I can tell you, the two are as different as cheese and chalk*.

High speed rail in France operates like a steel-rail airplane. There are a couple of hubs where different lines meet, and the train goes full speed between those points, with few if any intermediate stops. It goes so fast that the landscape blurs. Paris to Nice was 578 miles, which took about 6 hours, giving it an average speed of about 96 miles per hour.

Riding Amtrak is like going on a cruise. It doesn't go very fast, because there is no reason to. It stops every hour, in tiny cities and towns all accross the U.S., letting a few people on, a few people off, letting people on the train get off and have a smoke. There is a dining car, and a viewing car, for watching the scenery slide by. It's pleasant, relaxed even, full of retired couples and college students. It took me 18 hours to travel 1000 miles, so it has an average speed of about 55 mph.

I've done a lot of road tripping, all over all parts of the west. Eleven hours to Phoenix or Seattle, twelve to Vancouver, BC, five hours to Las Vegas. On average, including bathroom breaks and maintaining a highway speed of about 85 mph, I figure I average about sixty miles an hour.

So, for me, it's never been worth it to take Amtrak. It just takes too long. Take, for example, San Francisco. A trip from SLC to SanFran on Amtrak would cost $180, and take 17 hours.

I could drive that in ten hours. It's about 600 miles, so at 30 mpg, that's 40 gallons of gas for the round-trip. Gas is running about $2.75 a gallon right now, so $110 for gas. 2/3 the time and 2/3 the price. No wonder Amtrak tries to compete on the basis of comfort and service--they clearly can't on speed or price!

But if you were to offer me a TGV equivalent... with an average speed of 96 mph, I'll call it a 6.5 hour trip. Faster than I can drive, with an on board bathroom, and an opportunity to sleep or read...I could get into that.

Flying clearly wins from a time perspective, but is a clear loser from a price persepective. If I fly Southwest, it would take about 5.5 hours. Half hour drive to the airport, half hour to check bags and clear security, four hour flight, half hour to get free from the airport. It would cost about $350 for the roundtrip.

Amtrak: $180, 34 hours
Drive: $120, 20 hours
TGV Equiv: ???, 13 hours.
Southwest: $350, 11 hours.

This suggests is would be reasonable to pay a great deal of money to ride a high speed train. Certainly, $200 round trip would be more then reasonable.

Don't buy into the Cato Institute's bad noise.

*In fairness, Amtrak is far from a coherent whole--it's a whole mess of routes scattered all across the U.S., some of which (the Acela) are actually reasonable.

Homelessness and Transit

Salt Lake City has a free-fare zone in downtown, for both the buses and the TRAX light rail system, and (come winter) both hold a substantial (and pungent) homeless population. But one memorable evening, snowy and bitter cold, one of those dudes spoke up. He was drunk, but he still had a good point-"Where the hell else do you expect us to go?". I can't blame him. I was doing the same thing. I had fifteen minutes to kill, and rather then standing in the frigid cold, I was riding the train to keep warm.

It's not an issue limited to downtown either. Many times, I've ridden the train down to Sandy, late at night, with someone from Salt Lake, obviously homeless. Once we'd hit Sandy, the south-most end of line station, he got off and boarded the northbound train. Two and a half hours of warmth and comfortable seating for $2.50? Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Beats sitting in a diner. Free or not, the homeless are going to ride the train.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fare Free Transit

I was reading this, and these lines struck me:

To be successful, I think that the public transport system must not be crowded at the start.

To be frank, there are a lot of buses in SLC that aren't particularly crowded. Basically, ever. Some even approach the dreaded 'one rider per bus' status, during off-peak hours. One thing I saw in DC that I really liked was peak-hour pricing. It is noticeably more expensive to ride the metro during peak hours (150%-ish?).

Mike Brown has often advocated making transit free, in order to increase ridership, on the basis that the farebox really doesn't provide that much revenue for the transit agency, and that the time penalty for fare collection during boarding is significant. I'd say that Eugene's Emerald Express (EMX) validates that. Making the bus free cuts down on boarding time in two ways--directly, by eliminating the time necessary to collect the fair, and indirectly, by enabling multi-door boarding. Most buses have two doors as a standard feature, but most systems only make use of the forward door, where the driver can prevent fare evasion. Using the back door to unload is out of the question, because it would permit ingress as well as egress. So first everyone has to get off the bus, and then everyone can get on the bus.

With no fare, it no longer matters. The three door Van-Hool buses UTA uses for the 3500 BRT take this to a whole other level.

I've argued that some fare is necessary for people to 'keep some skin in the game', and avoid the over-use of a common property resource. Increasingly, I realize that my argument is bunk. While that might be true at a later time, or during the peak hour, when buses are crowded, it's certainly not true for the majority of the day.

So it may behoove UTA to start running 'free buses' during off-peak hours. It's not going to significantly affect their farebox ratio significantly, and they're going to keep running the buses anyway, out of political pressure, so they might as well try to get as many people as possible on them while they can.