Tag Archives: city council

Provo’s Big BRT Boondoggle

Perhaps a better headline for this blog entry would be… “Provo Sells Its Residents Deeper into Financial Bondage in Order to Squander Millions of Their Hard-Earned Dollars on a Tax-Wasting Traffic-Congesting Slightly-Faster Bus Service That Barely Anyone Demanded.”

The Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA’s) new Utah Valley Express (UVX) bus line will finally begin operating on August 13th (Monday), nearly two decades after Utahn politicians first conceived it.  This bus service is a form of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which uses special buses (and bus stops) to convey riders at a somewhat-more-rapid pace than a standard bus could; it will transport its passengers back-and-forth along major Provo-Orem thoroughfares (both through Provo’s downtown and alongside Orem’s University Mall) between southwest Orem’s FrontRunner station (near Utah Valley University) and south Provo’s East Bay area (near Provo’s South Towne Centre mall).

This massive public-works project was joint-venture between federal and state and local politicians, who cooperated to compel hundreds-of-millions of U. S. taxpayers from Key West to Prudhoe Bay (although especially here in Utah) to spend over $200,000,000 altogether to reconstruct our local city streets to accommodate this new bus service, while leaving every Provo/Orem household burdened with repaying nearly $1,200 (plus interest) of added municipal debt.  That’s a tremendous of money to pay, which might be alright if it were being used to construct a highly-demanded service that would greatly improve our local (or even national) quality-of-life.

So, what did we get in return for that massive financial investment, along with enduring all of the hassles of road-reconstruction over this last year?  Well, it seems that (during its peak hours of operation) Provo residents can now wait up to 10 minutes (at most) to catch a fancy new bus that will transport them to their destination up to 10 minutes (at most) faster than driving.  Yes, that’s what we got, which is arguably not much (if any) of an advantage!  Moreover, this dubious advantage is only true as long as both one’s origin and one’s destination lie along the same select 10-mile-long strip of Provo-Orem city streets—which, for the vast majority of us, is a relatively rare occurrence.

The rarity of having both one’s origin and one’s destination confined to a single 10-mile-long path, plus the very-marginal improvements in transit-time that Bus Rapid Transit provides over standard bus service, together help to explain why the greatest demand for this BRT service has never come from UTA riders but from Utahn politicians.  In fact, Provo’s city councilors have previously admitted that there is insufficient public demand to justify the UTA providing BRT service to Provo/Orem at this time—but, despite this fact, they chose to support the development of BRT anyway, while assuring us that public demand for BRT would increase as Utah County continues to grow rapidly.  Although this claim may be true, it’s also arguably exaggerated, because nearly all Utah County growth is (so far) bypassing the Provo/Orem area to enlarge other nearby cities, especially those cities situated across Utah Lake that are not located anywhere near the UVX route—so, if we Provoans need to wait for ongoing local population growth to justify the existence of BRT, then we might need to wait for a very very VERY long time.

As an aside, it may be worth noting that demand for BRT is currently insufficient despite the fact that UTA fares are already heavily subsidized—in fact, according to a state audit in 2008, for every $1 that UTA riders paid in bus fare, Utah taxpayers were charged $4 to cover the rest, whether they liked it or not.  Such forcible taking is not only sinful but criminal, as a matter of principle, whereas freely giving is a wonderful thing that’s good to freely encourage.  In any case, considering the fact that standard UTA bus service has already been a severe money-pit for Utahns for years, it’s arguably reasonable to suspect that the UTA’s newly-built completely-subsidized insufficiently-demanded BRT service may prove to be an even bigger boondoggle for our city than its shoddy money-losing iProvo network was a decade ago.  Such business ventures are arguably better deferred to actual entrepreneurs than to politicians who like to play entrepreneur.

If local demand for BRT is to grow significantly at all, then it will result less likely from any ongoing population growth than from Provo’s city council gradually achieving its “Vision 2030” and/or “Vision 2050” goals for our city.  These documents are more than mere vision statements, but they have been actively guiding our city councilors in centrally-planning our city’s future, and they include various socialistic goals for Provo such as “sustainable development,” along with the closely-related concept of “Smart Growth” (or “New Urbanism”).  Smart Growth involves allegedly saving our natural environment from urban sprawl by exercising political power to forcibly redirect a city’s economic development from its outskirts to its downtown, which then develops into a high-density urbanesque walkable core served by public transit.  And this is precisely what both of these documents clearly envision for Provo’s future.

So, if Provo’s central planners continue to implement their collectivistic vision for our city, then we’ll likely see artificially-fewer suburban homes in west Provo and artificially-more urbanesque high-rises in downtown Provo.  However, this probably isn’t exactly what will happen, because most people relocating to the Provo area who are faced with the disappointment of forgoing a Provo home for a Provo apartment will probably just bypass Provo altogether to go live in a nearby city like Vineyard—which is exactly what they have already been doing.  Even so, Provo’s downtown population is still definitely growing, and its rising faction of quasi-urbanites will soon be able to enjoy a free cushy bus ride to either a mall or a FrontRunner station entirely at taxpayer expense.

Yes, I wrote entirely at taxpayer expense.  Rides along the UVX route will not merely be subsidized by Utah taxpayers like rides on other UTA routes (as previously mentioned), but they will apparently be billed entirely to U. S. taxpayers for at least 3 years through a U. S. Department of Transportation grant.  So, whenever riders step on those buses, they won’t pay a cent at their time-of-service, but they (along with hundreds-of-millions of other citizens from Honolulu to Bangor) will be billed for that bus ride in the form of federal taxes at some point, whether they like it or not.  Which, again, is wrong—our political system should help us to defend our rights from others’ aggression, not compel us to pay each other’s bills.

It’s bad enough that we Provoans are being forced to both construct and maintain an insanely-expensive taxpayer-money-guzzling underdemanded bus service that hardly anyone wanted and the vast majority of us will rarely (if ever) use… but it’s even worse that this bus service seems well-designed to impede the flow of “normal” traffic around our city.  Until now, this same UVX bus route was served by normal UTA buses that were simply one vehicle among many on our city streets, both using the same traffic lanes and obeying the same traffic signals as all other vehicles around them—but, now, these BRT buses will have their own special center lanes all to themselves, which are seemingly narrowing all other lanes around them while entirely eliminating at least some of the helpful left-turn lanes that Provoan drivers have been using.  This may contribute to widespread traffic congestion while rendering it significantly harder for many of us to speedily get from one point to another—so, basically, hundreds of private car-drivers will arrive at their destinations slower, in order for dozens of public bus-riders will get to their destinations just a tiny bit faster, which doesn’t sound like a very worthwhile trade to me.  Perhaps we should have expected this, though, because this is exactly what our city council envisioned in both Vision 2030 and Vision 2050—deliberately slowing the flow of private traffic while deliberately giving preference to public transportation.  So, we can’t say that we weren’t warned—and in writing, to boot!

Just as our city councilors warned us about what they were planning, this blog entry should perhaps also warn us that, unless we start to choose our city’s public officers more wisely, then they’re going to keep doing more of the same.  BRT is just one step among many their plans, and they’ve already informed us well about what other steps they’re planning to take.  In fact, their vision statements have been surprisingly clear about the sort of socialistic dystopia that they seek for us—one in which they centrally-manage our city’s economy (and its development), regulate its Internet, redistribute its demographics, and even oversee our health and diet and exercise and recreation and such, all with relatively little respect for our rightful liberty.  Perhaps they’ve been so surprisingly forthright about such plans because relatively few Provoans seem to notice (much less object) to what they’re doing enough to pose a serious threat to their goals.  Please prove them wrong!

Perhaps the “bottom line” of this Free Provo blog entry is that, if you value preserving and/or restoring the relatively virtuous free society that helped Provo to develop over time into one of America’s best cities, then please get involved NOW to build support among your neighbors to elect better city officers next year.  And, if you discover that our website helps you at all with that task, then please feel free to use it accordingly.  Happy doorknocking!


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Neighborhood Meetings and Caucus Meetings

Provo recently reminded residents through its YouTube channel about its “neighborhood chair” program.  This program involves residents in each of Provo’s 34 neighborhoods regularly electing one of themselves to serve as a “chair,” who will then host periodic neighborhood meetings in which residents may discuss their various concerns and/or suggestions, while providing a regular line of communication about such issues between neighborhood residents and city councilors.

We urge you to participate in this program, along with your like-minded neighbors, to help champion the principles of a virtuous free society over the practices of centralized political command-and-control, as exemplified by Vision 2030 and/or Vision 2050 (see our previous blog entry).

In doing so, please remember that it’s better to save than to condemn, and to toss figurative life-preservers than to cast figurative stones—and that the best way to defeat our enemies is by humbly striving together with them to unite around objective truth-and-righteousness, thereby helping them to become our friends over time.  Our statist adversaries often have good intentions, but foolishly pursue those goals through bad methods—and, so, we need to help them to redirect their efforts from the wrong means to the right ones, instead.  Tools like persuasion, contract, volunteerism, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, economic activism, et cetera, are always better ways to accomplish anything than unilateral coercion, which is generally acceptable only as a last resort in defense against aggression.

Alongside trying to proselytize our neighbors to embrace freedom, these neighborhood meetings may also be good opportunities to actively seek out virtuous wise neighbors to encourage to run for city office.

Speaking of elections, we’d like to mention another very important political meeting to attend, although it’s not directly related to Provo…

Utah’s two major parties will hold their biennial precinct caucuses next Tuesday to elect both county and state delegates for the next two years.  This year, those delegates will scrutinize candidates for public office and then convene to narrow down their options to one candidate for each office as their party’s official nominee—or two candidates (in some cases) who will then face each other in a primary election so that voters may make the final decision.  Next year, those same delegates will follow a similar process to choose candidates for party offices.

Party officers, by the way, generally belong in one of two categories—one sort believes that the grassroots should govern the party through sound parliamentary procedures facilitated by respectful officers, while the other sort believes that the elites should rule the party, and should violate party rules as much as they can get away with in order to finagle the grassroots into doing whatever the elites want.  This dichotomy generally parallels the timeless universal spectrum between those who favor “bottom-upward” political systems that help citizens to defend their rights against others’ aggression, and those who favor “top-downward” political systems that reign over society.

This endless political struggle is currently manifesting itself in a raging conflict over Utah’s longstanding caucus system, as many liberty-lovin’ Utahns (represented by Keep My Voice) want to continue it, while certain statist politicians (represented by Count My Vote) want to destroy it in favor of primary elections alone, and are allegedly resorting to lies, harassment, threats, and bribes to accomplish this goal.  Primary elections alone were used from 1937 to 1947, and were shown to reduce voter participation; they also render votes more affected by both biased journalists and wealthy donors, and allow the “spoiler effect” in which candidates may win with only minority support, as we recently saw when “liberal” John Curtis defeated two “conservative” Republicans in a primary election to become the Republican nominee with only minority support.  These sorts of problems encouraged Utahns to adopt a hybrid caucus-convention-primary system in 1947 that has persisted until recently with only minor adjustments.

So, please encourage your like-minded Republican neighbors to participate in their respective caucus meetings to help preserve Utah’s caucus system, while upholding wise virtuous rights-defenders to both public and party office.  And please feel free to report any victories to us that we might want to share with others.


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Provo’s City Council Prioritizes Statism

Provo’s city council recently went on a retreat to choose their top five priorities for our city over these next two years.  Sadly (although not surprisingly), their final selections had little to do with defending our equal God-given rights better, but much to do with increasing their central planning of our city’s economy.

Our city council’s topmost issue is apparently zoning compliance.  Zoning has become rather commonplace in America, but any practice can become popular without being right.  And zoning not only violates both our property and contractual rights, but (as some hard data proves) it also curtails development, reduces competition, promotes false “order” and/or aesthetics over genuine needs, reduces housing supply while raising housing costs, excludes “undesirables,” and wastes people’s valuable time with needless paperwork.  Some American cities like Houston have thrived with barely any zoning laws—but, sadly, Provo’s city officers seem determined to not only maintain present zoning laws, but also to extend those laws to include “form-based code,” which would regulate the form of buildings in addition to their function.

A second issue is housing, as our city councilors apparently intend to determine what sort of housing should be built where, and then ensure that it gets built accordingly, rather than leave this task to free people.  And their remaining three top priorities include budgeting for “outcomes,” for Vision 2050, and for economic development.  As for this last item, they are apparently assuming that they shouldn’t leave the economy free to grow on its own, but should actively direct that development according to their central plans—even though such planning-by-the-few is rarely as good as planning-by-the-many that naturally occurs in a genuinely-free market.

The most dangerous priority of these five is arguably the one about funding Vision 2050, which (for those who don’t already know) is an abstract vision statement that Provo’s city council has stated that it intends to gradually transform into concrete city code.  Its various statist provisions include forcibly redirecting development away from the city’s outskirts into a high-density downtown core, dictating what gets built where, impeding private cars (in order to encourage public mass-transit), encouraging symbiosis between city institutions and relatively-big businesses, attracting politically-favored companies into town, subsidizing politically-favored startups, running ever-more local monopolies, regulating homebuilding along with (mandatory) residential landscaping, restricting the local supply of rental housing, redistributing city demographics as they see fit, and even overseeing our diet-and-exercise.  Its predecessor, known as Vision 2030, also proposed both Internet censorship (seemingly) and our own local “Curtiscare.”

Such oligarchic trends, if allowed to continue, will inevitably run our now-thriving city economy into the ground.  And this course won’t change until enough Provoans “wake up,” pay attention, and then start voting for something better.  And that won’t happen unless/until we make it happen.  So, let’s please work hard over these next two years to help our neighbors to prepare themselves to elect better city officers in late 2019.  We invite you to please visit our Free Provo website for both ideas and resources, and we hope that you’ll encourage your fellow liberty-lovin’ Provoans to do likewise.


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