So UTA decided to jack up their bus fares again, just as rising gas prices were threatening to make my transit habit economical as well as ecological. $2 each way, going as high as $2.50 come winter? This last indignity, coming just after the loss of my old morning bus driver, who let people ride for free, was just too much to bear.
Of course, I blame the Republicans up on the Hill. I always do. Every time my cell phone dies unexpectedly, I silently curse Chris Buttars and Gayle Ruzicka. Given the increasing need for alternative transportation, and the 9% increase in ridership since last year, they could have seen this as an opportunity to help our hurting pocketbooks and the environment all at once. Plunge some more money into the system, start turning Salt Lake's bus system into something we can be proud of. Is that too much to ask?
Psychologically speaking, I came to a tipping point when I heard about the increase, which takes effect July 1. I had sighed and checked a few twenties out from the bank, so I could get a small stockpile of tokens before the increase hit. I must have gone to four or five TRAX stops, only to find that every machine was empty.
Fuming, mind roiling with conspiracy theories and implausible revenge fantasies, I gave up. They'd beaten me. Those Republican bastards and their hand-picked UTA board lackeys had beaten me. I was powerless, unable to protect my pocketbook from their ingenious conspiracies.
Then I remembered "the nuclear option." There is more than one form of personalized transportation, at least for the adventurous. My bicycle is a lousy commuting vehicle, given that the ride to work is forty sweaty minutes each way. There are certain smells that I'm just not willing to inflict on my co-workers.
But I'd been lusting after an electric bike kit for the longest time. I couldn't justify the cost in my mind, since the money spent could buy a lot of bus rides. But now UTA seemed to want to price itself out of the transit market, and anyways, it was no longer about the money.
It was about revenge. Sweet, zippy, electric revenge.
I bought myself a Bionx kit from EcoMoto and let them do the install. I walked in the door with an $80 bike -- okay, that's probably optimistic -- and walked out with a lean, green transit machine. 350 watt lithium ion battery, brushless motor, regenerative braking. Squee! On days when I'm too hot and lazy to do it myself, I can just nudge the throttle, and it will take me the seven miles to work with no assistance from me. All on less than $0.10 of electricity round trip.
Some people will just see a cheap bike with a gray plastic blob sticking off the frame. But I see an elegant vehicle for a more civilized age.
Sure, it will only be economical if I make it my primary means of transport. I probably will, at least until the snow demons invade.* But there are some things you can't put a price on. For me, the looks on peoples' faces as I zip past them, feet clearly not touching the pedals, is worth more than a bucket full of UTA tokens.
* Bush is trying to protect me from them.