Ugh, the Utah State Legislature is back in session. Hide your wallets, and gird your loins brothers and sisters! Did you know nine of every 10 legislators are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and are white, male and Republican? That data might explain how the legal blood alcohol level got changed this year to .05-the lowest in the country, and how Prop 2 (the voter-approved access to medical cannabis) may be legal to use but completely impossible to obtain for a long, long time. They love to gird their loins and ours as well, and gosh, they do it for so little pay. But hey, all elected officials get to park free in Salt Lake City during the 45 days they are in session.
There are many parking spaces at and around our state capitol building and two large public lots east of the Senate building. While votes come and go, committees meet, and back room deals happen in those sacred halls on the hill, citizens can have a hard time finding any open spaces once the 29 senators and 75 representatives, and their staff members park their vehicles. If you’ve ever been to a protest on the hill during the annual legislative session you know how hard it is to park and hopefully have learned NOT to try and park there by walking, biking or taking transit. Neighbors of the building do get heightened protection from parking enforcement this time of year because there are so many violators parking illegally by blocking private citizen’s driveways and alleyways (I know, I used to live across the street). Frankly, it’s a big parking and often traffic mess during that month and a half every year.
The irony is that UTA has Bus Route 500 set up to run FREE to and from downtown to the Capitol building and back each year, and the bus is often empty. You can catch it at the stop right above the Church office parking under Main Street and the Church headquarters. There are also 32,000 parking spaces in downtown Salt Lake City where a person could park and then walk to a bus stop to avoid the parking hell on the hill. Salt Lake’s mayor says she wants all of us to use public transit to help cut down on our air but then encourages legislators to park (which means they have to drive first) for free downtown during the session. In her January 2019 State of the City address she said: “From expanding bus service to working cooperatively with companies like UTA, Lyft, Uber, GreenBike, Bird and Lime, Salt Lake City is committed to exploring every idea to help people move around in a greener way.”
Maybe the Mayor envisions elected state officials will fill up their pork barrels at R & R BBQ and then waddle through the snow to a UTA stop so they can attend a Senate Agriculture Committee meeting to find ways to get tax cuts to mega corporate pig farms near Delta. No, that will never happen because UTA ridership statistics show that most people in our state do not take public transit, including the Mayor and most of the legislators. IF the Mayor threw out the free parking rule then maybe a few of the elected might actually park in a Frontrunner lot and take a train, TRAX and bus to the hill? Don’t all elected officials seem to say in their campaign propaganda that they want to see expanded UTA service and cleaner air? Practice what you preach.