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Tim Saunders' Blog

May 21, 2010
(Page 8 of 16)

A few weeks ago, I took a vacation to Salt Lake City, Utah to visit my sister, Sara, and her family.  While I was out there, I spent some time roaming around the city on public transportation and really liked what I saw.

Salt Lake City has a system of transportation that includes buses, light rail, and commuter rail.  Light rail is fairly common in European cities, but you don't see many American localities using it anymore.

TRAX Light Rail Train, making a stop in downtown Salt Lake City

If you're not familiar with light rail, think of the streetcars of the past.  Light rail runs on a smaller track than your average subway system.  There is a cable overhead that powers the train with electricity.  The train itself often runs parallel to traffic on a city street, but vears off on its own path once it reaches the suburbs.

In Salt Lake City, the light rail system is known as "TRAX."  TRAX connects most points in downtown Salt Lake City and suburbs to the immediate South.  TRAX terminates at a central station, where passengers can board a commuter train called the "Front Runner."

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The Front Runner Commuter Train - it has two levels, giving riders a unique view.

The Front Runner travels deep into the suburbs and moves at a faster speed than the light rail train.  It can hold more people than TRAX, but it travels more infrequently.  On a weekend, the train only makes stops once an hour.

The Front Runner allows people who live in the Northern Suburbs to reach Salt Lake City without having to deal with interstate traffic.  It travels a total length of 44 miles outside the city.  To draw a comparison in our area, that would be the equivalent of a train running from Radford to Roanoke.  Another 6 miles, and the train could run all the way from Roanoke to Lynchburg.

Speaking of our area, I wonder if people in our region would ever have an interest in using some form of commuter rail, if it were available here.  I realize Roanoke and Lynchburg are far different than Salt Lake City.  We don't have the urban density of that region, nor do we share their traffic issues.

I do feel there are a lot of people living between Roanoke and Lynchburg that would be interested in riding a train to reach one or both of the cities.  If there were stops along the way, people could hop on and ride to work each day, or use it to take a shopping trip on the weekends.  If gas prices ever went back up, drivers might jump at the chance to leave their car at home and take a train to work.

It's very unlikely we'll see any type of public, short-trip rail service implemented here anytime soon, but I'm interested in what you think about the topic.  Share your thoughts with me in an E-Mail.  I'd love to hear your ideas.

June 1, 2009

I seem to remember a push several years ago to bring new retailers and restaurants to the Roanoke area.  There was a website where you could go and vote for chains that don't exist in the star city.  Some wanted to see a Trader Joe's grocery store here.  Others wanted access to the cheap, but popular furniture of IKEA.  For me, the most wanted chain that doesn't call Roanoke home is The Cheescake Factory.

I stopped off at one of their locations on my way out of Richmond this weekend.  I was hoping to take home a slice of their Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple for a friend and myself.  Alas, I was told that their cakes only have a shelf life of three days and lose their delicious taste once they're re-frozen (Cheesecake Factory ships cakes to all of its locations frozen - each store has to thaw it out to sell).  Since I wasn't going to see the friend I was buying the cake for until Wednesday, I figured it would be a waste to purchase a piece that would go bad before it could be eaten.  At 8 dollars per-slice, it's just not worth throwing away.

I am a total glutton for Cheesecake Factory.  I make a point to stop anytime I'm within 20 miles of one.  Two weeks ago, I veered off course to a mall in Norfolk for a slice of flourless Godiva Chocolate.  My passion for the pricey delicacy reminds me of Bleeding Gums Murphy's obsession with eating Fabergé eggs on The Simpsons.  It's an expensive habit! It's probably a good thing the restaurant is out of my reach, for I fear I would go into debt eating there all the time.

I looked up that website I was thinking of.  It's called MyRetailRoanoke.com.  Jean Jadhon did a story on it several years ago.  The site is still up and guess what retailer is number two on the list: Cheesecake Factory! Seems I'm not the only one who wants to see the restaurant here.

May 27, 2009

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