Ugh. The Legislature is back in session. Hide your wallets and gird your loins, brothers and sisters! Did you know about nine out of every 10 legislators are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Equally high numbers are white, male and Republican. That data might explain how the legal blood alcohol level was changed this year to .05—the lowest in the country—and how Prop 2 (the voter-approved access to medical cannabis) was substantially revised. They love to try to make us conservative, and gosh, they do it for so little pay. But hey, all lawmakers get to park free in Salt Lake City during the session's 45 days.
There are many parking spaces around our Capitol building, and two large public lots east of the Senate building. While votes come and go, committees meet and backroom deals are struck in those sacred halls on the Hill, ordinary citizens have a hard time finding any open spaces once the 29 senators, 75 representatives and dozens of 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. Hopefully, you've learned to get there by walking, biking or taking public transit.
The irony is that UTA's Route 500 runs free from downtown to the Capitol and back, and the bus is often empty. 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 City Mayor Jackie Biskupski says she wants all of us to use public transit to reduce air pollution but then encourages legislators to park—which means they have to drive first—for free during the session. In her January 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 legislators will fill up their pork barrels at R&R BBQ and then waddle through the snow to a UTA stop to attend a committee meeting. No, that will never happen, because UTA ridership statistics show most Utahns don't use public transit. If the mayor threw out the free-parking rule, then maybe a few of the elected officials might actually park in a Frontrunner lot and take a train or bus to the hill. Don't these folks seem to say in their campaign propaganda that they want to see expanded UTA service and cleaner air? Practice what you preach.