Monday, December 22, 2008


Are you disappointed with the mayor's wish list for the city?

I understand your disappointment. There are no public transit initiatives on the list. And there are very few green initiatives. There ARE some crucial water and sewer improvements on the list.

In terms of public transit, it's important to keep some things in mind though.
Controversial as it is, we ARE currently working on the North Shore connector. There is a LOT of federal money contributing to that project. We are also working on Point State Park - which will be a major boon to the city when it's finished. I'm psyched about all the connecting parks that are in progress.

My question is why isn't Maglev to the airport on the list?? That is totally shovel-ready. A lot of money and time have been spent on this project already. I understand it's another controversial project, but it would clearly be a positive addition to the area (I refuse to comment on whether it's worth the money.)

In terms of becoming a city with nationally respectable public transportation, though, we need to connect Oakland and Downtown with something other than buses and cars. Light rail seems like the best option, but I don't know for sure. I'd be happy with a monorail if necessary. Unfortunately though as far as I know there are NO solid plans for this connection.

Also, there is a TON of resistance to the Oakland-Downtown line for some reason. I don't know why... It's disappointing to me to realize that that project is NOT shovel-ready.


Brett said...

I couldn't agree more. I've been thinking a lot about transit and how much room there is for improvement in Pittsburgh recently, and I think one of the main reasons is because Port Authority acts and is treated like a separate entity from the city and county. Transit should be an integral part of the economic development and revitalization conversation in communities and in government, and as far as I can tell, they are simply not.

If you want to take a look at one of the least inspiring mission and vision statements ever created, here are Port Authority's:

Combine that with the mayor's wish list, and it's no wonder that transit is so lackluster here.

Schultz said...

Definitely disappointed. Like you said above and in the comments on my blog, there are some critical projects on the list. Only $10 million though for Transit Oriented Development. That is less than one percent of the total amount requested. I see a walkways for the Penguins new Arena, improvements to parking garages, some green spaces and bike trail improvements, which are good, but nothing that says "world class city". The Maglev would change that, and it is still alive. Hopefully starting the work on the nation's first Maglev line is a priority for the Obama administration's transportation initiatives.

Andrew said...

Looking through the Mayor's List, I am surprised by the fact that I'm not too disappointed at all. Many of his initiatives on it, while not "green" in the recently chic sense of the word, do serve to beautify the city and encourage residents and visitors alike to get outside and enjoy public space. Also, improving the trail system around the city might lead to people finding non-motorized means of commuting which is, after all, the greenest option possible.

On adding additional rail to any part of the city's public transit system:

I am acutely aware of transit needs in all parts of the city because I drive a cab. Day-to-day users of the Port Authority are not going back an fourth to the airport several times a week. They are going on very limited corridors of bus routes that rarely offer lateral or concentric access from one first-ring suburb to the next.

An example wound be trying to take a bus from Bellevue to Mcknight Road. In most of these type situations, the rider must take a bus into downtown, connect, and travel back outbound to their destination. In this example, a 3 1/2 mile trip becomes almost 11. This is not very green at all, nor is it convenient, nor is it even workable for some; forcing a lot of would-be riders to drive or use my services.

Public transit improvements must begin with the infrastructure already in place and should focus on the tens of thousands of people who use it daily. Spending billions to offer rail service in place of the 28X or 61C is going to benefit whom?

Frankly, it looks like rail proponents wish to spend huge sums of public money to make their monthly ride to the G.P.A. ten minutes shorter. It also seems that there is little concern for those in the Hill District or West End who would be displaced by this proposed convenience.

I have been pleased by the fact that airport and Oakland rail service discussion has died down for the time being. There may be a time in the city's future when it may become necessary but that time is definitely not now. For the similar costs associated with these two options, let me ask this; would you rather see the just the rail line built or see every single item on the Mayor's list be completed with a little left over to pay some bus drivers to operate "loop" or "belt" routes around the city? There is only so much money these days and neither option is going to actually happen. I feel, however, that it is important for us to keep thinking in terms of what does the most good for the greatest number.

Schultz said...

Sounds like you favor the status quo - and keeping Pittsburgh a city severely lacking transportation options. When people come here they complain about not being able to get around town, and unless you are from here it is a b!tch getting from point A to B. Public transportation like rail helps to address this concern. I'm not in favor of rail to the airport because we don't have enough people here to support that, but I do favor connecting downtown to Oakland via rail - connecting the two most populous work centers along with our education hub is something that needs to happen. I ride the T in to downtown and when I have to get to Oakland I take a bus. Most people will not do what I do though, and buses do not spur transit oriented development in areas that really need it (uptown and the Hill, in particular).

Andrew said...

I would agree with Schultz that people do complain about not being able to get from point A to B because I hear it every day. That was exactly a point I raised in my earlier comment. I also offered a possible solution that, in my mind at least, was pragmatic and do-able.

In my earlier comment, I was indeed focusing on PGHers who use or would use the buses daily. For those who are not from here, I can also agree that using the system in place can be daunting. Perhaps the PAT should consider a different method of route designation so that those not from here could understand the system better. One of my stock jokes to some of our visitors is that one would need a masters in civil engineering to understand the Port Authority routes.

By the way, I'm not sure how it is that I came across to Mr. Schultz as being in favor of the status quo. Perhaps I'm just not progressive enough. Well, let me take a step away from my pragmatism for a moment and offer another, more progressive solution to a serious problem affecting our city. Do you know what would fix the traffic problem at the Ft. Pitt Tunnels? Flying cars. More funding for flying car research should have been the first item on the Mayor's wish list. After all, who wants to ride the bus.

This in with the new, out with the old idealism of young progressives is what makes being liberal a difficult position to defend in the eyes of the fiscally conscious. We can't just go buy a new car every time the oil needs to be changed.

In his Thursday post on his blog "Green is Good", Chris Schultz includes an excerpt from an e-mail which he says he agrees with:

"Where’s the leadership? Where’s the innovation? The imagination? Where’s the $%@$ creativity or inspiration?
That’s just a rote $%#@ laundry list of stuff that came out of the backs of reports that have been filed away in the City-County Building for years."

Innovation like what? Streetcars and train service? Not exactly the most innovative or new solution I've heard. Granted, if the infrastructure was still here, these would be an incredible assets worth maintaining, modernizing, and expanding. Too bad it isn't.

Some of the Mayor's items are kinda hum-drum, aren't they? Well, maybe some of this stuff needs to be done. It's like fixing the leak in the roof of your house before you get creative and paint a mural on the walls. Fixing the roof isn't fun, or innovative, or imaginative, but it makes the house a better place to live.

...For most.

I have seen some extreme progressives and free-thinkers out there who live in some real hovels...but they do have cool stuff on the walls. To each their own.

Schultz said...

Sorry about the status quo remark, your first comment seemed like the typical naysayer Pittsburgher response when it comes to building new transit. This is not a progressive or conservative issue, IMO at least.

At this point, yes, bringing streetcars back would be innovative, because most US cities, including Pittsburgh, got rid of their streetcars decades ago, and some are just now bringing them back along with billions of dollars in new TOD developments.

How about these ideas for innovation:

Austin Texas has a plan to support plug in electric vehicles. Most city employees do not need to travel long distances, so plug in electric cars for city employees, and the mayor, makes a ton of sense. Here in Pittsburgh - the city still will not get on board and use ridesharing services like zip car. How many hybrids does Pittsburgh use? I don't recall hearing about them owning any hybrids.

Yes, the maglev would be huge for the region and of course an example of innovative transportation, since it would the first of its kind in the US (although, if they wait any longer, it might not be).

How about a high speed rail link between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia? This would be expensive, for sure, but it would also be the start of a east coast to midwest high speed rail network.

Also, regarding buses, I don't expect the buses to ever go away, BUT, we need to look into cleaner burning fuels, such as natural gas, and also hybrid diesel buses, because the air quality in areas like downtown is just terrible.