Saturday, January 24, 2009

Unfare To Me

The Port Authority needs to hire someone to work on their marketing. You don't say this:
A fare increase "in line with inflation" is likely Jan. 1 in any event, he [Steve Bland] said.
In the next 18 months, Port Authority will be unveiling the results of their big study to streamline the bus routes and make them more efficient and profitable. Yet "in any event", we can expect a fare increase???

Give me a break.

However, I'm really excited to see these new plans introduced. There has been an extremely thorough investigation of all of the existing bus routes in Pittsburgh with some very practical recommended results. My favorite? Run the 28X every half hour. People getting off a flight shouldn't have to worry about looking at a schedule and meeting the bus at 9:42.

I'm sure there's going to be some major kick-back on a major re-routing of the bus routes in this city. I only hope that Port Authority sticks to their guns and actually implements the new plan without some major compromises. It would help if it got some local leadership support to push it through.


Jermaine said...

I'm all for "streamlining" the current routes, seems like too many bus routes simply overlap each other. To be completely blunt, I wish we had a better rail network and would love to see them extend the T through Oakland (as well as other parts of the city). It's mind-boggling to think that this hasn't been done yet.

However, if they are indeed working to make bus routes run more efficient I can't help applauding their efforts. I hope the changes do in fact show some marked improvements. It would be nice (for riders) if they'd use some of the savings to have actual covered bus stops for patrons at every stop. We do live in a rather rough climate after all and I'm afraid an old blue "Bus Stop" sign bolted to a pole doesn't provide much protection from the elements.

Looking forward to seeing the changes.

Schultz said...

Who needs light rail to the airport when we have the 28X, right? I was happy to hear Onarato say that the downtown to Oakland link is a priority over the airport to downtown link. One thing that the PA needs start doing is a better job of marketing the 28X.

Jermaine said...

I've never been on the 28X, and until recently didn't even know there was such a thing. If there was a windfall of cash to come Port Authority's way (through some amazing stimulus package or large donor), I'd say build a bunch of different new lines.... and some sort of rail extension to the airport would definitely be included in that. However, if I had to make a choice based on need/importance I'd bump the airport line down the list to first focus on places like Oakland, South Side, etc. that are nearer to the "core" of our urban center. How many more people would use a line through Oakland than to the airport? How many passengers even fly out of pgh airport anymore...compared to the number of students, health care professionals, museum visitors, etc. in Oakland???

When did Onorato say that? Any chance we'll see progress made on the Oakland line in the next few years? I realize this next sentence may not be popular, but ....Why not keep the drink tax at 10% and dedicate it to building the new line?

illyrias said...

Jermaine, the reason that the Downtown-Airport link is on the table is because of maglev. Once upon a time, during the Clinton era, there was a focus on testing Maglev. That connection was deemed a good test of Maglev and there's been lots of potential but never-materialized money for it.

Theoretically, it would eventually be the basis for Maglev across the state.

Schultz said...

"Why not keep the drink tax at 10% and dedicate it to building the new line?"

I'm with you on that, actually. Onarato wanted to use the money to build new roads but the port authority should use the money to expand service or reintroduce service where they had to cutback. That is why it was passed in the first place.

EdHeath said...

So the drink tax is being dropped to 7.5%, the Port Authority got their contract with the Union (negotiated by the teamsters, if I am remembering right), PAT is "rightsizing" *again*, and we are going to be hit with another fare increase? Hell, put the drink tax back up to 10%. Give drunks a free one ride pass on the bus in exchange for supporting PAT with their boozing.

Meanwhile, for a long time I have wanted to say "WE HAVE REALLY GOOD BUS SERIVCE NOW" or we did before that right sizing business of a few years ago. Well, we have good bus service as long as all the nursing homes and child care centers locate downtown. The underpaid aides who work in those two fields I believe are often dependent on buses (funny how we trust our infants and aged parents to the people we pay the least, although the services cost a lot of money). I think the idea of trunk lines and feeder routes is actually a fine one. But I want to make one point that seems to be constantly overlooked. We have the East Busway, which includes a spur up to Neville avenue. So we could run a bus, mini or otherwise, from around the convention center to Oakland (maybe separate ones to CMU, Pitt and UPMC) that would take maybe ten minutes. And of course, even the regular buses, traveling on Fifth or Forbes Avenue don't take much longer than that. So why the hell does everyone call for a special train or subway or flying jetpacks from downtown to Oakland and back? We're a small city physically. It doesn't take that long. the only thing I can think is that people don't want to rub shoulders with the riff raff.

n'at said...

Firstly, the Port Authority cannot cut many of the routes which are inefficient or operate at a loss, because they provide access to social services. To do so would enrage local and state politicians and their older, fix-income constituents - i.e. majority voters.

To Ed's point, there is only one bus line which travels along the east busway and stops in Oakland and returns on the busway, the EBO. Additionally, there is no bus which travels from Oakland (5th-Forbes Corridor) to downtown along the east busway.

There is an immense queuing problem within the corridor from rush hour buses tangling with personal vehicles - same as with downtown.

However, if a fixed rail line was built from downtown and terminated in Oakland, then where would it go? The universities can no longer build out, they can only build up - and so must all other development. Where's the space for a roundhouse type junction to service all the bus commuters from the eastern neighborhoods and beyond? Imagine the space requirements at the busway turnaround in East Liberty, then multiply it by 5.

The long term solution would be subsurface bus or rail lines under 5th avenue which terminate beyond Oakland. This would spread out the surface feeder lines (71's, 61's, 500, 67's, etc.) from the east end converging on the trunk. However a project of this magnitude would take 10-15 years of planning, design and right-of-way acquisition if we start now.

Anyone want to wait 15 years for wonderfulness?

Crystal Eastman said...

Firstly, the Port Authority cannot cut many of the routes which are inefficient or operate at a loss, because they provide access to social services. To do so would enrage local and state politicians and their older, fix-income constituents - i.e. majority voters.

don't be so sure nat. were you around for the last round of cuts? There were plenty of sob stories at the PAT hearings two years ago, i don't think it motivated the reps to stand up to PAT because Onorato wanted to rightsize. And if you didn't know, there are very few western PA reps who will stand up to Dan O.

Jermaine said...

Illyrias, I'm all for a maglev to the airport. On the other hand, let's continue to push/demand extending the T to places in and around the actual city of Pittsburgh.

Schultz, Seriously....let's bump the drink tax back to 10% and use 100% of those funds to improve (expand) the T.

EdHealth, "right-sizing" isn't neccesarily a bad thing. In extreme cases where the PAT is running a bus with 2 to 3 riders PER WEEK, it obviously makes financial sense to discontinue that route and find a more economical alternative. I realize you're obviously "pro-bus" with your sarcasm about needing a jet-pack to get to oakland, etc....but traffic is traffic. A bus has to wait just like a car. Space is an issue whether we like it or not, so we either build up.....or down...or both, but we can no longer afford to "sprawl" and build sideways. (This proves extremely relevant when discussing the alternative of adding more lanes to roads).

n'at, couldn't agree more with you. Great points. And YES, I'm willing to wait 15 years for wonderfulness, if it means we can start getting to work on it today!

Schultz said...

Ed, duration of the trip is not an issue with the buses, but for some reason people have an aversion of buses, especially out of towners. An example - I was in DC last week and I found it very easy to go into the Metro stations and figure out where which line I had to take to get somewhere. The opposite was true when I had to take the bus, as it was very difficult figuring out which bus and which bus stop I needed to take. Additionally, light rail between downtown and Oakland is much cleaner than the dozens of diesel powered buses running that route.

Jermaine said...

Who wouldn't rather take a train? Just a side-note of humor/sarcasm of my own: remember a few weeks back when a Port Authority bus driver ran into a utility pole and simply backed out and drove off? ...Has that ever happened with a T driver?

NO! It can't happen. T trains on (at least the many that I've been on) are almost always within 2-3 minutes of being on time. They don't have to fight traffic. And like Schultz mentioned....out of towners prefer the "safety" and simpleness of a train. (I wish we had a statistic on that, but I know it's true for me when I travel as well).

I'm patiently awaiting the realization here in Pittsburgh (and across America) that now is the time to invest in our cities' futures.