Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Good Day For Mass Transit

So I spend yesterday lambasting Onorato for creating schisms between county and city and today he goes and proves me wrong. Onorato wrote a letter requesting money for transit links between Downtown, Oakland and the airport. In fact the headline for the Post-Gazette article is:

Onorato eyes rail links to airport, Oakland

Of course, I have to look closer.

The "fine print" for this letter breaks down Onorato's requests as such:
$7 Million for downtown mass transit system design
$10.5 Million for commuter rail system design
Total: $17.5 Million

$25 Million for a road in Robinson
$32 Million for a road in Upper St Clair and Scott
$35 Million for the Mansfield Bridge which connects Dravosburg, Glassport and McKeesport.
$12 Million for a flyover ramp in Rankin and Swissvale
$4.5 Million for road improvements in Marshall
$2.5 Million for road construction in Monroeville
$7 Million for traffic improvements in Brackenridge near a steel plant
Total: $118 Million

So $17.5 Million out of a total $135.5 Million (about 13%) of his requests are for mass transit.

I understand that the elephant in the room here is the dreaded North Shore connector which is gobbling up a lot of funding right now.

I also understand that these transit projects will cost ultimately cost billions of dollars but they're only in the design phases right now and there's a limit to how much money you can request for design.

However, I seriously question the short-term vision of our local government who only finds these projects worth pursuing when they are in national favor. Imagine if someone a few years ago had the gumption and follow-through to initiate these studies and if we were ready to go on a spineline between Oakland and Downtown instead of working on a half-assed North Shore connector which no one is truly happy about. What happens in 4 years if Obama is no longer in power and our pathetic local leaders still are (and perhaps Onorato has his governor prize)? Will we then be left with yet more money being spent on highways and interchanges and more transit plans being curtailed and swept under the rug? Will we end up with a new tunnel to the South Side as a booby prize?

But in the meantime, I am very excited to see mass-transit plan being seriously considered even if it's local leaders jumping on the bandwagon. I like this bandwagon. I'd just appreciate some serious long-term regional commitment to spending time and effort on improving our transit systems because right now I feel like it could all disappear at the drop of a hat.


Paz said...

I talked to a former city official about this very issue. I genuinely think that the North Shore Connector was part of a strategic vision. It won't be particularly helpful to get to Oakland, but it is an important first step to the North Hills and the Airport. Perhaps it wasn't the best method of getting across the river, but it is moving Light Rail toward the places where growth is happening most rapidly. In other words, the vision is to try to catch transit oriented development up to the West and North before it sprawls too much. Work on the commuter rail in the East end and worry about taking LRT out West.

Infinonymous said...

There might be a plausible (let alone sensible) explanation for beginning a line to the airport by heading north, under a river, thereby requiring a second crossing of the essentially same river a few miles downstream. But it has not emerged yet.

Who, driving from Stanwix Street, would use the Fort Duquesne (rather than Fort Pitt) Bridge to reach the airport? Other than hapless elected officials and short-sighted union officials, I mean.

shadow said...

Last several weekends have been much better for using the Ft Duquesne (and Sewickley) bridges to get to the airport, not the Ft Pitt...

I am not hapless, nor elected.

n'at said...


"State Rep. Chelsa Wagner, D-Beechview, announced yesterday that the Department of Community and Economic Development had approved a $150,000 grant in its Transit Revitalization Investment District program, which is designed to foster development around transit hubs."

Bodegas! Fancy.