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:
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.