Monday, May 4, 2009

Changes to Port Authority

One of the good things about being out of the country for 3 months is that things seem to happen more quickly. For instance, when I was in Pittsburgh it was a slow waiting game for Port Authority to announce their new transit initiatives, but today relatively out-of-the-blue, they announced their preliminary findings and by the time I'm back (in June), they'll be well into the next public input phase and thinking about actually implementing these plans.

Things I'm psyched about?
  • Reducing the number of stops to somewhere below 16,000.
  • Reducing the mind-boggling route variations
  • Renaming/color-coding routes to reduce confusion and the steep learning curve
  • Direct route to the airport without stopping at Robinson
  • Bus priority at stop lights
  • Fare boxes outside the buses where you can buy tickets
What I'm disappointed about the process?
1500 people showed up at meetings to comment on this overhaul. Only 900 people commented on the website, including myself. Only in Pittsburgh do you have more people who are willing to drag themselves to a public meeting than surf the web. This speaks to 2 things. First a lack of publication by Port Authority in the right circles. If they had pushed their agenda at colleges or in the City Paper or perhaps online advertising at the Post-Gazette, they should have had thousands of online responses. Hopefully, they will work to rectify this lack of feedback in the next few months.

I have a few hooks they can use to get some more college student responses:
"Want to rename the 54C to the 'Drunk Bus'? Fill out this survey!"
"Want to be able to take the bus after you get your 3AM hot dog fix at the O?"
"Want a quicker ride to Giant Eagle, Ikea, or the movies? Fill out this survey!"

An extra bonus? Hold a raffle for the people who complete the surveys and give away a free month bus pass to one lucky winner to encourage the non-college student crowd. Good old-fashioned paper surveys distributed to the buses wouldn't hurt either. In the meantime, make yourself heard online.

On the flip side, kudos to the Port Authority for getting 1500 people to voice their opinions in person.

I am also a big fan of their seemingly new goal of increasing ridership and cutting per-passenger costs. It's about time someone had an actual plan for Port Authority instead of just ignoring it while it bloats along while regularly cutting service and increasing fares.

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