Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bye-Bye Buses, Hello Bikes

Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAAC) is planning record cuts in bus service largely due to a reduction in state funding this year and going forward. With a new conservative Governor-elect, Port Authority funding is likely to only continue its decline at the state level and our illustrious local officials seem perfectly content to face the demise of public transportation while claiming it's not their problem.

But all is not lost. There's no time like the present to start biking in Pittsburgh. Next Fall, thanks to a final grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, all Port Authority buses will be equipped with bike racks. Currently, about 80% of the buses have bike racks. While your local bus stop (and entire line) may be cut, at least you can reliably bike between home and a further away bus stop. Perhaps it's Allegheny County's long-term plan to reduce its obesity rate which is sitting significantly higher than the national average? Personally, I'd prefer a tax on sugary drinks. A Carnegie Mellon University study last spring showed that a 1% county tax on the drinks would cut usage by 8% and generate $54 Million annually. If we can put the alcoholic drink tax toward Port Authority, why not share the burden with our sugar-guzzling friends? After all, obesity causes more deaths than just drinking alcohol.

But it's not too late for the state to at least restore some of its previous funding and stop shirking its responsibility. Go to and make your voice heard.

Friday, November 12, 2010

CMU Capitalizing on India's Youth

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is expanding its educational programs in Chennai, India. The university's forays with Chennai date back to 2007 when they partnered with a small private college to offer a graduate degree in Engineering. Back then, it was estimated that 160,000 Indians were studying abroad spending $4 Billion annually. Fast forward to 2010 and that estimate has jumped to $7.5 Billion per year spent on foreign institutions abroad. Not a bad 3 year return. Not only are Indians spending their money abroad, but they are also donating it abroad. Just last month, Harvard received a $50 Million donation from the Indian business group, Tata - their largest foreign donation in history.

India's Minister of Education's goal is to increase the rate of higher education enrollment from its current 12.4% to 30% in 2020.
With 400,000,000 people in India under the age of 18, that will create a huge need for more institutions. Currently, foreign universities are not allowed to operate independently in India, but legislation which has been in the process to change that for years seems to be gaining ground. That's what universities like CMU, Ohio State University, and Virginia Tech are betting on.

For Pittsburgh, a city that has reformed itself on the basis of "Eds & Meds," a new opportunity to rapidly expand and monetize the education market can only mean good things for the local economy. I'm happy to see CMU at the forefront on this opportunity. Will CMU become the UPMC of education? Will the University of Pittsburgh or our other local universities join the bandwagon? It's hard to think of a better potential investment.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Polls Are Open

It's a happy coincidence that I'm back in the country for election day. It's jet lag though not excitement that has me blogging this early in the morning.

Your Western Pennsylvania Election Run Down:


It's a toss-up for which is the most important election this year. Since I'm a proponent of all things local, I'm going to say the race for governor is the most important. Harrisburg once again recently showed that they are completely inept by failing to pass a Marcellus Shale drilling tax. Here in Pittsburgh, our pension crisis is coming to a head because of Harrisburg's inaction. Let's put someone in the governor's chair who actually has a chance of addressing those issues.

Tom Corbett:
"Tom Corbett may not be in a hurry to enact a severance tax on natural gas drillers, but if elected Pennsylvania’s next governor, the current attorney general will begin immediately to reform state government."
Do you really trust that he's going to change his tune after he's elected and in power? Judge the man on what he's actually done - not on his promises. Judge him on what he has done, such as joining the health care suit to overturn much needed health care reform in this country.

Dan Onorato:

I'll admit it that I flip-flop on Dan Onorato. He has certainly made choices locally that I disapprove of, but that will be the case with any candidate that you have detailed knowledge of. There is no perfect candidate, but there is a "best" candidate in this election. That is Dan Onorato. He has accomplished a lot (controversially) in his time as County Executive of Allegheny County. He's making the county more energy efficient, investing in our green space, and recently announced a major breakthrough of the Allegheny trail. As governor, he will be in the position to fix the property tax miasma throughout the state and maintain his hard line on limited tax increases.


From his site: "Throughout his time in Congress, Pat voted for legislation to protect innocent life, strengthen marriage, and protect the traditional values upon which this country was founded."
Would those be the same values that made black men slaves and denied women the right to vote? No thank you.

Toomey's cure for the economy: "cutting taxes and decreasing regulation." Really? Really? Haven't we had enough of short-term fixes that screw us in the end?

His grassroots campaign upset surprised us all in the Spring when he emerged victorious over Arlen Spector. He needs your help to do it again. For information on why you should vote for Sestak, see the Post-Gazette's endorsement of Sestak.

Get out and vote!