Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Monday, May 3, 2010

Time To Get Serious About our Bridges

Fact: Pennsylvania bridges are in horrible shape.

"Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of structurally deficient bridges, with 5,646," the governor said. That is more than the deficient bridges in the New England states, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio and Virginia combined.

Fact: Pennsylvania legislators are idiots. After the Bush administration rejected tolling of interstate 80 on the grounds that the tolls were going to spent on other roads besides 80, Pennsylvania legislators decided to ask the same exact question of the Obama administration. Needless to say, the "ask mommy" approach didn't work. Only now are they considering asking for the right to toll and repair those particular roads. But this time, it's an emergency and their casting their net as wide as interstates 95, 81, and 79.

Fact: Pennsylvania legislators are cowards. Legislators are afraid to raise taxes this year to solve this emergency problem because it's an election year. Of course, this isn't a unique problem to Pennsylvania. To them I say, it's a lot worse to have a bridge collapse on your watch than to raise taxes. Ask Minnesota. The I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis was rated "structurally deficient" for years before this heavily used bridge's 2007 collapse. PennDOT has started to make progress on repairing the thousands of structurally deficient bridges in Pennsylvania, but the progress is slow and steady. With a lack of funding we will again lose ground.

Minnesota learned their lesson the hard way. After the bridge's collapse, the state legislature passed a $0.055 per gallon fuel tax. Let's take our lessons from them and save our bridges before its too late. Of course, the best way to save our bridges from further deterioration is to decrease their usage. According to Port Authority of Allegheny County, one bus can take up to 60 cars off the road. One light rail vehicle can take up to 125 cars off the road. A double-pronged approach of repairing bridges and increasing funding to public transportation will go a long way towards solving our problems in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

East Vs West

Pennsylvania is a funny state. I've heard it described as "Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in the middle", a joke I'm sure that Harrisburg (and Alabama) hates. But the fact of the matter is there's a lot of nothing in between the two major Pennsylvania cities, except its capital. So it totally makes sense to have high-speed rail with few stops connecting these cities.

What do we have?

Philadelphia to Harrisburg

Harrisburg to Pittsburgh
  • 311 miles
  • 5+ hours by train
  • Train runs once per day
Why the difference? Historically, Pittsburgh's gotten the shaft?

At this point, Pennsylvania (and Pittsburgh) government has shown so little initiative that Congressman Altmire is instead hopping on board with Ohio's plans to connect Pittsburgh and Cleveland. And I don't blame him. As R2P writer, Jim Russell, has been espousing for years, we need to stop thinking of Cleveland as the enemy and instead build a mega-rust-belt-region to promote all of us. The first step to that collaboration might as well be a frequent and convenient train between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. If Cleveland can eventually have a smooth connection to Chicago via train and we're a hop-skip to Cleveland, you'd better believe that PennDOT and the PA governor would be banging on the door to let in a better train from Harrisburg.

In the meantime, I'd really like to see some local initiative on all public transportation fronts. Let's here Onorato and Ravenstahl step up and say that they will pursue city-wide light rail, regional commuter rail, and inter-city high speed rail. All of these options are vital for the region in terms of generating jobs, attractiveness to immigrants, and general congestion.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gas-Powered Rocket Science

Gas prices go up, we drive less. Gas prices go down, we drive more. Gas is averaging $1.50 less per gallon than last year and like clockwork, we Americans will be hitting the road and guzzling it up - though maybe with slightly older cars and slightly less SUVs.

At the same time, Rendell and company are beginning the fight for raising the gas tax and more tolls - as well as more standardized public transportation and roadwork funding. The gas tax hasn't been raised in 25 years and the 7,000 earmarks scheduled for this summer's transportation bill make Pittsburgh's repaving schedule look like a transparent, well-oiled machine. Clearly, this system of rewarding SUV drivers at the expense of bus-riders is broken. Finally, someone in power is seriously trying to fix it.

In the meantime, I implore you to continue thinking about the ramifications every time you fill up your car at the gas station, every time you drive to the nearby convenience store instead of walking or taking a bike, every time you're sitting in your car alone during rush hour. And maybe if you all can't be inspired to change your ways by retoric, some well-placed gas taxes will clearly help to deter your bad habits. Through education and taxes, cigarette smoking has sharply declined in this country over the past 50 years. Let's do the same with the vice of oil consumption.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Diaspora in Peru

Congratulations to the Penguins for beating Philly in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here in Peru, I can't watch the games, but I have found other Pennsylvania hockey fans. A girl from Pittsburgh and a guy from Philly shared a bus with us last week and joined us in a quest to find televised versions of the game. Of course, by from Pittsburgh, she means she went to school at the University of Pittsburgh and currently lives about a 1 1/2 hours northwest of the city. I don't know which actual town because she neglected to mention it. It might be in Ohio for all I know. But the point is that she identifies as from Pittsburgh, advertises it, and supports its teams.

I also met someone last week who's leaving Washington, DC to move to Pittsburgh (leaning towards the lovely Regent Square) to go to grad school. He and his wife were taking a couple months to travel South America in between.

So to Nullspace and Burgh Diaspora who pay more attention than I, these anecdotes are piling up. Not only do Pittsburghers (natives and transplants) like to travel, but they're throwing off your employment and migration statistics.