Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays Port Authority!

It makes me a bit sadder, as it probably makes all other PAT riders, to think that the new year will bring not only a fare increase but also service cuts. Fortunately we can still hope that those cuts will be a lot less ravaging for the network than the original projections. And hopefully the impact of any service cuts will raise local awareness on the necessity of Public Transportation services in the area and therefore a dedicated funding solution, rather than lead the whole system to collapse...

I, for one, am hopeful that the Port Authority will find in the end the solution that will work for all stakeholders. As the were able to make the new years transition less bitter with a day of free rides and a special shuttle for anyone who wants to experience the 2011 NHL Winter Classic®.
And it is all possible due to an external sponsor who will take over the costs , no need to worry about budget shortfalls.

For more information on the shuttle route and schedule as well as the free January 1st ride visit the Port Authority's website.

Until then we wish all Pittsburgh Metro transit riders Happy Holidays and a plentiful New Year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission voted on temporary funding solution for Public Transportation

This Monday, December 13th, SPC voted (27to 22) for a temporary funding solution of $45 million towards Port Authority’s deficit, as proposed by Gov. Rendell. Whilst the amount is barely enough to cover the Authority’s deficit for this fiscal year, the temporary funding was received with the understanding that it will be stretched over two fiscal years. Thus, PAT may avoid major service cuts until June 2012.
More information about this vote and what it does (or does not) represent for public transportation riders and supporters in Allegheny County can be found:

On Port Authority’s blog:

"This clearly is a short-term Band Aid -- not a long-term solution. In
response to concerns by a number of SPC Commissioners over the short-term
benefit of these funds, Port Authority has committed to examine "stretching" the
$45 million over the next 18 months -- through June 30, 2012."

Read more:

In the City Paper:
The Port Authority got its bailout last night: The Southwestern
Pennsylvania Commission approved diverting $45 million in discretionary funds
and staving off the biggest service reduction in the transit agency's history.

Read more: The author Lauren Daley also sent real-time tweets from the SPC meeting, for which she became my favorite Burgh reporter.

reading Jon Schmitz in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
"Approval came after Port Authority CEO Steve Bland said the agency would
consider spreading the emergency funding over an extra year to give the state
Legislature and incoming Gov. Tom Corbett until July 2012 to address a statewide
transportation funding shortfall."
Read more: and the nominal votes :

this blog’s contributors posts on their personal blogs:

Stuart Strickland, a veteran public transportation advocate:
"I am happy that SPC voted yes, if only barely. I predicted a 51/49% vote in
favor; the actual tally was 55/45%. Those numbers aside, the math of the
short-term fix doesn't add up. Somehow this $45M Gov. Rendell found can be
stretched not only to June 30, 2011, but also to June 30, 2012, but I have grave
doubts. Adding a certain 15% service cut in March to the certain fare hike in
January, however, does not warm the cockles of my heart."

Read more

Ana Bayne, who is hoping to live long enough to experience German quality public transportation in the area:

"So instead of asking for dedicated funding, what I'd like to ask them (the
Republicans) is to reduce taxes. Yes, you read it well: Reduce Taxes. More
specific: reduce state taxes. Give each county the ability to re-direct that
potential revenue towards whatever that particular county needs more. And if you
do look at the numbers, it may even make sense…"

Read more:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another temporary solution for transit funding: is it enough?

( from twitter)
@lndaley Spc approves 45 million bridge funding for PAT

with 27 yay votes out of 49, or 55.1% percent.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission is expected to vote today on Governor's Rendell proposed $45 million temporary funding solution for the Port Authority of Allegheny County. As you may recall as a previous temporary funding program ended this year, the Port Authority faces a major budget shortfall in spite of making consistent efforts in the last years to cut operational as well as administrative costs while maintaining the same level of service across the county.

During WPXI's "Our Region's Business" from Sunday December 12, three special guests, Port Authority's CEO Steve Bland, the CEO of Pittsburgh's Downtown Partnership Michael Edwards and Barbara McNees, President of Pittsburgh's Chamber of Commerce, stressed the impact that this funding crisis will have on the region. In case you had missed the show, here is a short review.

Port Authority's CEO Steve Bland pointed out to the efforts made by PAT in the recent years in order to cut costs. Michael Edwards , the CEO of Pittsburgh's Downtown Partnership, stressed the impact that transit cuts will have on the development of businesses downtown Pitts burgh . It was noted that parking downtown is already "at a premium" and that the city center will not be able to sustain a significant traffic increase. And as employees may find more and more difficult and expensive to commute to the city, downtown businesses will look to relocate elsewhere. According to Barbara McNees, President of Pittsburgh's Chamber of Commerce, it is the lack of dedicated funding for public transportation that is at the roots of all the transit funding problems. She also expressed concern that the transit funding crisis may escalate and have a serious impact all transit agencies in Pennsylvania. A common point stressed by all three guests: the funding crisis is not just a funding crisis but a transportation crisis as there is a need of funds for infrastructure upgrades and major repairs, especially when bridges are concerned.

And there is a reason why bridges were an object of concern for WPXI’s guests, as they shall be for any Pennsylvania resident. It is well know that we do have some of the oldest bridges in the U.S., most were built long before people even dreamt that personal autos will become the main mean of transportation. This is why a lack of funds for serious upgrades to these bridges combined with a lack of funds for public transit, and consequently an increase in traffic over these bridges, may lead to an unexpected outcome. An outcome we may not like to think of …

Required reading
( Especially when puzzled by question in the title)
Stuart Strickland's 2004 opinion article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Why Starve Public Transit?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How to become less dependent on the automobile

Do you own your car or does your car own you?
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the costs of car ownership? Would you like to be able to give up one of cars in the household but you became so dependent on driving everywhere that you do not know how to do it?

To find out how other people were successful in becoming less dependent on their automobile read TransitGuru’ s most recent blog post. And you will also find some useful tips you can use if you are ,indeed, determined in getting back you independence:

Becoming Less Dependent on the Automobile

A rather routine trip to the grocery store prompted me to write this entry. This trip is routine in that I go to the Market District at least three times a week and pick up groceries or supplies of some type. Until a few years ago, I was thought of as "transit dependent" as I deferred obtaining my driver's license until I was married and had a family. It was thought of as a necessity to have, and to a certain extent, it is. However, with that license to drive, I also purchased an automobile (a rather old inefficient, but reliable one). I began to use it for all kinds of errands, primarily because of the "convenience" of getting items at last minute's notice. Was I actually being "car dependent"? In a way, it was due to lack of planning for my errands

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Will there be funding for public transit?

It seems that yes, there will be funding, according to Post-Gazette's Jon Schmitz [1] :

"Gov. Ed Rendell today announced a $45 million allocation that would allow the Port Authority to avert record-breaking service cuts planned for March"
The provenience for the $45 million: reallocating stimulus money from stalled projects. The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) is expected to vote on the reallocation of funds to public transportation during its December 13 meeting and until this vote the $45 million are no more than a projected funding solution. This is also a temporary funding solution and as governor Rendell stated, it is only meant to give Elected Governor Corbett the time to figure up a long-term solution. According to the Post-Gazette, if approved by the SPC the new funds would delay the proposed service cuts for a year.

However, since the $45 million funding will only cover the budget shortfall for the current fiscal year that ends June 30 2011 , the Port Authority may decide to delay the service cuts only until July 2011 which only buys a few more months for those Pittsburgh riders expecting to lose service come March 13.

Port Authority’s CEO Steve Bland said that he is waiting for the SPC vote before making any decisions regarding the planned March 13 cuts, according to Lauren Daley (@lndaley ) from the Pittsburgh City Paper.

Yes, Governor Rendell brought us some good news today and most important he brought us hope that we can avoid becoming again a city poisoned by pollution because we are becoming more and more car dependent city. But if a green Pittsburgh is going to remain mere hope, or will become a reality depends on our newly elected state officials and on us, the riders. This is why we will continue to advocate actively and support public transportation solutions.

We will return with more updates on the funding crisis soon so stay by.
For more twitter news follow @ bus15237 , @ TransitGuru, @lndaley and @BlaqBentley

[1] Post Gazette Source:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Port Authority’s Board Approves Service Cuts, Fare Increase

We found out that, sadly , the Port Authority ‘s board approved a 35% cut in service and a fare increases in order to cover a projected budget shortfall of $47.1 million due to loss of funding . Up to Fiscal Year 2011 the funds were granted by Act 44 of 2007 but after the Federal government rejected a planned toll on I-80 this revenue source will be lost.
The Cause
However, before blaming the service cuts and fare increases on PAT, we shall consider all the facts. PAT projected operating revenues for the current fiscal year are $96.4 million or 26.6% of what is needed to cover the projected operating expenses. And this is a $5.2 million increase from 2007, yet in 2007 PAT was able to cover 27% of its operating expenses from its own revenues. Therefore PAT’s expenses have increased at a faster rate than its revenues. And this change occurred in spite of financial reforms such as freezing salaries, decreasing contribution on the employee’s healthcare, reducing personnel and improving operational costs. By comparing the budget for FY 2007 and the projected budget for FY 2010 we note that projected spending towards employee benefits was 13.9 % more than in 2007 in spite of the fact that PAT constantly decreased its contribution to employee healthcare since 2007.

This is why the Port Authority will not be able to make the shortfall in its budget and avoid service cuts or/and substantial fare increases. Because costs such as employment benefits, utilities or fuel depend on market prices it does not control.
So it is extremely important to request from our representatives to provide more funding solutions before we ask Port Authority to show accountability for its service level – and I do not say we should not demand better service or more transparency. Because we do need funding solutions and we need everybody to realize the impact the 35% cut in public transportation services will have on the region’s development.
The Impact
The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission requested a travel demand model that considers the proposed cuts. This model estimates a 15% decrease in public transportation trips and a 0.3% increase in vehicle trips (19,300 more vehicles on the road).
A decrease in public transportation trips will lead to a decrease on operating revenue for the Port Authority which may lead to further service cuts.
An increase in the number of vehicles on the road, even by such a small percentage such as 0.3% will lead to more traffic congestions. Therefore it is estimated that the average rider will spend 14 more minutes in city traffic and about 10 more minutes when the suburbs are also considered during peak hours. These estimates may be lower if more car commuters will decide to use alternative such as carpooling or vanpooling. Or these estimates may be higher if it rains –we all know how traffic gets in Pittsburgh when it rains.
More vehicles on the road will also have a negative impact on the region’s air quality and its ability to attract more green businesses which have played an important role in its economic recovery until now.
The Conclusion
I read in the Pittsburgh City Paper today that Steve Bland said at the board meeting : "Today is a very, very dark day in Port Authority history". And we can add Today is a dark, dark day in the Region’s history .


"Transit cuts usher in "a very, very dark day in Port Authority history" by Lauren Daley in Pittsburgh City Paper

"Transit Operators Committee: Request for Data" retreived from KeepPGHmoving grace to the Downtown Partnership.

Recommended blog posts on the topic:

Pittsburgh Transit Guide: Historic Transit Reductions on March 13

Monday, November 22, 2010

On the most recent service changes

Did you forget about the November 21st service changes?
Well I did, and as a consequence in my way to church yesterday I missed the bus by only two minutes so I had to walk about a mile. Luckily yesterday had been a great day for a walk and since we also celebrated my son’s birthday this weekend, it had been a good occasion to burn those extra calories from that yummy chocolate cake.
But I know one person who did not forget about the November 21st changes. Go ahead an read more on his blog:

No routes will be renamed or renumbered for the TDP on this schedule change. Port Authority is changing 46 routes based on public comment, ridership demand, and a few clean-ups to TDP "bloopers". Many routes have minor routing and time changes as a result of normal adjustments. Read my summaries of the changes below, and for more details, visit Port Authority's Schedule Adjustment Page. It is great to see that the Port Authority is responding to public input on these changes, however it will be nearly impossible for it to do so if the funding situation is not resolved. Please contact your legislator and Governor and demand that public transit to be funded properly. If funding is not provided, the March changes will be an attempt to serve the riders with 35% less service. I believe it is nearly impossible to properly serve the Pittsburgh area with 35% less service. Please stay tuned for another blog post this week on the subject of the funding issue."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

News on the transportation funding crisis

On Wednesday 11/17, The Port Authority's planning and development committee approved the proposed service cuts to become effective on March 13th, 2011. Also, starting January 2011, the Zone 1 fare will be $2.25 per trip, Zone 2 fare will be $3.25 and transfers $1.On the up side, a $32,500 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation will dot all buses with bike racks.
Putting aside the irony of this situation, there is an actual gain from having bike racks on all buses. People who are riding buses due to environmental concerns rather than need may use a bike-bus combination instead of driving to work and increase traffic congestion even further.
Wendy Stern, the PAT's assistant general manager for planning and development, stated that if the agency gets more state funding before March, the service cuts could be modified. But as we all know at this point there are no plans for more funding in the state budget.
Now we can all cross our hands and do nothing or… we can voice our concerns. This blog is open for your comments, concerns and rider experiences. You can contact us by e-mail at to express them.
Another website where you can voice your opinion on the transportation funding issue – an issue that will also impact road and bridge maintenance – is keepPGHmoving. The website is a Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership initiative.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Where do you want to live that day when the car fuel will be sparse?

A study by researchers at UC-Davis, and quoted by AFP and Yahoo! News , predicted that oil reserves are likely to run out 100 years before effective fuel alternatives will be developed. Given that: “Nearly two-thirds of crude oil is used to produce gasoline and diesel to run vehicles”[1]. So, if this prediction is to become reality, it is really bad news for car commuters.
This prediction is based on two assumptions:
1. When considering the amount of crude oil reserves that we know of and can exploit and given a growth in oil consumption for a constant 1.3% year , these reserves will be depleted by 2041(or 2054 by the most optimistic estimates).
2. By analyzing the share prices for alternative energy companies versus oil companies we note that oil companies have a considerably larger market share than alternative energy companies. Meaning that today’s market is still an oil hungry market. And if the market share for alternative energy companies grows at a steady pace, it is estimated that there will be not a widely available alternative to oil fuels until 2140.

I can hear the critics pointing out that, as it is the case with most companies built on innovative technologies, alternative fuels may start to register sooner than expected a rapid growth leading to more investment and their ability to grab a larger share of the market. And they are correct…But, on the other side, considering the growth of car ownership in developing countries, oil consumption is not likely to grow steadily either…

The most likely scenario is neither a car-less world, nor oil depletion. But a world in which using the traditional car as our main mean of transportation is not going to be cost effective, and that is considering that we can afford to pay for fuel. And, in this scenario, the cities that are most likely to thrive are the ones providing the best transportation alternatives from buses to regional railways to bike lanes and sidewalks. And this is one of the reasons why Allegheny County Transit Council stands for a viable public transportation alternative in Pittsburgh. This is why we need you to make your voice heard. We need your support for public transportation.
[1] Zeitvogel, Karin Oil will run out 100 years before new fuels developed: study. AFP. Nov 15 2010.
Retrieved from Yahoo!News

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A rider's story.Versailles/Port Vue TDP. Story 5

Before TDP: I  frequently used the 58V – Versailles Express. This route ran peak period, peak direction trips only. The 58V ran four trips during the morning rush and four trips during the evening rush. This route (along with the 58C and 58P) was born after the demise of the PATrain in 1989.

I started my current job Downtown two years ago. I lived just a stone’s throw away from Versailles over in Boston and my first few weeks on the job I tried driving into town. I hated it. Dealing with parking (cash only at the Mellon Arena was such a pain!), traffic, and inconsistent trip times, I realized that driving Downtown everyday was not for me. I ventured online to the Port Authority’s website and did some research. I found out my nearest bus routes were the 58V and 68J at the Olympia Park and Ride. I chose 58V because of its shorter trip time. Trip times ranged from 35-45 minutes.

I greatly enjoyed the service and the trips were often full. The Park and Ride would pretty much fill to capacity with nearly all of the Park and Ride passengers taking the 58V. The 6:50 inbound trip would usually load 15-20 riders at the Park and Ride.  However, it would be frustrating if I would miss the 16:40 outbound trip and have to wait for the 17:30 trip, which was the last 58V outbound trip. Sometimes I would take a 68J if I missed that 16:40 58V. I could not take an in-between 58P or 58C as I could not reliably transfer to travel to Olympia Park and Ride. 58P and 58C serviced the McKeesport Transportation Center whereas the 58V went the opposite direction after crossing the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge.  Olympia was also served by 60A, but there was a two hour gap from 16:00 to 18:00 between 60A trips leaving the Transportation Center.

After TDP:  The 58V and 58P were discontinued and the 58C was renamed to the P7 McKeesport Flyer. I was disappointed to see the 58V discontinued, but I understood what the Port Authority was trying to accomplish. Many fellow riders were angry about the discontinuation and threatened to drive to Downtown. They wrote letters to the editor of area newspapers and passed around a petition during one week in January.
I continued traveling via the Park and Ride on the 68J. This was not my favorite route for various reasons (mainly for the long route length and afternoon late and overcrowded buses), but it made do over the summer. I knew I would be moving in that timeframe and I no longer would take the 68J on a regular basis. Hopefully, TDP improves the 68J.

The P7 improved upon the old service in several ways. First, inbound morning rush trips run every 30 minutes from 5:38 to 8:08  The 58V only had 5:40, 6:25, 6:55, and 7:26 inbound trips.  Basically, two more trips were added at even, clockface headways. The P7 inbound morning trips traverse around Downtown and make outbound trips to McKeesport. That did not exist with the 58V. During the afternoon rush outbound trips, the headway is 30 minutes again with trips spanning from 15:40 to 18:40. This is a three trip increase over what the 58V offered, which had outbound trips at 15:40, 16:15, 16:40, and 17:30. All of the P7 afternoon outbound trips start out as inbound trips from the McKeesport Transportation Center. This is a big improvement from before TDP.  Riders in the McKeesport-Duquesne area have another option to directly arrive Downtown during the mid-late afternoon timeframe instead of just the 61C or 56.

Also, post TDP brought changes to the local crosstown routes that serve McKeesport and the surrounding areas. Six routes were consolidated into three: 60, 61, 62. All three routes run at even, 60 minute headways. The routes they replaced ran at inconvenient headways and complicated alignments. TDP allows the three routes to have timed transfers to the P7.  For example, I recently moved residence to the area that is serviced by the 62. The route that it replaced, the 60P, only ran weekdays every two hours between 9AM and 18:00. Post TDP, the 62 runs six days a week every 60 minutes between 6:00 and 20:00. I can board the 62 near my house at 6:25 and it arrives at the Transportation Center at 6:31 where I can transfer to the 6:38 P7, the 6:41 56, or the 6:35 61C if I ever have to travel to Oakland. The same scenario is true in the 7AM hour and 8AM hour due to consistent headways of all the aforementioned routes! In the afternoon, 62 trips leave from the Transportation Center at 16:31, 17:31, 18:30, and 19:30. These correspond with the P7 trips due at the Transportation Center at 16:23, 17:23, 18:23, and 19:23. Ever since the changes were implemented in April, these connection times have been tough to meet due to Rankin Bridge construction. The construction is supposed to be over in early December, so that should alleviate the delays and put the P7 back close to scheduled running times.

The 60 and 61 arrive and leave at the Transportation Center around the same time all day so it ensures that connections can be made. 60 and 61 cover parts of the area that was serviced by the 58V and 58P, so service to Downtown from those areas was maintained just not as a one-seat trip.

In conclusion, the TDP has worked well in the McKeesport area thanks to scheduling improvements and strong connections to Downtown and nearby areas. The TDP has worked for me because of providing consistent service with alternatives to my job Downtown. The P7 will run all day at some point in the future as long as the funding crisis is resolved. This will further increase the TDP improvements.

Brian Z. chose public transportation over dealing downtown traffic and parking, like many other people working downtown do (choose) . To read more about his riding experience follow his twitter account : @bmantz65

Friday, November 12, 2010

Social Cities

The blog post bellow reminded me of another post I read not too long ago : Archipelago. When describing the maps of social clusters in London, NewYork and Paris developed for URBAGRAM, Anil Bawa-Cavia notes that:

"The modern metropolis can often feel like a social archipelago – fragmented islands of social activity separated by large areas dedicated to commercial workplaces, flows of vehicles, residential sprawl or industrial sites"

These maps show that the pedestrian network and the social hubs are superposed. Therefore walkability plays a focal role in the social space of modern urban areas. In spite of the fact that all the cities above do have a comprehensive public transportation network.

And if you already started to wonder why...Why did this post about urban pedestrian networks got published on a blog advocating public transportation? Well, it is elementary…When transportation is mainly assured by privately own vehicles, the only way to avoid traffic congestion is suburban sprawl. But sprawl areas are less likely to develop pedestrian networks because of distances. On the other side, public transportation can work effectively in concentrated urban areas.

This is why the stories on this blog cannot be limited to stories of using public transportation. We are talking about a multimodal network in which public transportation can provide an effective connection between the urban social hubs that make any city, Pittsburgh included, an event city. A city where social life sprawls.

Social Pittsburgh?

When I moved to Pittsburgh 11 years ago, the most striking impression was to see the empty streets, nobody else walking around. It gave me the strange feeling that the world is ending and I am the last person on Earth.

After the first two years I traveled back home. In Paris, where I switched planes, I suffered for the first time in my life an anxiety attack, a crisis of agoraphobia. I felt like all those people were armed and dangerous and they would push me under the wheels of a car or off the subway. I felt like they were breathing all my air and all of them had bad intentions. Out of pure habit, because I became so used to the low density of people on the street. The first two days were the hardest and I was afraid I will never be able to recover. But slowly I went back to seeing the people walking on streets and riding on buses and the subway as being neutral, even nice, no matter their number.

Pittsburgh is a very pretty city with its hills, rivers, bridges and old houses, And nowadays it is also very clean. I saw pictures from its industrial past: it was maybe dirty, but also full of life. There were streetcars everywhere! When I realized one day as the asphalt was being repaired that on my own street there used to be streetcar rails, it broke my heart. Because that livelihood is gone along with some of that sense of community, security and the spark of real life, with the mixture of old people, children, men and women living together on the same street and walking without fear of being alone on the sidewalks.

I think that, if people used public transportation more, there would be more life around and the streets would give us a warmer feeling. By sharing the sidewalks, we would even relearn to trust one another.

B.A. was born, raised and educated in Romania. She is currently employed by one of the universities here and she is living in Oakland with her husband and Mitza, the cat. They are urban trekkers who love to take long walks during the weekend. They are also backpack- shoppers - they believe one does not need a car to shop for groceries for a family of two. When they moved to the United States they decided to never own a car because it is the best way to live urban. Car owners need more roads and that leads to suburban sprawl, they say, and suburban sprawl leads to more cars. It is a vicious circle one cannot escape unless one avoids car ownership.

On her blog Earthwalker she often discusses environment related issues and public policies. She strongly believes equal opportunities such as those offered by transportation and education equity. Her blog is also a place for her exquisite visual art creations.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

November News: Service Changes & more

So what does November bring to Allegheny County residents but cold weather?

  • Starting November 21st, Port Authority will implement several adjustments to 46 of its routes in order to better serve riders. PAT will add trips to 15 routes in order to improve the way it meets rider demand. The other adjustments include schedule and routing changes that aim to solve issues such as delays due to traffic congestion and rider demand, as well as improve traffic flow. On some routes such as P12 there will be several changes, therefore in order to see if your route will be affected check them on PAT’s website.

And he wants you to know that if you are interested in getting map updates or you want to send him your suggestions and comments you shall follow him on twitter @TransitGuru .

  • And since we mentioned above those service changes that will affect riders starting with November 21st, now we would like to address those service changes that affect all Allegheny County commuters indifferent of the way they choose to commute. Lauren Daley’s article in the City Paper shows that the proposed 35% cut in PAT’s service due to lack of funding will affect drivers as well as riders. According to a model run by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and quoted by Daley’s article “Traffic Trouble” the average rider’s commute time during peak hours is expected to increase by 14 minutes in the city and 10 minutes in the suburbs.

And, to end with a short reminder : if you missed the November 3rd public hearing on the proposed fare increases for 2011, you still have until November 12th to submit your comment on-line or in writing. For more information there is our previous post: "Proposed fare increases to lead to bonus ..."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I am a 21st Century Citizen

DOT's Secretary, Ray LaHood, made an interested statement about the TIGER II projects we covered yesterday (see press release ):
"These are innovative, 21st century projects that will change the U.S. transportation landscape by strengthening the economy and creating jobs, reducing gridlock and providing safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation choices"

A political statement? Or a new trend? Someone like me or Simon Kuper would probably say "a trend" as it results from a rider story I covered in the confession of a bus rider (2).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is Pittsburgh in the eye of (the) TIGER?

Yes, we can say that Pittsburgh made it finally – it is in the eye of the TIGER. Of course, we do not mean the striped feline but the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery or, in short, TIGER.
On October 20th, DOT’s Secretary Ray LaHood announced the second series of grant recipients through the TIGER initiative. From nearly 1000 applicants, only seventy-five projects did receive any grant money in the final. Forty –two capital construction projects and 33 planning projects will share about $600 million in grants from the TIGER II program. [Read the press release here]
And our own city of Pittsburgh has received $825,000 towards a project focused on developing an existing six-mile riverfront rail corridor right-of-way to a multimodal transportation network including pedestrian and bike trails as well as passenger-rail operations. Called the Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard, it will start downtown Pittsburgh and stretch eastbound towards Westmoreland County. The project will use industrial land in order to promote viable transportation alternatives (and all the drivers on the Parkway East know how much these alternatives are needed) and “supports partnerships and best practices that could provide cross-cutting lessons for other communities” [1]. Therefore, the grant will also be used to support research for the best way to win a community challenge.
Way to go, Pittsburgh!
[1] For a complete list of TIGER II recipients for planning projects here :
Details about the “Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard”on p.6

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A rider's story.‏ Brookline TDP. Story 4

The Two Sides of Brookline

The eastern side has the Port Authority South Busway running alongside SR 51/Saw Mill Run Blvd.
Prior to TDP, we had two primary routes along the entire length of the South Busway. The 46F Baldwin Highlands and the 46G Elizabeth. The first ran every 50 minutes during the day, and the other ran every there were times they would run on top of each other, and then you'd have to wait 40 minutes for the next set to ride through. There was also the Overbrook line, and East Brookline has a stop called South Bank. During the day, the 47L Library via Overbrook would come through every 30 minutes or so, and the 47S South Hills Village via Overbrook would operate during rush hour. The Port Authority did play around here and there and made the 47S run more, but it seemed like every year or so, there was a major overhaul.
After the TDP, the 46F was changed into the Y49 Prospect Flyer and the 46G became the Y46 Elizabeth Flyer in June 2010. The Y46 runs every half hour, and the Y49 runs hourly and was scheduled half way between two Y46. In September, the Port Authority changed the 46D in to the Y47, and the BR Brentwood Flyer along with the 46B Baldwin Manor and the BM Baldwin Manor into the Y45. With the addition of the Y47, riders along the South Busway now have an even 15 minute headway. It is something that I was working on for quite some time to have such a standard headway. The 47L and 47S Light Rail (aka The "T") was renamed Blue Line - Library and Blue Line - South Hills Village, both running once every half hour...15 minutes apart from one another. The Library acts as a shuttle only between Library, PA and Washington Jct, and numerous riders are unhappy about it.
On the other side of Brookline we had the 41B Bower Hill, 41D Brookline, 41G Dormont and 44U Mt. Lebanon-Oakland.
After the TDP ,the 41B Bower Hill is now the 41 Bower Hill, the 41D is still the 41D but will be changed into the 39 Brookline, the 41G has become a feeder route called the 35 and does not service the northern part of Dormont nor Brookline at all. And the 44U became the 42.
When you hear of Brookline, most people think about the 41D and 41G, which both serviced a primary residential thoroughfare, Pioneer Avenue. The Port Authority yanked the 41G and made the southernmost portion into the 35 Sunset Hills, a feeder route for the Y45, Blue Line, 41/42 and Red Line. Sadly, they didn't take into consideration that the 41G handled half the peak ridership of Pioneer Avenue and by yanking it, it was going to cause the overcrowding on the 41D as it has. This has made the news...
However, a lot of neighbors are telling me they are still getting passed up.
Also, the 41D and 41G use to combine as the 41D/G Brookline-Dormont route in the evenings. A skeleton evening service left downtown Pittsburgh as late as 11:40 to help those get home during the evenings. I have always been an outspoken advocate for those who work the 3p-11p shift, and unfortunately after the TDP changes, without the 11:40p trip, people who work those shifts aren't able to get home.

So, for East Brookline riders who use the South Busway (now also called the Yellow Line), the TDP made positive changes. However, a lot of people in the main part of Brookline have had some pretty negative results from the TDP. People who are misfortunate enough to board outbound at either Station Square or South Hills Jct have found themselves waiting a while for a bus with an open seat. And, many riders of the 41D and former 41G are getting stranded and find themselves walking a lot more. Either to/from West Liberty Avenue up and down hills that are about 45 degrees or to the Red Line Trolley Line, sometimes a half mile or more hike.

Samuel J Hurst, a Brookline Resident and Republican Committeeman, has worked with ACTC since 2002. A long time supporter of Family and Transit, he has worked with such groups as Save Our Transit and Fathers 4 Justice. He remains very passionate about the importance of family...and a comprehensive transit/transportation system.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Stu's TDP before and after story‏. Story 3

I might not have the most dramatic pre- and post-TDP story to tell, as it has not yet been fully implemented near me yet. At this writing, neither the McKnight nor Mount Royal corridors has gone under the TDP knife. However, Perry Highway has, and this has most definitely affected my riding experience.

My house lies near CCAC North between the Perry and McKnight corridors, a little over a mile west of Vincentian Academy and McIntyre Square, a long but do-able walk from the 1D Mount Royal. Prior to the TDP changes, Perry Highway's 11C and 13C Express had very sporadic service. Some trips were bunched together, while at other times headways were very long, upwards of 75 minutes. North of my house, both 11C and 13C took very different paths, many trips using a particular path only once. This made it hard to ride a bus outbound to Northland Library, for instance, as it might take 4 minutes, or 15, to go that mile, or not go there at all. I could walk it faster and more reliably.

Headed toward Downtown, mid-day trips required a bus change in West View to a Perrysville or 500, making a 20-minute car trip a 75-minute bus trip. I often did it on a bicycle in much less time than the bus took, from 10 miles north of the city, less than an hour.

With TDP, commuting is different, but I don't know about better. Yes, the bus does come at very regular intervals, but it's only once an hour. I still have to transfer buses, sometimes with a zero wait, others 20 minutes. I have no service at all after 6 p.m., though I do have a new,
super-early 4:55 a.m. option.

What this has meant is that I hardly use the #9 Perry Highway, instead hiking the mile to or from McKnight for the un-TDP'd 12A and 13A, or the 1D Mount Royal. My road has no sidewalk, no lights, no shoulders, and poor sight lines. Yet I walk it 7 or 8 times a week, always in the dark. I get to see frogs and birds, but also potentially skunk, fox and large deer. You don't want a deer mad at you. They're big.

The bicycle is regularly becoming a viable alternative, even from 10 miles out. Not only can I beat the bus going inbound, outbound 12A trips with the bike on the rack on the front of the bus allow me to get home much faster than the 12A and a walk does, even faster than the old 11C used to.

I highly recommend combining a bike ride and the bus to get from place to place. While TDP's changes make the buses more efficient from the point of view of operating expenses, the bicycle reduces travel time to get to the bus. I refuse to be cowed by traffic on bike, any more than I refuse to be cowed by traffic on foot. Mostly I refuse to succumb to driving as the
only alternative.

The TDP is doing good, in general. For me, personally? The jury is still out.

Stuart Strickland
McCandless Twp.

About Stuart:

Stu had been a transit advocate for over 20 years. You can follow him on Twitter @bus15237 and you may want to visit his blog : Unicycle in Transit . He is living in McCandless Township with his wife and children, a typical white collar middle class family .

Thursday, October 21, 2010

31DE/33DE TDP. Story 2

" I have had to go to the Foster Plaza area (near Westwood-Noblestown Rd.) several times before and after the transit changes for work related errands. Before the changes, it was rather an adventure to ride home later in the evening as I had to walk to Greentree Road for the next available trip to avoid waiting almost two hours in the evening to return to Downtown. "

writes Michael Sypolt on his blog, Pittsburgh Transit Guide, as he covers the third round of TDP changes.

about Michael:

In spite of owning a car, Michael remains a convinced public transportation supporter for reasons such as sustainability which he discusses on his blog. He had recently completed a two-way car free trip to a location outside Ellwood City.

He is also very knowledgeable when it comes to trip planning and helping other bus riders figure out route alternatives. He has developed a very useful map and public transit guide for Allegheny County that are available to the public on: You can also ask him about the best route alternatives on twitter : @TransitGuru

Public Action Meeting !

Join other ACTC members at the PIIN Public Action Meeting!

The Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network and a thousand participants will ask selected officials to make a public commitment on issues such as transportation funding.

As you know PAT faces a transportation funding crisis that , if unsolved, will lead to service cuts in March 2011. About 35% of service will be affected if PAT is unable to cover the $47 million shortfall in its budget by securing additional funding.

The Public Action Meeting is scheduled to take place TODAY , October 21st, from 6:45 pm to 8.30 pm at Rodef Shalom , 4905 Fifth Avenue .

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Y49 TDP. Story 1

Born and raised in Europe, scared of driving, each year I tell myself : next year I am going to apply for the driver license …

The thing is that I never had to consider driving a car before I came to live in Pittsburgh. And now , that my family is here and I became a long-term resident of the city , I am still trying to postpone the day when I will get my driver’s license and really get behind a car’s wheel …but it is hard to tell how long I will be able to use public transportation instead. Even though I do not have to work past 8pm; I can negotiate my start time and I can find a travel alternatives (read: car) for weekend mornings and late evenings when there is no bus service.

While I was postponing the day when I would finally have to go through with the exam for the driver’s license, I tried to choose wisely the area to call home. A few years ago when I moved in, whilst it had the advantages of nice suburbia, it still offered several public transportation options . But things got worse, and I hope to be able to say one day that they only got worse before they got better. After all this is what the Transit Development Plan is for. It is supposed to improve the public transportation system in Pittsburgh.
How did the TDP work out for me? This is my story.

To get from the South Side Works, where my work is, to the intersection of Prospect and E Willock Rd, where home is, on an Saturday morning or a week day’s evening used to be quite an adventure.

I had to change three buses. After 8 pm on a weekday, it used to be 51A, 51C and 35A and, if I missed the 51A, I had to sprint down to the 18th to catch the 51C. If a got there just a few minutes late and I missed my 35A connection, I had to add another mile to my walk home. A pleasant, healthy exercise except for those months when the weather reports are "frost and snow". And, of course, it was during those snowy cold months when bus real timetables varied most and the chance that I miss my connection to the next ride increased ...
IT was during one of those snowy days that I got to ride in a vehicle that, I hope, I’ll never get to ride in again. It was a dog day evening with freezing snow hitting the ground and the 35A never made it to the bottom of Stilley road, so I decided to walk. By the time I got one quarter mile up the road I could already feel frost in my bone marrows as I started stumbling against the wind. This is when the police car stopped in front of me. It was not a patrol car but a prisoner transportation and containment police unit – a Jeep with a protection glass screen between the front and back seats and some cool safety features. One guy in, the driver, asked me something along the lines " Where are you coming from & have you been drinking?". I guess I looked like one that just tried some johnny walker swing…
“Coming from work & going home. Not drunk, but frozen. That 35A did not show” I said. “Now I am walking home”
I do not know if he just felt bad about leaving me behind to walk myself into becoming Mrs. Frosty or he did not want to take a chance, but he replied:”get in. It is dangerous to walk down here at night; you could get hit by a car”. So I got in the back seat, got a ride home and was told that he cannot open the car from the inside while I was on the back seat – smart security lock. He had to get out, unlock the door from the outside so I can exit the car. Since I wasn’t asked any questions to raise my suspicion that it was an attempted arrest, I was left to wonder if it was another automatic feature. Or I live in such a posh neighborhood that, after all, whomever tries walking himself/herself into Mr./ Mrs. Frosty one cold winter night is automatically suspect.
As for the Saturday trips, the irony was that the faster trips (a mere two hours) were not the simpler. I had to take a 35A down to Route 51, a 46 G to Station Square, a 51C to 18th and in the end walk. For some strange reason the quasi- direct route 35A to Brownsville and 51C to 18th took longer…

In short, for me, the TDP changes worked well to improve my bus riding experience in the week end as well as in the evening.
The added weekend and evening trips for the new Prospect Park Flyer make my weekend and evening trips much easier to schedule. Having to take only two buses, instead of three, I worry less about missing my connection. I also get home a half an hour, 45 minutes earlier in the evening. Boring , and if I get another ride in a prisoner transportation and containment police unit , this time I'll know that I am in real trouble.
And given 51’s increased weekend frequency, my trips are a lot shorter too – even with Y49’s constant delay issues it takes me about an hour to get to work on a Saturday morning.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Proposed fare increases to lead to bonus public comment, public hearing opportunities

Due to the revised fare proposal the Port Authority of Allegheny County decided to open an additional public comment period as well as to schedule another public hearing. This is another opportunity for riders to tell the public officials who are responsible for funding how the proposed fare will impact their budgets and livelihoods.
If approved, the proposed fares will become effective starting with January 1st 2011. And yet, service cuts will still be expected to become reality in March if new funding resources are not found by then. Since this is not only a regional problem - bigger transit agencies such as MTA had just increased their fares by 7.5% again [1] - your comment is most important.
The public comment period opened today and it will close on November 12th at 4pm.
You can either mail your comment on the fare proposals to: Port Authority Fare Proposals, Heinz 57 Center, 345 Sixth Avenue, Floor 3, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Or you can use the on-line comment form. [ To use the on-line comment form click here. ]
The public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, November 3, 2010 from 9 am to 11 am. To pre- register for it call 412-566-5437 (TTY 412-231-7007) from 9 am to 3:30 pm on weekdays. Keep in mind that you only have three minutes to make your point so prepare your speech ahead of time. The location for the public hearing : Port Authority’s Neal H. Holmes Board Room on the 5th floor of Heinz 57 Center. [For directions use this address: 345 Sixth Avenue, Pittsburgh 15222]

More information on the proposed fares and the public hearing are found on the Port Authority’s website.

[1]Amanda Fiscina and James Summersille for Smithtown Patch: MTA Approves Latest Rounds of Fare Hikes

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Your voice counts? PAT's Transit Survey

How often did you get to complain lately about a late bus to your friends, fellow riders or even your boss?
And how many times did you try to call PAT’s Customer Service about a late bus and you were not able to get through or got no answers?
Not to mention the confusion created by the Transit Development Plan:
Are route changes making more difficult for you to get from point A to point B?
Do you know what alternatives are there to the older bus routes that are no longer in service?
Do you know how to use these alternatives?
Did you wait for a bus for an hour or more just to discover that its stop changed?
But most important, have you tried to voice your opinions and complains and felt like nobody heard, nobody cared?

The Port Authority of Allegheny County's transit survey : “your voice counts” gives you an opportunity to tell it as you think it and to win prizes for it:
  • First five thousand eligible participants - a “buy one McDonald value mill, get one free” coupon.
  • Three lucky winners - an Annual Zone 2 Pass after a random drawing of eligible entries.
To be considered an eligible participant you need to take the survey between October 1st 2010 12:00 am and November 30, 2010 11:59 pm.

To access the transit survey:
Check the survey’s official rules here :
The survey was initiated and organized by Port Authority of Allegheny County and FSC/Jones Worley. ACTC is not directly involved in the survey’s design or administration and holds no authority over the results of the survey.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


September 7
Port Authority’s CEO Steve Bland will answer your questions on Tuesday, September 7th starting with 7pm during the KDKA show moderated by Robert Mangino. Steve Bland became PAT's CEO in 2006 and is the person behind the route and schedule changes which started in January of this year. For more information visit the KDKA website.

September 20
Sustainable Pittsburgh will host a Public forum on PAT’s new initiative, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), on Monday September 20th, from 8am to 4pm , in the Power Center Ballroom of Duquesne University. The forum will focus on the Downtown –Oakland- East End Area BRT corridor that is intended to improve public transportation and thus revitalize the communities mentioned above. Among the forums’ special guests and participants are PennDOT’s Secretary Allen Biehler, Allegheny County Department of Economic Development , Allegheny County Transportation Action Partnership, the City of Pittsburgh's Department of City Planning and Allegheny County Transit Council.

More information about participants and on how to register in order to attend the forum discussion can be found on : . There is no fee to attend.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Welcome to the Allegheny County Transit Council Blog

This will serve as the future location of the Allegheny County Transit Council newsletters.