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 : http://www.dot.gov/docs/tiger2planninggrantinfo.pdf
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 40...so 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... http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10252/1086294-100.stm
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: http://www.publictransitguide.info/. 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