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 ..."