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

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