Friday, January 28, 2011

News and Updates. January 2011

service cuts
On Wednesday January 12, Port Authority’s Board of Directors approved a 15% service cut starting with March 27th, 2011. Even though it will have a less disastrous impact on the region than the 35% service cut projected last year, it will still affect negatively many areas around Pittsburgh. If you are not sure if your bus route will be affected, Port Authority offers a detailed list on its website.

Another Board of Directors meeting was called by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) on Friday January 28th in a last attempt to reverse the Board's previous decision regarding a 15% transit cut. ACTC president Jonathan Robinson and ACTC senior member Stu Strickland were registered speakers at this event. Stu's speech is here.

The ACTC speakers leaned towards supporting ATU's suggestion to use the $45 million temporary funding in order to cover the entire budget shortfall for this fiscal year. Under this scenario the Port Authority will have to deal with the possibility of 35% cuts come June 2011 when the current fiscal year will end. On the other side Port Authority's CEO, Steve Bland stated that a 35% cut will be devastating for the region and unavoidable since the "tea leaves aren't reading well" in terms of potential state funding.

But there was one point on which all speakers agreed : transit needs dedicated, lasting funding sources otherwise transit programs across the whole state will continue being shortchanged.

New magnetic card fare system

On the upside Port Authority’s new fare system is back on the right track to be completed by its target date – January 2012. The new system, called Connect, will use rechargeable magnetic cards. Vending points will be situated in accessible spots across Allegheny County.

We hope that the new fare system will allow riders to purchase daily passes as well. Right now a person that may consider using transit from time to time instead of driving, the current system seems to do everything to discourage them as Stu notes in : We need a Day Pass.

The new fare system will also eliminate one of the alleged causes for the T's Red Line delays during the first week of January. Wednesday Jan 26th, at the meeting called by the Allegheny County Council in an attempt to settle a dispute between the Port Authority's administration and its union, ATU made the point that January 3rd being the first weekday for a new fare delays were a very probable consequence. Inbound operators had to spend more than the allotted stop time in order to explain the new fares to cash paying riders.

Building relations with other professionals involved in developing technology solutions and alternatives for transportation

ACTC members Michael Sypolt, Ana Bayne and Stuart Strickland will attend TransportationCamp East in New York City. The event will take place March 5-6, bringing together transportation professionals, technologists and others interested in finding the best alternatives in urban transportation.

From the event's website

"Transportation is a major metropolitan issue, with direct impacts on economic strength, environmental sustainability, and social equity"[...]
"TransportationCamp will raise awareness of this opportunity and build
connections between disparate innovators in public administration,
transportation operations, information design, and software

Tweeps @lndaley, @bus15237 and @ have contributed to this story.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Do you know how much you really spend driving to work

In this post I will try to address a personal finance issue, the costs of using your personal car when commuting for work and several resources that enable you weigh your transportation alternatives. What I won’t discuss here is the cost of car ownership because I think that considering the local geography and specific needs of the contemporary American family, car ownership is a necessity when it comes to activities such as shopping and family trips.
The obvious
The two costs that are obvious to every car owner are one’s car payments and gas. While you may consider buying a used car in order to eliminate car payments for his budget, you have to consider that when you drive to work every day the main quality you are looking for is: reliability. A car does you no good if it breaks down when you needed it most. And when browsing through Kelley Blue book for used vehicles that are no more than 5-6 years old and have less than 100,000 miles on board, I realized that the price tag on a reliable vehicle will probably be around $5-6000. This is an amount that most people cannot afford to pay cash for. However if you do not drive the car every day, you may be able to negotiate and purchase a car for a couple thousands instead and eliminate car payments from your budget.
If your vehicle uses traditional fuel, that is gas, the price trend for it shall worry you. The average gas price in Pennsylvania is little over $3 and unlike 2007 it will not go down. In fact according to president’s Obama State of the Union speech if oil companies lose their subsidies, gas prices will reach the feared $4 /gallon sooner than expected. A way to save on fuel and still drive to work is to switch to a hybrid or electric car. But the price tags for hybrids and alternative fueled vehicles are still much higher than for the average gas fueled car. So while from an environmental point of view these alternatives are great, from a personal finance point of view the trade is not worth since at the current prices one may expect to recoup its investment at best but there is no proof yet that considering both the car price and fuel costs there are significant savings with respect to gas fueled cars.
The not-so-obvious
The three costs most people tend to ignore when writing down a budget are car maintenance, toll roads and parking. And from these three most important is car maintenance. Given the climate of the North East and the Midwest a cautious driver will consider using snow tires during the winter instead of the typical all weather tires.  And even if you can get away with only using all weather tires, as long as you drive the car every day you will need to change them every two years. Same goes for your breaks, rotors and there are the regular oil changes, alignments and registration fees. Now get your bank statements and add all your expenses that are related to car maintenance in last two years. I’ll bet you an oil change that your yearly average is somewhere between $3-500 per year, unless you drive a brand new car with a high price tag.
Of course, if you do not drive the car every day there will be less wear and tear on its breaks and tires and thus your maintenance costs will also be lower.
Rural costs versus urban costs
For most rural dwellers who deal with little or no congestion in their daily commutes the cost of driving to work is a simple equation. They say - I drive x miles round trip  and my car’s mpg is y  and the price of fuel is this z so to figure out how much it costs me to get to work I divide x miles to y and multiply the result with z and that’s the cost per day . So ok , using x, y, z makes it look more complicated than it is but you all get the drill. The main cost related issue that most rural commuters do have is the distance they have to drive to work.
For urban dwellers is a little bit more complicated because the closer they live to the city center the worse is the traffic congestion. And traffic congestion is the worse during peak hours when everybody drives to work and back home. Thus if you figure out your costs  using the simple equation above you are going to miss the time and money you spend slowing down, restarting the car and sitting in traffic. That amount is not that easy to figure out but fortunately the Texas Transportation Institute figured out this type of data  for you. So what does congestion cost you?
To focus only on Pennsylvania:
·         if you live in Philadelphia or the surrounding urban area you are likely to spend another $919 a year due to congestion
·         if you live in Pittsburgh or the surrounding urban area you are likely to spend another $778 a year due to congestion
·         if you live in Allentown or the surrounding urban areas you are likely  to spend $628 a year due to congestion
So, if we disregard the data for Harrisburg, York and the surrounding urban areas that was not available to us, on average the Pennsylvania urban resident spends $775 due to congestion.

Now, assuming you are a PA resident, let’s go over your new car-related expense spreadsheet:

Rural driver
Urban driver
Car payment [1]
Parking and Tolls[2]

                                                        [1] For a $15,000/ 48 moth loan at an interest rate of 6% - auto loan calculator
                                                        [2] A rough estimate since parking and toll expenses will vary from widely from case to case

So, it looks that driving to work can easily cost you over $500 a month. Costly, you think? Very much so indeed, but what alternatives do you have:
Commuting alternatives
For urban residents the first option is public transit - visit your region’s public transit agencies website now
If you live in a small city or on a campus you may consider alternatives that are cheaper and more reliable than public transit such as biking and driving to work.
If you reside in a rural area or a suburb that was affected so badly by the most recent transit cuts that you cannot take advantage of public transportation it may be more difficult to find an alternative. Some people may still bike over 10 miles to work but let’s face it most of us cannot even think about biking that far… But there are alternatives such as vanpools and carpools and several websites that provide comprehensive resources on how to go about it. After all you want to know with whom you share your ride. For start these are the two websites I suggest:
PACommutes a website developed and supported by PENDoT
CommuteInfo a website focused on South-Western Pennsylvania residents and a SouthWestern Pennsylvania Commission initiative
Both websites offer a diversity of options from biking trails and lanes/roads to public transportation providers and vanpools and carpools in your area. You can also use their calculators to figure out which option is the best for you time wise and cost wise.
Using one or more of these transportation alternatives instead of driving to work does not mean that you have to give up your car. This is not about waging a war on cars; it is about gaining back the ownership of your car instead of letting the car own you. It is about having multiple transportation alternatives… And to have access to different transportation alternatives in the end it is about having choices…

Notes and resources
Caveat:  Average expenses for things such car maintenance and fuel are based on my discussion with diverse car owners from across the US. I did not collect or analyze this information as statistic data for the purpose of this paper.
The Urban Mobility Report 2010 developed by the University Center for Transportation Mobility, Texas Transportation Institute and retrieved from:
To locate public transportation options in your area
 you can use this map.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why “ Public Transportation service cuts will affect only bus riders” is a myth...

If you are among those who still think that Port Authority’s service cuts will only affect bus and T riders, you may want to read this post carefully. Because we have enough information at this point to draw quite a complex and accurate picture of the impact that the lack  public transportation services will have on drivers, the air we breathe and the local economy.


What if your daily commute will take 3 minutes longer? After all 3 minutes does not seem to be that much time and a trip of 30 minutes does not seem to be much longer or costlier if it lasts 33 minutes...[1]
According to a study developed by Tim Lomax and David Shrank from the Texas Transportation Institute (Developing a Total Travel Time Performance Measure ) those 3 minutes will cost you more than you may think.  The study offers a better measure for the way traffic congestion will cost commuters in terms of travel time and wasted fuel. Instead of matching fuel costs with miles traveled or time spend in traffic, Lomax and Shrank use the Travel Time Index (TTI) as measure. TTI is the ratio between the actual travel time and travel time in ideal traffic conditions or free-flow in an urban area.

For now Pittsburgh does not fare that bad - with a Travel Time Index of 1.17- it is the  29th most congested  areas among the 101 urban areas evaluated in 2009.  For Pittsburgh TTI of 1.17 implies that each auto commuter wasted 27 gallons of fuel due to congestion and spent $778 per year just for being stuck in traffic. But if the average auto commuter will have to spend 3 more minutes in traffic, the area’s TTI will also be higher and so Port Authority's 35% service cut would’ve caused a 0.08 increase in the region’s TTI from 1.17 to 1.25. Now I know that bare numbers are hard to translate into real traffic conditions, but I will use the information from the   National Congestion Tables  to draw a more tangible picture of what congestion would mean to someone who would  live in Pittsburgh's urban area for a TTI of 1.25*.

·         A Travel Time Index of 1.25 will make traffic congestion in the Pittsburgh Urban Area comparable with Chicago rather than with Charlotte as it is now.

·         Among urban areas of similar size, i.e. large urban areas, only Austin and Las Vegas are likely to have worse traffic than Pittsburgh.

·         The average auto commuter will waste about 5-6 more gallons of gas on average and spend $161.5 more for being stuck in traffic.[2]

·         The situation will be much worse for those commuters who spend most of their commute time within the city limits.

Us, our children and the air we breathe

According to  the Clymate Analysis Indicator Tool in 2005 USA accounted for 18.33% of the global yearly greenhouse emissions, second only to China and it is ranked as number one for cumulative emissions in the 1990-2005 period. The main factor beyond poor air quality is no longer an industry - as once were the manufacturing, chemical and mining - but our traditional fuel powered vehicles . The more the vehicles on the road the higher the emissions … [3]

The local economy

On the short term the most visible impact – two weeks ago I accompanied a coworker in order to help with a conference downtown and he drove in circles trying to find a parking place as three garages and a parking lot we had passed were already full by noon.
On the long term – if the study quoted by AP and Yahoo! News is even remotely correct -crude oil reserves will be depleted before an alternative energy personal vehicle will be available for the mass markets. And investors will avoid putting their money in area that do not offer multiple alternatives for their employees to commute or in other words economic growth will stagnate in areas where the main option for commuters is a personal vehicle.


...Port Authority's service cuts will only be 15% come this March. Thus less routes will be affected and impact could be somewhat limited during peak hours. So, there shall be less car trips than we feared and Pittsburghers will not experience Chicago like traffic this spring. But without a long term solution for dedicated funding for local public transit and multimodal networks the day when traffic in Pittsburgh will be as bad as in Houston may not be that far.

[1] According to a study we had mentioned here and here , if former governor Ed Rendell  was not able to prevent the 35% service cuts by finding a temporary  funding solution the average  commute time during peak hours within the Region was estimated to increase by 3 minutes.
[2] Considering a 9% increase in vehicle hours (Transit Operators Committee: Request for Data retrieved from KeepPGHmoving grace to the Downtown Partnership.)
[3] or more details see table -Transit Operators Committee: Request for Data
* these numbers are rough estimates

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A rider's Story. Prospect Park TDP. Story 6

My roommate and I moved to Pittsburgh, Pa. from Altoona, Pa. in 2008 [1] when she took a job in Canonsburg. We choose the Prospect Park area of Brentwood/Whitehall because it was close to Route 51 and it HAD great bus service. After moving here I found a job at the HotelInn in Oakland. As any other employee in the travel industry to be able to work Saturday and Sunday shifts is very important for me.


Prospect Park had bus service from 4:00Am - 12:15AM almost 7 days a week with no need to change buses and within one zone fare service to West Mifflin Wal-Mart, Century Plaza (Kohls/ GiantEagle) Target, Leland Point, Caste Village and Curry Hollow Road Shopping Plaza.

Pre TDP there were 4 routes providing Monday to Friday inbound service from as early as 4:07AM to as late as 11:09PM to the Prospect Park area at Parkline/Radford. The outbound service started as early as 4:33am, with a last bus leaving at 12:15AM from 6th/Smithfield. Those routes were 51C Ext, 51B Limited, 46A/F and 35A.

On Saturday we had buses for direct inbound service starting at 4:07AM to as late as 10:48PM from Parkline/Radford. Outbound service from 6th/Smithfield started at 4:45AM with the last bus at 8:30PM. The only direct route to downtown used to be 51C ext that did not provide inbound service after 6:43AM before restarting at 9:48PM. Therefore we had to take a 35A to RTE51/Streets Run Road or RTE51/Stilley to catch a regular 51C or 46G to go downtown. And we had to take a 46G or 51C to Rte 51/Brownsville to catch a 35A since there was no outbound service from 6th/Smithfield between the 4:45AM bus and 8:30PM bus Nor was there any direct outbound service after 8:30PM.

On Sunday there were two routes providing service to Prospect Park riders. Inbound service started at 4:41AM and run as late as 9:44PM (Parkline/Radford). Outbound service from 6th/Smithfield started 5:30AM with the last bus at 10:30PM. Those routes were 51C ext. and 35A. Since 51C ext only ran every 2 hours, in order to get downtown when there was no 51Cext service we had to take a 35A to RTE51/Streets Run or RTE51/Stiley to catch a regular 51C or 46G to go downtown. On our way back we had to take a 46G or 51C from 6th/Smithfield to Rte 51/Brownsville to catch a 35A to Prospect Park between the timepoints covered by 51C ext. But most important I was able to get to work on Sunday.

After TDP

It is very hard for me to work on Sundays since there are no early buses to Prospect Park and I find hard to walk on Willock Road to Brownsville at 5:00am. And if I do go to work when the Y49 starts I find difficult to return home since there are no late buses to Prospect Park and walking Willock Road in the dark can be dangerous.I tried to walk the beam on Lebanon Church Rd from Applebees to Target and almost got hit both to and from.

When shopping, I tried to go to CasteVillage and the connections were very hard to make. I tried to go to Curry Hollow Shopping Plaza and wasn't able to make the transfer from WalMart or the busway. I tried to go to Century III (Kohls, Giant Eagle etc,) and found hard to find a connection from WalMart.

So for me without the 35A I can no longer shop when or where I want to and without the 51C's early Sunday service I can no longer work on Sundays.

Contributed by Robert H. ( @BobbyOBobby)

[1] On a short note, Altoona's bus service had an overhaul just before we moved. They have a transit center where all of their buses started/ended at and where I lived was a 15 minute bus ride before the changes is now a 75 minute ride.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A rider’s story : From Glassport to RMU

These are fragments from the story of Matt and Michael - a young couple like many other couples hoping to build a new future together. Matt is a 24 year old gay, tech enthusiast living in Pittsburgh with his partner Michael who works for Robert Morris University.
Matt was generous enough to give us permission to publish a couple paragraphs from his last blog post and so we did. We selected the paragraphs that are most representative for their experience as bus riders (though we enjoyed reading the full story on his blog “The life of a small town boy in a big city” ) . You could also follow him on twitter @flamingblue8z

"It's 1-11-2011. Today, I feel like elaborating a bit on an issue/discussion that started on Twitter between @TransitGuru, @bus15237 and myself.
Port Authority has had a rough year, having a major 50+ million dollar deficit in funding for this fiscal year. In the fall they began threatening to cut 35% of their routes, which included the 55 (runs through Glassport, where I live), along with the 25 (which goes to Robert Morris University, where I briefly attended classes, and where my partner Michael has worked for 2 years now).

Enter 2010. I was registered as a student for spring semester at Robert Morris, and began classes. The snow storm snowed us in up at RMU, even, but Michael volunteered as the only one to work cashier that day, from 10am to 9pm in the cafeteria. He's devoted to his job, he LOVES his job. In March, my car suffered a horribly catastrophic death, the piston rod blew through the cylinder wall. We were officially screwed, confined to public transit. We began learning the routes, finding how long it would take, etc.I dropped out of classes mid-semester, as it was too expensive (at 2.00 for Zone 1, 2.75 for Zone 2) to afford the both of us going out to Robert Morris. Summer hit, and his hours were 11am-6pm. Perfect for taking the bus both out and back.
As the new school year approached, he wasn't as lucky. Back to the 4p-close shift, and the last bus out at the time was 9:00 or so. Finally, in September, the Port Authority changed routes, and the 25A became the 25, which only ran Mon-Fri until 7:30pm or so, and Saturdays only runs every 2 hours. Sundays, it would no longer run. Michael said he'd be okay, but I had to watch as he would go to work, then when he got off, walked nearly an hour to Sheetz on University Blvd., and waited out there until the G3's first inbound run at 5:03am. He'd be home around 7:30am every weekday morning. G3 doesn't run Saturdays, so he began either walking to Robinson, or Coraopolis, to catch a bus in either community. Sundays, he'd walk from Coraopolis to get to work, but was able to get a G3 on Monday morning after work."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Board of Port Authority approves 15% cuts for March 2011

The Port Authority’s Board of Directors approved today a 15% service cut for March 2011.
As you may recall, in 2010 Port Authority’s budget shortfall and lack of funding lead to a proposed 35% cut in service for March 2011. However, in December 2010, former Governor Ed Rendell provided a $45 million temporary funding solution for the Port Authority and on December 13th the SPC approved the transfer of funds to the Port Authority.
Since the $45 million covers the shortfall for this fiscal year ( June 2010 to June 2011) only, the Port Authority faced a tough decision on how to best use these funds. And as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors , Guy Mattola pointed out , the Port Authority only had two options : (1) Postpone the 35% service cut to July 17 2011 or (2) restore 20% of the service that was supposed to be cut on March 17 by cutting only 15% of service and thus stretch the $45 million over 18th months. According to Vice Chairman Mattola the Board’s decision was based on whatever the Board had grounds to believe that additional funding will be provided in July of this year or not.
Our own president, Jonathan Robinson noted that any cuts were contrary to the intent of the funding solution provided by former governor Rendell who hoped to maintain service as is until further funding sources could be found by governor Corbett. Mr. Robinson also expressed his concern about the negative impact that cutting service will have on Port Authority’s already tainted public image, but he admitted that there is no guarantee form Governor Corbett that there will be any additional state funding in six months.
Amalgamated Transit Union President Pat McMahon stated that legislators need to be forced to come up with a funding solution and that we should let legislators tell to public transit riders in Pittsburgh that they do not deserve decent service.
Board Member Jeffrey L. Letwin noted that the board had to consider the best solution for the region and that their job is to prevent the catastrophic impact of a 35% cut.
But even a 15% cut will have a significant impact on the region. Even though only 29 routes will have to be eliminated instead of almost 50, this still represents an estimated ridership loss of 11,000 - 13,000 passenger trips per weekday. Also the Port Authority will have to eliminate 265 jobs, though it will try to limit job elimination to vacancies and retirements. [1] And cuts will not only affect riders, but drivers as well since there will be more cars on the road, more traffic, more congestion and longer commute times. And an increase in traffic will also affect air quality, an environmental issue that Pittsburgh worked on solving since the steel mills closings in the 1980s …This is why no matter if you ride a bus or drive, as long as you live in the Pittsburgh Metro region, you will be affected by these cuts too.
This is why as Board Member Richard W. Taylor stated, these cuts shall only be temporary cuts until the region will find a solution for more funds and service will be restore.
We express the hope that the riders and their representatives, the Port Authority, ATU and local and state legislators will be able to work together to find a solution for dedicated, sustainable funding for public transportation in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

[1] We will return with a post on the specific routes that will be affected by the cuts.

Special thanks to @lndaley for her live tweets from the meeting. This blog post would not have been possible without the information she tweeted. And go and get your Pittsburgh City Paper now!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Will Pittsburgh make this "best of " list another year?

I am browsing the local news this morning when I notice this article in the Tribune-Review: Pittsburgh fares well in commuter-cost survey” . According to its author, Rick Willis, Pittsburghers spend less time and money commuting than many other urban-dwelling Americans : An analysis of commuting costs and trends by the investment website and, a personal finance site, ranked Pittsburgh 18th-best among 90 U.S. cities. [1]

So, I did a quick on-line search and, probably because I did not put much effort in it, I did not find the exact source quoted by the Tribune-Review but I did find this list on As you note Pittsburgh is among the bottom four cities for gas expenses, i.e. Pittsburgh is the fourth cheapest big city when coming to gas expenses for driving around. Which given the projected increase in gas prices is good news for Pittsburgh commuters.
One of the reasons why Pittsburgh is such a friendly city for commuters, according to the Tribune-Review article quoted above, is “affordability of living”. Because housing is still cheaper here when compared with other major metro areas, most people can afford to purchase or build houses within the city or not that far from the city limits, and thus have lower commute times and costs [2] .
Another reason for lower fuel costs across the region is smarter suburban design [3]; the highway network connecting the suburbs around Pittsburgh helps locals take advantage of their cars better mpg fuel economy for highway driving. And it is interesting to note that Pittsburgh is not among the cheapest cities when it comes to car and car related expenses such as maintenance and parking, perhaps because to spend less on fuel, one has to spend more on the vehicle and its maintenance.
But, perhaps the most important reason why Pittsburgh made this “best of “ cities for commuters list is its public transportation network. Or what is still left of its public transportation network. Interestingly the Tribune –Review article mentions that the analysis of commuting costs it costs found that cities at the top have higher walkability rates and good public transportation networks but it does not comment on this finding . Yet walkability and public transportation are essential factors for keeping commuting costs and times down in urban areas. We had previously covered on this blog the impact that Port Authority’s projected cuts will have on commuting times here. Also considering The Carfree Census Database , we note that eight out of the ten cities mentioned by bundle .com for low gas costs are among the top 25 cities with most public transit commuters. Pittsburgh is number 8 , and according to Mike Lewyn’s “Auto Free Most Livable Cities” in the US it ranks as number one.
Now that is great news. Not only that Pittsburgh is number one in the most livable cities in US according to but it is also first on the top when it comes to Carfree Most Livable Cities in US. Unfortunately the Census Database we quoted considers 2000 data, and that was before the Port Authority reduced its services by 15 % and projected further service cuts for this year. I wonder where does Pittsburgh rank based on 2010 data. I am almost certain that Detroit, which was 25th on the previous list, will rank higher now and it will only go up once its M1 light-rail line is project will be finished and functional. I fear that Pittsburgh will rank lower.
The point I was trying to make above is quite simple. Pittsburgh worked hard on its way to recovery from the collapse of steel industry in the eighties and it is, one more time, a great place to live in. But its new status is still frail and Pittsburghers cannot afford to ignore any of the factors contributing to the recovery of the city. Yes, Pittsburgh offers more affordable housing than most major cities and growing business opportunities in those industries that fare well even through a recession: research, technology, alternative energy, secondary education and healthcare. Yes Pittsburgh has a great potential for cultural events and an active social life and among its suburban school districts are several who were nominated as best in US for the quality of education in their public high schools. However, to a certain extent, all these advantages were re-built around the accessibility of the city cultural district from its suburbs, the walkability any university has to make sure that students can get to school even though most of them do not drive or afford a car. And to attract green businesses one cannot advertise a polluted city of drivers. And we had a covered the relationship between sociability and walkability here.

So I am afraid that while Port Authority struggles to get enough funding to maintain its ongoing operations, cities such as Detroit and even Cleveland are starting to attract more capital investment and develop new projects. I fear that all the work we had put into re-building this city will not amount to much if our public transit falls to pieces…And at that point the least we would have to worry about will be that Pittsburgh will no longer rank among the top twenty cities when it comes to the average cost and time of commuting.

Notes and Sources
[1] Wills, R. - Pittsburgh fares well in commuter-cost survey” published 12.30.2010 in the Tribune-Review
[2] As we all know, what one deems as affordable is always relative ...Yes housing costs are lower , but so are incomes.
[3]As I read in the a Time Magazine's edition dedicated to the rebirth of Detroit. The featured article The Future of Detroit: How to Shrink a City is also available on-line.

Detroit: $755
Jersey City: $993
New York: $1,078
Boston: $1,111
Philadelphia: $1.207
Washington, D.C.: $1,240
Pittsburgh: $1,246
Chula Vista: $1,290
Toledo: $1,291
Honolulu: $1,378