Monday, March 28, 2011

Transit Service Cuts (2) - March 27th was Yesterday

Now that the Port Authority service cuts we had hoped to avoid have become reality, it does not mean that there is no longer a place for a riders' advocacy group such as the Allegheny County Transit Council. It shouldn’t mean that we are the only rider advocacy group in Allegheny County either. What changed is that we are now determined to work towards restoring the lost service and improving transit service in the region while doing so. Transit is a must-have for the 21st century metropolis. So, if Pittsburgh is hoping to grow as an urban area, as a social city that makes the “most livable” top year after year in magazines and newspapers, it cannot afford to lose its transit and its riders. Concrete Steps : 1. The first step one of our members took was to develop an alternative map/timetable for Mon Valley riders whose lost service is partially replaced through the WorkLink Initiative. Also, new timetables for East Busway riders who lost early/late EBA and EBS service. Michael Sypolt is a young architect, map expert and transit system design enthusiast strongly appreciated by his peers. We strongly suggest that you follow his blog as he will continue to post updates on his work on alternative routes and options for stranded riders. 2.On this blog we will continue to post updates on our work within the community. Our general meeting schedule and soon, the minutes from these meetings, will be found on our Facebook Page.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Transit Service Cuts: March 27 is Tomorrow

Update: March 28 2011 - Negotiations failed. First weekday in Pittsburgh after the 15% service cuts…

In a final attempt to prevent the March 27th service cut and the layoff of about 180 Port Authority employees, local ATU-85 put an unexpected offer on the table: a $18.6 million concession resulting from employees accepting a 10 percent pay cut as well as a one year salary freeze. Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato countered with two proposals of his own

“Mr. Onorato's proposals use the mixture of union concessions and new revenue to boost the authority's financial position by about $30 million a year”
Read more: Pittsburgh Post Gazette A final decision is expected today at 3pm when the Port Authority Board will meet again to evaluate all proposals. Where are we, the riders, in these negotiations? Stu Strickland draws an illustrative parallel between riders and the balls used in a football game on his blog:

“In public transit, riders are the ball. Nobody cares about the riders, really. We're kicked and pushed around just like the football. How different a football game would be if, instead of a leather ball, it was played with a pot of soup. Carry that soup pot and jump on it all you want, but don't spill the soup! "

"However, there are really three sides to a football game: Officials! Officials, in this case our elected representatives, really decide what happens. They don't so much spill the soup as spoil the soup. "No you can't add ingredients." "Yes, you must add paprika and I don't care if you hate paprika." Right now they're saying, "No, you can't plug in the burner under the pot."

And we as riders do agree with his final statement : "Enough already! We riders want our soup. We do not want it spilled. We do not want it spoiled. Figure it out! Don't spill our soup!”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 27th is this Sunday

Starting this Sunday, March 27th, Pittsburgh transit riders will have considerably less transportation options. Twenty-nine routes will be eliminated and weekday service will be significantly reduced on 37 additional routes in order to balance Port Authority’s budget shortfall.

More information on affected routes can be found on Port Authority’s Website. Also information on ways around the cuts on Michael Sypolt’s blog.

Other alternatives are provided by community based transportation services such as WorkLink, carpools and vanpools : CommuteInfo.

Even if your bus service will be gone this Sunday , do not give up the fight – Port Authority promised that it will restore service if it can secure better funding.

To write your representative: KeepPGHMoving

To tell your story, join us on Facebook and participate in our discussion

To tell your story ”live”, come to talk to  someone from ATU85, ACTC  or Pittsburghers for Public Transit tomorrow starting  11am to Friday, March25th at 11am. We will find them in front of Port Authority’s headquarters - 6th St. and Smithfield Ave. in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Allegheny County Transit Council opposed any cuts in transit service

A motion to "oppose the planned March 27th transit cuts “ passed during the General Meeting that took place on March 16th. This entails that ACTC suggests that the Port Authority shall consider other solutions to the budget shortfall/funding issue than cutting service by 15% on March 27. The motion did not specify, however, what alternatives are to be considered by the Port Authority.

Another proposed motion failed. The motion proposed that ACTC shall “oppose Lenzner Coach Lines from providing bus service from Franklin Park and Marshall Twp to Downtown” on the former 13J and 13K routes that are eliminated come March 27. As Stu Strickland noted during the discussion preceding the vote riders on 13G and 13J already expressed their position – some service is better than none, and it is our role to present their needs to the Port Authority.

To note that routes 13J and 13K were not eliminated due to lack of ridership but because of high costs. For example the closest Port Authority garage –the Harmar Garage- is located 23 miles from Franklin Park and about 18 miles away from Marshall. The fare box revenues - at $3.25 per trip - are not enough to cover the cost of the 17-20 mile trip from the departing station to downtown Pittsburgh . And Port Authority has to add to the actual trip costs the additional expense of running an empty bus for at least 18 miles one way from its garage to the park and ride stations.

Lenzner Coach Lines, a private bus service provider, jumped on the opportunity and submitted a plan for bus service on the 13K and 13 J routes. Located strategically in Sewickley, PA - only 4 miles away from Franklin Park and about 10 miles from the Marshal Twp Park and Ride – Lenzner has the ability to offer bus service on these routes at much lower costs for idle times. Lenzner is also going to charge about $10 for a round trip and require registration before bus could be boarded. Standing passengers will not be allowed and there will be no reduced rates for senior or disabled citizens.

Read more:

News about Lenzner proposal here: Port Authority Panel OK’s private service

A comprehensive, very recent article on Port Authority’s funding issues and the position Allegheny County’s Council took with respect to the planned 15% cuts by LaurenDaley : In Transition: The Allegheny County Port Authority is Changing – into what is the question

Also latest news on the County Council's plans to reduce funding.

Friday, March 11, 2011

So you built a green house because you care. Have you considered transit access as well?

To quote from the New Urban Network:

Transit-oriented development is the key to cutting energy consumption — even
more so than Energy Star construction or green cars, according to a
peer-reviewed study supported by EPA.

You decide to build a “green”, energy-efficient house because you really care about energy conservation and preserving the environment you shall build it where there is access to transit. Green cars are not as energy-efficient as transit. Car-sharing, thus maximizing the use of fuel and vehicle is a new concept, and its effectiveness is still tested.

Urban , ‘Brownfield’ developments, have a greater “green” potential than Greenfield ones, because they usually offer greater access to transit. And each new urban development should be in sync with investments into transit infrastructure.

That was once the case in Pittsburgh when land developers also invested in public transportation infrastructure - if we look up the histories of our oldest suburbs and neighborhoods we will note that they were built around or at the same time with a T line or bus route. Maybe that will be the case again in the 21st century though, this time, it will be the buyer to let the land developer know that he cares about transit as well.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ACTC members made a good impression at Transportation Camp East

The Transportation Camp is an “unconference” or participant-led conference organized by OpenPlans in order to bring together technology developers, urban planners, policy makers and marketing and social media experts to the same discussion table.

Transportation Camp East took place in New York City, March 5th and 6th, bringing together people from a wide variety of backgrounds to present their work covering a multitude of transportation issues –from cost to access and from mobility to safety issues.

The camp presented a unique opportunity for ACTC members to interact with policy makers and other advocacy groups. We also got an overview to the new paths that the Department of Transportation is planning to follow. Most notable were keynotes presented by H. Giovanni Carnaroli, Senior Accountable Official for USDOT and Chris Vein, the new Deputy US CTO for Government Innovation. We would also like to point out the presentation about DOT’s research on connected vehicles given by Christopher Pangilinan , P.E., Special Assistant to the Deputy Administrator during the #IGNITE night. He brought humor and a human touch to technology. *

A core issue for transportation is urban congestion. Heavy traffic in urban areas has a multitude of negative consequences: delays, costs due to time loss , safety, and higher stress. A multitude of solutions were discussed from transit to cycling and from car sharing to bike sharing, however one solution was remarked by most : multimodality. And we had the unique opportunity to listen to Susan Zielinski from SMART describing how owning five cars is so last millennium. And perhaps even owning one if car sharing will make a good, reliable vehicle to be more accessible.

Ana Bayne suggested a similar concept during the #IGNITE night presentation - integrating transportation modes such as transit and personal vehicles with bicycles, sidewalks, etc., is not just “increasing access even as it reduces our need for mobility” but increasing mobility overall. Another session co-lead with TransportGooru Andy Palanisamy, YPT’s vice-chair for Communication, focused on social media applications to transportation. A few key words ensuing from the conversation: Credibility, Transparency, Marketing Potential, Mobile Government. And an interesting case study for transit agencies and local governments dealing having to deal with vertical hierarchies making them slow to react and less transparent : the US Army tweep.

Michael Sypolt and Stu Strickland talked about “Getting Non-Riders to Use Transit” by “Designing a System to Meet Demand”. Some suggestions ensuing from this conversation – the utility of system maps; interlining two routes with odd frequencies in order to meet demand but reduce cost instead of eliminating service in the area altogether; streamlining routes. More about technology and development can be read in: "Highlights of TranspoCamp! (includes Travel Log) "

Some other focal points for the conference were a discussion with Ellyn Shannon from the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA on how they are funded and how they are able to influence transit related decisions. Also Tana Green made an interesting presentation on High Speed Rail and we were able to discuss how transit and High Speed Rail advocates can support each other.

Our participation in the Transportation Camp also raised the interest of potential investors, and for our technology whizzes, an opportunity to develop networks of connections with developers from the North and North-East.

* Peter H. Appel the Administrator for DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Department with whom we had the occasion to exchange a few ideas is also "to blame" for the research.