Thursday, June 30, 2011

TFAC to propose toll revenues as source for transit funding

The Transportation Funding Advisory Commission plans to present its final proposal on how to deal with Pennsylvania’s $3.5 billion transportation budget deficit. As part of the proposal, there is an increase of funding to mass transit by at least $450 million annually.

One of the suggested resources for funding transiting: redirecting all revenues from the PA turnpike towards transit. Currently , from the $450 million collected annually from Turnpike tolls only $250 million goes to mass transit and $200 million is used for the highway fund. The Transportation Funding Advisory Commission proposed to use the entire revenue to fund transit, while the lost revenue for highways would be replaced from other funding sources.

“HARRISBURG — The state transportation funding commission will recommend
redirecting a portion of turnpike toll revenue to the state's highway and mass
transit funds."It would not be a change in the total money that the turnpike is
obligated to pay," said Barry Schoch, the state Secretary of Transportation and
commission chairman. "But I think the intent here is to say, 'Let's use more of
that available turnpike money for transit rather than for highways.'"

Read more in the Daily Local News: “Commission to push for tolls to fund mass transit” by Eric Boehm, PA Independent.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Pittsburgh is currently the only BRT system in the United States that operates a direct service model, meaning that local, limited and express services share the East Busway, accommodating a wide variety of transit needs. As the  buses serving suburban routes enter the main corridors, they transfer onto the dedicated bus lanes via connection ramps, making transfer-free trips for passengers. The BRT buses can also exit the busway and use city streets to deliver passengers to destinations."
States Stephanie Lotshaw on the “Streetsblog Capitol Hill”. [Read more here:]
Are you a South Busway or East Busway Rider? How does this work for you?

Do you consider  that bus service on the above mentioned Busways meets the FTA requirements
BRT is an enhanced bus system that operates on bus lanes or other transitways in order to combine the flexibility of buses with the efficiency of rail. By doing so, BRT operates at faster speeds, provides greater service reliability and increased customer convenience. It also utilizes a combination of advanced technologies, infrastructure and operational investments that provide significantly better service than traditional bus service."


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ACTC elects new officers for FY2012

The membership of the Allegheny County Transit Council, the state sanctioned citizens' advisory board for riders of Port Authority of Allegheny County, has elected officers for the July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, fiscal year. ACTC is the only such organization in the state which selects its own members and elects its own officers. The new officers are:
  • President: James Robinson

  • Vice President: Stuart Strickland

  • Secretary: --position still vacant--

  • Treasurer: Elizabeth Kuntz

Note that we still need a Secretary, whose primary job is to take minutes at monthly meetings. As a past Secretary of ACTC, as well as formerly being President, Vice President, and Treasurer at one time or another, I can tell you a bit about the position. It is not a difficult job to do, but the skill set is a bit tough to find nowadays. Mainly one needs to be able to take good notes, and compose them into coherent prose within a few days of the meeting. Since it forces you to come to meetings and pay attention, this is ideal for someone who has a desire to go on into a future in public service, transportation (particularly transit), public relations, professional writing, or the legal field.

Our new President has been on ACTC since 2009, and served last year as Vice President. The new VP (yours truly) was VP in 2009-10, and is now serving on his third six-year term as an ACTC member. The new Treasurer is a new member, eager and willing to learn how citizen participation works with a public agency. Outgoing President Jonathan Robison was a founding member of ACTC in 1984, completing his fourth six-year term. Outgoing Secretary Patrick Singleton is moving to Portland, Oregon, to pursue a Masters degree. Former Treasurer and founding member John Weinhold passed away in March.

In coming weeks and months, we will provide more detail about the incoming officer team and the direction it and the rest of the Executive Committee plans to take in the coming year.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The RedTape Chronicles : In Pittsburgh, drastic bus service cuts strand commuters

"One downtown office building security guard I interviewed said he works
from 4 p.m. to midnight, and the service cuts eliminated the 12:20 bus -- the
last bus.
“I don’t know why they didn’t cut a bus in the middle of the day
that no one would notice,” he said. “Losing that last bus really hurt.” He
said he knows some employees who’ve had to quit.

For him, taking a taxi home at night adds $200 to his monthly transit
costs, a significant bite out of his salary. He couldn't afford to lose the job,
however, which is why he requested anonymity.
Driving isn't such a great option either. Pittsburghers just trying to get to work feel like they're being hit on all sides by city and county governments that seem to have an insatiable appetite for new fees. Prices at city-operated parking garages
have doubled in recent years. Sidewalk meter rates jumped 100 percent,
too-- a quarter now only gets you seven minutes. Meanwhile, stickers hastily
placed on parking signs all over town antagonize drivers further, announcing
meter enforcement now runs until 10 p.m., four hours earlier than the old 6
p.m. cutoff. And parking ticket enforcement agents
are everywhere."

Read more of Bob Sullivan's article and Jon Robison's interview on MSNBC's Red Tape :

Monday, June 6, 2011

Finally Something We Can Do about Transit Funding

We all know the Port Authority doesn’t have the funding needed for adequate service. We’ve been complaining about that for months – for years.
Finally, something has happened in Harrisburg which may be a step to solving the problem of adequate funding statewide, for bridges and roads as well as public transportation. Now we can DO something.

Governor Corbett has created a Transportation Funding Advisory Commission that is supposed to put forward a solution to the transportation funding problem by the end of July.
We have been told that it would be helpful for individuals to contact this commission and encourage them to do the job – to recommend a real solution to Pennsylvania’s transportation funding problem. A real solution includes funding for PAAC that is dedicated, inflation-responsive, and adequate. ‘Adequate’ means enough money to make it possible to restore the system recommended by PAAC’s TDP, before the 15% cut.

Please send an e-mail to the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, We suggest that you e-mail a copy to Ken Zapinsky,, who is knowledgeable and sympathetic and represents Dennis Yablonsky of the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce on the Commission. Please cc us as well This could be a real step for the Port Authority of Allegheny County to get the essential funds by early 2012.

Let’s do what we can. Keep hope alive. Keep transit alive.

Any real solution will need active support for implementation. I think that all we can do now is be ready to give active support for a real solution to the funding problem. But please send an e-mail of encouragement to today.

Jonathan Robison, President, Allegheny County Transit Council

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In Memoriam, Tribute to John Weinhold

"In Memoriam, Tribute to John Weinhold" was a major part of the agenda for the Beechview Memorial Service, which occurred on Saturday morning, 2011 May 28, 10:00 a.m. EDST, at the Beechview veterans' memorial parklet (John was a veteran), Broadway and Shiras Avenue (across Broadway from the apartment building where John last resided). This event is scheduled each year on the Saturday morning of the Memorial Day weekend.

Several people gave tribute to John Weinhold at this event including friends, a co-worker, and people who worked with John in various community organizations. The people who did give such a tribute were: Phyllis DiDiano, President of the Beechview Area Concerned Citizens; Pennsylvania State Senator Wayne Fontana; Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak; Jonathan Robison and Stu Strickland, President and Treasurer, respectively, of the Allegheny County Transit Council (ACTC); Deborah M. Skillings, Community Outreach Coordinator of the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT); Marilyn Ecoff, one of John's co-workers from the local office of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT); Audrey Iacone, Manager of the Beechview Branch, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; and close friend Glenn A. Walsh.

Pretty-Up Beechview plans on naming a garden, along Broadway in Beechview, in John's memory.

Also, the John Weinhold Humanitarian Memorial Fundraiser Spaghetti Dinner is planned for the Mercy Behavioral Health Center, 2129 Broadway in Beechview, on Wednesday evening, 2011 June 22 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. EDST. Proceeds from this event (Adults: $10, Children 12 and under: $4) will be used to help cover John's burial expenses and for causes of interest to John.

John D. Winehold , one of the 1984 charter members of the freshly founded Allegheny County Transit Council , had served the organization until his passing on March 21, 2011. A resident of Beechview , John was a neighborhood activist, former Penn DOT employee and public transportation advocate. He was a mentor and good friend for many Pittsburghers.

You can go to the following link for a biography of John D. Weinhold:

This post was co-authored by Glenn A. Walsh,
*Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
* Public Transit:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Technology to improve Port Authority’s rider experience with the fare-system

I do not know about other transit riders, but I can barely wait until I will be able to use the new ConnectCard system to pay for my fares.  This is why I decided to make sure that I will board the same bus as my friend F.H who is one of the 300 University of Pittsburg employees and students asked to test the system.
Like all Pitt staff and students, my friend’s fare is covered by her employer and she can use her University issued ID in lieu of a bus pass. With the new system in place, instead of presenting her ID to the bus driver she is swiping it over the orange magnetic reader positioned on the top of the fare box. The system validates her ID instantly, bypasses the current procedure by which the driver has to check the pass to validate it manually and streamlines the process.
Another advantage of the new system is a significant reduction of fraud.  Currently there are riders who “share” one transit pass by transferring it with one quick move to the next rider. With the new system this “trick” won’t work any longer.  As I was trying to take a picture of my friend as she was swiping her card,   I missed the first shot so with the driver’s concurrence she swiped it again. As we were expecting, the second time she tried her ID was no longer validated.

Bus rider using the new farebox system

L.H., another friend and University of Pittsburgh employee who is participating in the system’s first test group,  told me that the new system worked perfectly until today. We believe that she is one of the 25 test participants who will have their IDs deactivated randomly during the four week test period in order to make sure that previous students who are no longer enrolled with the University as well as former staff members will not take advantage of the system by using their expired IDs long after they stopped being valid. 
L.H. also noted that while the new system will make streamline the fare paying process for those riders who purchase tickets or passes, when it comes to paying the fare in cash the system is slower. This implies that in order to make the new system successful the Port Authority will have to develop a comprehensive system of distribution for ConnectCards  that includes on-line , brick-and –mortar and why not, mobile options.
To read more about the new ConnectCard fare system check our April updates. And a short note on the first testing phase here.