Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 2012- Transit News and Events


 MovePGH is the transportation component of the City's initiative to reinvent and redesign its neighborhoods as modern, vibrant , global and diverse communities. A series of workshops that invites community members and stakeholders to the discussion table, MovePGH is looking for ways in which it can redesign the city's transportation infrastructure in order to improve traffic flow. The design is considering alternative modes of transportation such as improving cyclist and pedestrian safety and access.

The Community Workshop #2 that took place in South Side between May 14- May 17 focused on transportation issues related to Downtown, Lower Hill, Uptown , South Side Flats and the Second Ave corridor. Ana Bayne , the Chair of the PR/Marketing Committee participated in a interesting discussion about ways to improve cyclist safety in the South Side Flats with  two members of BikePgh and two members of the Plan Study Team. Another topic that was covered during her hour long conversation with the MovePGH team was the Downtown-Oakland BRT project and its potential to improve peak traffic flow Uptown. 

If you are interested in the city's transportation future and you think that your opinions and experiences can make an impact, we suggest that you attend the third MovePGH community workshop , scheduled for mid- June. For more information on the Community Workshop #3 click here.

If you are interested to find more about the Downtown-Oakland BRT project and its impact on Uptown traffic flow or Hill District's development,  you should visit the Get There PGH website and attend a public meeting.


The Port Authority started its customer pilot program for the ConnectCard. The pilot program will test market the ConnectCard before the new product will be officially launched for all riders this fall.

If you are a regular rider you can participate in this program and test the ConnectCard before everybody else whether you use monthly, weekly passes or you purchase tickets or pay cash. In order to participate in the program you need sign up online at ConnectCard.org .
Riders chosen to be part of the pilot program will receive a free card by mail,  instructions on how to use it and where to load it. The  participants  in the pilot program will also receive a booklet they can use in order to provide the Port Authority with input on the ConnectCard. Participants are also eligible to be entered in a drawing for a free monthly pass.

Harrisburg Trip

On May 22 ACTC members joined PA Interfaith Impact Network  on their trip to Harrisburg, where they confronted Governor Corbett on two hot issues for Allegheny County- transit and education cuts.  For more  information on PIIN's transit task force click here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Port Authority's Board approves new round of cuts and fare hikes as a result of budget woes, funding crisis

             Port Authority's Board approved record service cuts this morning. The service cuts, along with a fare increase in July, are for now the only solution to a $64 million budget shortfall in the Port Authority's operating budget. As we all know, the Agency cannot run a deficit budget, so each time there is a budget deficit and no other solution, it has to cut service hours in order to be able to balance its budget. Unless the Port Authority, the state, and local governments find a solution to the agency's budget shortfall, the 35% service cuts will become reality on September 2.  
The pink area on this map represents the area where ACCESS
service will be cut. (map by M.Sypolt @TransitGuru)

The reality of the service cuts in numbers:
  • 46 of  Port Authority's 102 routes will be eliminated
  • 40,000 rides will be lost, leaving thousands  of riders stranded
  • ACCESS coverage will be significantly reduced
  • 600 lost jobs
  • 18 park and rides will no longer be served
  • no service past 10 p.m. (with the exception of very few routes )
More than half of Port Authority's funding comes from the state. PA Governor Tom Corbett was expected to come up with a legislative solution providing the comprehensive, dedicated funding the Agency needs in order to cover its budget shortfall and eventually, grow service in the region. But Governor Corbett has yet to take a position on the recommendations to funding transportation proposed by the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission (TFAC), which Corbett himself appointed last year. A state-wide solution is needed to pay for badly needed repairs to bridges and roads, as well as ongoing costs to provide mass transit service in the dozens of Pennsylvania's public transit systems. The TFAC's several recommendations for funding solutions for transit have largely been ignored.

In an interview with KDKA's Political Editor Joe Delano, yesterday evening, Governor Corbett stated that in order for the state government to step up with a funding solution for the Port Authority : "...they have to take a look at where they are spending and, as I said, they have to sit down and talk to the unions.”.

Pat McMahon, ATU85's president said this morning that the union is willing to negotiate concessions, but not before the state government comes up with an explicit funding solution. He noted that the union offered concessions before based on a promised funding solution from the state and it was the state that failed to come through with a comprehensive, dedicated funding solution for public transit in Pittsburgh. (As a reminder: The former legislative solution at the state level, Act 44 of 2007, failed to provide the necessary funds for the transportation budget when the Federal Government blocked the tolling of I-80).

It looks like Governor Corbett and ATU85 are at a roadblock right now in their efforts to stop the service cuts, but at least McMahon did not lose his sense of humor as he noted that unions are not "ATMs who can be wrung for more cash every time politicians fail to live up to their responsibilities." Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh region stands to lose a lot more than its sense of humor if the service cuts take effect in September and, as Port Authority CEO Steve Bland noted, the Board decision is reversible but the impact of the cuts on the region is not. Steve Bland also pointed out that the only missing piece from the "puzzle", a solution to Port Authority's operating budget shortfall, is a state funding solution. 

This blog post was made possible by the tweet-contributions of Lauren Daley (@lndaley) and Jon Schmitz (@pgtraffic). Read their pieces on today's Port Authority Board decision on the City Paper's website : "Port Authority approves transit cuts...hopes to reverse itself" and respectively, the Pittsburgh  Post-Gazette: "Port Authority board approves deep cuts".

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bus Rapid Transit in Pittsburgh this week


          A new series of public meetings, organized by GetTherePGh on the benefits of BRT and the Oakland Corridor project  will take place in three Pittsburgh neighborhoods this week. If you are interested in finding out more about the project, join us and the other organizations supporting it:

Hill DistrictTuesday, April 24, 2012 from 6–8pm
Hill House Kaufman Center Auditorium
1825 Centre Avenue, Hill District
OaklandWednesday, April 25, 2012 from 6–8pm
Carnegie Mellon University
University Student Center, Rangos Ballroom
5032 Forbes Avenue, Oakland
East End:Thursday, April 26, 2012 from 6–8pm
East Liberty Presbyterian Church Social Hall
116 South Highland Avenue, East Liberty
           Considered a cost effective alternative to light rail, Bus Rapid Transit does offer faster, more reliable service to riders. Another major benefit for Bus Rapid Transit is that it relieves traffic congestion on over crowded urban corridors by encouraging drivers to consider the alternative. 
More information on the BRT benefits, costs and shortfalls  on Victoria Transport Policy Institute , TDM Encyclopedia : Bus Rapid Transit

Monday, April 2, 2012

March 2012 News and Updates

After many years of debate and construction work, the light rail connection to the North Shore opened to the public. Transit fans and North Shore commuters were able to take the first ride on March 25th, around 5 am.
Several ACTC members were present  during the inaugural opening on March 23rd and boarded the first ride on the Tplus.

Just getting on train

Photo: Stuart Strickland

The Tplus (formerly known as the North Shore Connector) connects downtown with businesses and points of attraction such as the Children Museum, CarnegieScience Center, the Casino and PNC Park. More about it  on the TPlus website.

A new radio program  covering Pittsburgh transit - only  a two part series for now - produced and hosted by Daniel Tkacik, Ellis Robinson, and Kevin Brown. They  are part-time radio producers and full-time Ph.D. students at Carnegie Mellon University. The first series featured ACTC member Michael Sypolt as a speaker. To listen to the program and find more info about the producers as well as other radio shows they are hosting  visit : Transit Radio PGH.

ACTC president Jim Robinson spoke on the transit funding crisis on KDKA radio, Robert Mangino weeknights . To listen to the program visit  CBS Local Transit Council Talks Cuts.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Testimony at the Port Authority Hearing 2/29 (II)

The following testimony was given by Josh Savage, a young prospective member of ACTC who is also the current treasurer of the Millvale Borough Development Corporation – representing Millvale residents seeking to “stabilize, revitalize and rejuvenate Millvale’s neighborhoods, through the development of housing, businesses and skills of individuals.”

"Good afternoon and thank you for allowing me this time to speak,

My name is Josh Savage and I am the Treasurer for the Millvale Borough Development Corporation as well as a frequent rider of the 2 Mt. Royal, 1 Freeport Rd, G2 west Busway, and 29 Robinson.

Having a strong Public Transportation network is essential to having a strong economy. Without the above listed buses I would have no way to get to work as I have neither the inclination nor the financial assets to buy a car. These circumstances are not unique to me; if the buses that service the suburbs and outlying areas are terminated then thousands of people will be unable to get to work.

Not only will this negatively impact existing jobs and businesses but it will stymie the growth of future businesses and jobs in not only the surrounding areas but also downtown. If you were a business owner would you open up a location in an area you knew people would have a hard time getting to? I brought up this issue at a board meeting for the MBDC last month and one of our members asked what was the point of doing all this work to attract people to our community if they wouldn't be able to get here. Millvale is fortunate in the fact that we are close to downtown and can walk or bike there if need be but what about Glenshaw, or the people in Ambridge?

Many people say that the buses do not matter and people will simply buy cars and get around that way. Can you imagine what the already congested roadways would look like if you added another 2,000 cars to the mix let alone 20,000? Not to mention the devastating effect that increase in traffic would have on not only our already overburdened infrastructure but also our air quality.

PennDOT has already been scheduled to spend $306 million on road projects this year in our part of the state; now imagine that amount doubling. How much do you think people will like driving when the road is packed with even more potholes and car accidents increase? This will lead to an increase in insurance premiums, the cost of gas, and car maintenance fees. This in turn will result in people having even less money to inject into the economy. So tell me, how can you have a thriving and diverse economy if the majority of a person’s income is going into their car?

I understand that these reductions in service are not entirely the fault of the Port Authority. However, it is not simply a result of the state government not giving you enough money. The bus system is viewed as unreliable by many people. I myself have experienced buses coming either 12 minutes early, 12 minutes late, or sometimes never coming at all. I understand that sometimes outside factors such as traffic or breakdowns cause these problems but steps need to be taken to increase reliability and timeliness. If you fix these problems more people will use the bus and your revenues will go up."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Testimony at the Port Authority Hearing 2/29 (I)

Several community leaders, ACTC members, public transit advocates, activits and many ordinary citizens had braved the bad weather last Wednesday 2/29 and came to testify in front of the Port Authorty Board. Some spoke about their transit needs, but most addressed the needs of their communities and the needs of the whole urban region.

Because we feel there is a need for a broader audience to hear the point of views expressed at the hearing we will try to publish a few testimonies as well as links to the articles covering the hearing.

We shall start with an excerpt from our vice-president's speech , Stu Strickland :

"Honorable members of the Board, and Mr. Bland, good afternoon, I am Stuart Strickland, from McCandless Township, a regular rider of the O12 McKnight Flyer, 12 McKnight and soon to be cut 2 Mount Royal bus routes. I already lost my Perry Highway routes in the 2011 service cuts and so walk most of a mile each way to get a bus every day.

As every properly informed person in the room knows, PAT didn’t cause this problem, state government did, through its persistent refusal to accept that public transportation does require tax subsidy to run properly. As every properly informed politician knows, spending money on public transit actually earns money for the state in allowing the wheels of commerce to turn efficiently in the denser urban areas that generate most of the state’s revenues. But the misinformed and willfully ignorant are in power at the moment, so here we are."

... read more on his blog Anything but the Car.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

March Transit News

The ConnectCard

We published the first details on Port Authority's new fare system in June, last year : Technology to improve Port Authority’s rider experience with the fare-system. As frequent riders on Oakland routes had noticed , all Pitt students and staff are now using the new ConnectCard system. Starting March 1st , another category of frequent riders on the Port Authority transit lines will be using the new system too: annual pass holders.

Market tests for monthly passes will also start in March. Another series of market tests -for those riders who are interested to load only cash fares, rather than monthly or weekly passes will follow soon.

More information on the ConnectCard and its benefits can be found here: connectcard.org.

Lenora P. Brooks , the project manager for the new ConnectCard fare system, answered a few additional questions about the new system
on February 15th during the last general ACTC meeting:

  • Were will I be able to buy the ConnectCard?
Most retailers that sell ticket books and passes right now will be equipped with ConnectCard Sales Terminals. Additional vending machines will be placed in high traffic areas cross the Allegheny County. With time, you will also be able to order and recharge a ConnectCard online.
  • What if I lose my ConnectCard?

If you lose your ConnectCard, you will be able to call the PortAuthority and ask for a replacement card. A "Balance Protection" program will be available at no additional cost to you. The program will link each card to an individual user so as soon customer reports a stolen or lost card, the balance is automatically transferred on the customer's new card.

  • What if my ConnectCard gets demagnetized?

The ConnectCard is not a magnetic card. The system uses RFID technology to store the information on the card.

  • How do purchase a transfer?

there will be no need to purchase a separate transfer any longer. Once a rider had charged a full fare on its ConnectCard , any consequent trip in the next three hours will be charged at transfer rate instead of full fare rate.

The North Shore Connector

The North Shore Connector will become fully operational on March 25th. And again, once the North Shore Connector becomes fully operational , two bus routes the 14th and the 18th will turn around at the Allegheny stop instead of going all the way downtown. As it stands right now , all riders on these two routes will receive the mandatory free transfer so they can use the North Shore Connector in order to continue their travel downtown.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Public Transit is beneficial to us all - regardless of income

We are glad to note that more and more people - young educated professionals - are coming forward with their stories as public transit riders. Because stories such as the one shared by Andrew Fournaridis with us (via the Post-Gazette) are changing the conversation around public transportation and Port Authority's funding crisis.We are long used to think that public transportation is some type of social service that benefits only those people with disabilities or in the lowest income brackets. When in fact it is used by most of us - regardless of income, social background or race - and it is beneficial to the whole Pittsburgh region.

"Third and most important, many seem to view public transit as a social program. This couldn't be further from the truth. My wife and I are both 26-year-old working professionals with several educational degrees between us. Public transit is a convenient, affordable and safe way to commute to work and experience the city."

From a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Letter to the Editor

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Massive transit cuts ahead. Again?!

As our readers will recall, about a year ago we had posted the news about 15% service cut that became effective March 2011: The Board of Port Authority approves 15% cuts for March 2011 We also explained the reasons why Port Authority's Board decided to approve the service cuts - and, if you recall, the main reason was the agency's decision to apply only part of the funds provided by former governor Ed Rendell to cover the 47 million budget deficit for FY 2010. The Board approved the Agency's decision to use the rest of the money in order to cover the deficit for FY 2011 (June 2011-June 2012),  hoping that after a year in office newly elected Governor Tom Corbett would be able to come up with a legislative solution for the transportation funding issues in Pennsylvania in general, and Port Authority's funding issues in particular.

But where does Governor Corbett stand on transportation funding issues? The problem is that Governor Tom Corbett so far has said little about transportation funding. In fact, he stated "that a new transportation bill is not a top priority for his administration this year"(2011, Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11294/1183824-100.stm#ixzz1k1Iovl9B)

New cuts, fare increases announced January 18th

Meantime, the Port Authority announced on January 18th a new round of massive service cuts come September 2012 due to a 64 million budget shortfall for FY 2012. The projected cuts will impact 35% of the current service provide by the Agency. Out of its current 102 routes, 46 will be eliminated and the rest will  face service reductions. This time around, the service cuts will impact the ACCESS service which is designed to provide transportation for people with disabilities.

If you want to find out more about the projected cuts and how service will be affected in your area , the Port Authority provides a comprehensive list of its projection on its Service Reduction page.

At this point, however, it is important to stress that these service cuts and fare increases are only in a proposal stage. And most importantly, we may avoid facing service cuts and fare increases again, if a dedicated funding source is found for the Agency's Operational Budget.

One way to tackle the budget deficit is to deal with the "legacy costs" such as pensions and retiree healthcare. We do expect new contract negotiations to start as early as January and we do anticipate that the Port Authority will ask for union concessions as part of the negotiations. However as positive as union concessions may be in finding  a solution to the budget deficit, they are not going to stop the decline in the Agency's ability to provide a comprehensive service in the area.

In a Q&A session that took place during the ACTC's General Meeting on January18, the Agency's Government Affairs Representative, Dan DeBone, noted that in order to stop the projected service cuts the "biggest impact will be made by funding and not by union concessions". 

About a funding solution

"Activists and the Port Authority, meanwhile, are trying to garner support for a package of bills from state Reps. Mike Hanna (D-Clinton/Centre) and Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill). The bills offer several funding suggestions, many similar to those in a report made by Corbett's Transportation Funding Advisory Committee in August.

Frankel's bill would, among other things, grant mass-transit systems the entire $450 million annual payment that the PA Turnpike Commission makes to the state. Frankel also seeks to increase transit's share of state sales-tax revenue, from 4.4 percent to 6.4 percent of the annual take" notes Lauren Daley from the City Paper in her most recent article: Bumpy Ride: Port Authority getting set for massive service cuts, rate hikes. Miss Daley, a seasoned reporter when it comes to public transit, echoes the statements made by Allegheny County's Executive, Rich Fitzgerald and House State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill) during their 1/19/2012 press conference.

Eleven democrat legislators from the area rallied yesterday beyond County Executive Rich Fitzgerald for a press conference devoted to the support of Frankel's bill. The bill focuses not only on funding public transit, but also on funding for transportation/ infrastructure development meant to create jobs in the area and revitalize Pennsylvania's economy.  "This bills create jobs. Good paying jobs," stated Rep. Frankel yesterday.

One major problem Democrat legislators will face as they are trying to pass these bills is getting the support of their Republican colleagues. And, as Mr. DeBone noted during the Q&A session on 1/18, even though there are Republican legislators who are willing to support these bills, none is willing to step up as long as Governor Corbett does not take a clear position on transportation funding. The same issue was noted by the Democrat legislators present at the press conference called by County Executive Fitzgerald yesterday: most of their Republican colleagues will not stand beyond any legislative initiative regarding transportation until Governor Corbett clearly states his position.

This is why, when it comes to find a solution for Port Authority's funding woes and to stop more service cuts from taking place, we have to return to the same question: Where does Governor Corbett stand on the transportation funding issues?

We want to thank Lauren Daley from the City Paper for her valuable coverage of public transportation issues, Chris Sandvig from the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group for his support and tweets covering yesterday's press conference, and all the Post-Gazette reporters covering transit related news and articles.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Transit Initiatives in Pittsburgh

The North Shore Connector

As the project is is nearing its end, North Side commuters from downtown will soon be able to avoid road traffic during their daily trips. Better news even - riders traveling between the Wood Street and the PNC Park stations will be able to do so at no cost to them, thanks to a contract between the Port Authority and Allegheny Garage.

The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Oakland Project

BRT would provide faster, more frequent transit service along major corridors using special buses to provide a smooth, comfortable travel experience. Basically, it offers almost the same benefits as rail but it can be developed at a lower cost.

Several aspects to characterize Pittsburgh BRT service (as compared with traditional bus service) :
  • Dedicated lanes for buses to allow them bypass traffic.
  • Traffic signal priority for buses.
  • Real-time transit information (real-time bus arrival data at the stop).
  • Offboard fare collection to reduce time at bus stops.
  • Modern, comfortable buses with increased accessibility features offering a comfortable space for riders.
  • Added amenities for the bus stops and complete streets.

The project is supported by over 30 community planners, innovators, nonprofits, community leaders, cyclists, city officials, educators, investors, neighborhood developers, business leaders, and civic partnerships. One of the project supporters and stakeholders is our own organization : ACTC.

For more information on the project visit the project's website : Get There Pittsburgh.