Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Higher Transit Usage = Earlier Jay Leno?

Public transit ridership had the biggest increase in 25 years during third quarter of this year compared to 2007. You can read the press release from the American Public Transportation Association here.

So even as gas prices fall, the economy is driving people to take transit. (sorry for the pun)

In other transit news: Surprisingly, yesterday's news about the Jay Leno of NBC's Tonight Show moving to 10 PM ET was also somewhat transit related. Jay spoke about moving his show earlier last night on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
Plus people go to bed earlier now. 10:30 is like 11:30 used to be. I speak to young people now, young couples that have kids or children and maybe they‘re not driving their car as much, they‘re taking public transportation and getting up earlier so it‘s a chance to do this stuff at a different time.
Nice to know that the guy with a huge collection of cars (including a hot rod Flxible bus!) is thinking about the bus rider.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Contract Approved! What's Next?

The P-G has said it: the contact has been approved by the union 1,388-44.

Now the focus is on fixing the Port Authority. The system is a troubled one, with some routes that have not been touched since they were streetcars over 50 years ago.

That's where Connect '09 comes in. The Port Authority has been surprisingly open about the findings so far from Nelson\Nygaard, a transit consulting firm. They are doing a complete look at the system, each route at a time. The documents are slowly coming in, like this one with overall suggestions. Some of these findings ring very true:
  • Service is Too Complicated
  • Too Much Service is Too Specialized
  • There is a Large Amount of Duplicative/Overlapping Service
  • Many Routes are Too Long
  • Routes are Very Circuitous
  • There are Too Many Stops
  • Service is Scheduled Very Irregularly
  • Service is Not Well Coordinated
  • Service is Not Scheduled in Consideration of Productivity Impacts
  • Service is Not Scheduled Efficiently
Ouch. But yes, one thing is very true about a lot of PAT routes: either they are tiny feeders that run 4 times a day and therefore get no riders or they are incredibly long routes that try to serve everyone and have huge gaps in ridership.

Thanks to the analysis, you can see how your route is doing: they posted a 10-20 page analysis on each route in the system. Yes, Christmas came early for us transit nerds. These analyses have rider counts for EVERY stop on EVERY route. You can even see how much Port Authority is paying for you to ride. On the excellent-performing 71A route through North Oakland and Shadyside it's $1.50 a ride. On the poor performing 25A in Moon and Coraopolis it's $15.28. Or you can see how complicated your route is: did you know the 46G through the South Hills to Elizabeth has 38(!) different variants?

The transit study also provides solutions for many routes. A lot of routes have the same solutions: eliminate rarely used or clustered stops, consolidate routes that use the same corridor, convert long routes to feeders that connect to popular routes (or busways or the T), use easy to remember headways, or even convert some routes to ACCESS-style demand service.

Some recommendations are a bit strange, such as these for the 77F:

Improve Service to the Pittsburgh Zoo to provide a more useful schedule that could serve both employees and visitors.

Discontinue Service to the Pittsburgh Zoo: Alternatively, discontinue service to the zoo due to very low ridership.

Some routes are beyond repair, like the 44D, a South Hills T feeder route that costs $37 a person.

The findings are fascinating, and all people interested in Pittsburgh transit should take a look. Whether these suggestions will ever be carried out is another factor, due to the fact that no one likes to eliminate bus service. I hope to see more people breaking down these new statistics, and you may even see some more analysis here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Post-Gazette: Riders Catch a Bus That No Longer Exists!

Here's a story from the Post-Gazette, which is usually a great paper about transit in Pittsburgh: Transit pact a relief to riders.

Accompanying the November 30, 2008 story is this picture:

The caption says "Passengers board a Port Authority CL bus Friday on Smithfield Street, Downtown."

Which must be news to those in Clairton since the CL route was cut in June 2007. So yes, the Post-Gazette used an old photo from a 2007 story about the cutbacks.

Lying about when a photo was taken is bad journalism. It's also lazy: the Post-Gazette's offices are on Boulevard of the Allies downtown. There's plenty of buses that fly by there every day.

Update 12/3: After I emailed the P-G, the photo vanished from the story. Google's Cache still has it for now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Details of Transit Pact Now Online

The Post-Gazette has stated that the details of the transit agreement last week have been posted online. You can read the agreement here. The union vote on the contract will happen Sunday.

In other news, Onorato likes the new plan, and will release the drink tax money if approved.

In even other news, the Allegheny County drink tax may be cut from 10% to 7%, though that may lead to future property tax increases.

Update 12/3: Full PG story now online with the details. Trib has their story too, and of course they are wondering if the contract includes privatization.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Strike Averted!

Just a quick update: the Port Authority will not impose the new contract on Dec. 1. The old contract will stay for now, a tentative agreement on a secret new contract has been reached, and a work stoppage/strike/lockout/really bad thing has been called off.

But... will the new contract be ratified by the union and board? Does it bring down costs to Onorato's liking?
It is believed that the authority's representatives, Chief Executive Officer Steve Bland and its negotiator, Michael Palombo, of Campbell, Beatty & Durant, regularly updated County Executive Dan Onorato of developments, because Mr. Onorato has insisted that long-term legacy costs be brought under control.

Without that, Mr. Onorato vowed not to release $27.7 million in revenue from county drink and car rental taxes. The authority has said it needs the funding to keep from running out of money by the middle of next month.
Uh oh.

Chris at Null Space has some thoughts worth reading.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Pittsburgh!

Take a break from the strike gloom and doom for some happy news: Pittsburgh celebrates its 250th birthday today! See how the city is celebrating at Incorporated on this day in 1758 with an 'H' at the end, and we never gave it up.

Time to gush a little about my hometown. No matter where I go, people either have never heard of Pittsburgh (other than the Steelers, of course) or they have nothing but great things to say about it. In the past few months I have heard people here in Minnesota say that Pittsburgh was beautiful, full of culture, and home to world class technology, education, and healthcare. And no other city has that skyline that is always adored by sports announcers (in between stock footage of people making steel and Primanti sandwiches.)

Cheers to Pittsburgh!

P.S. Happy Birthday to this blog!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Port Authority Not Striking Yet

This is strange: The AFL-CIO and national ATU is holding meetings with the local ATU and the Port Authority. These meetings have canceled the November 23rd strike meeting. No word on what is in these meetings, other than a lot of questions.

Is the AFL-CIO trying to mediate? That's a pretty strange position. My incredibly uninformed guess? The AFL-CIO is trying to avoid a strike that will be a national black eye for labor, when the AFL-CIO is trying to push the Employee Free Choice Act under future President Obama. But that's my hearsay.

And something interesting: Steve Bland's message in the latest Rider Report:
As you ride your bus, T or incline today, please understand that the leadership of ATU Local 85 is solely responsible for this situation, not the union rank and file members. Union members and our other employees are hard working people who deliver vital transportation services each day. They are merely victims of their leadership’s failure to acknowledge Port Authority’s dire financial situation.
The CEO is trying to get on the good side of operators. Smart, but will it work if the strike gets a full union vote?

But will it get a full union vote? A strike (technically a lockout if the union thinks the contract is illegal) is still very possible, and the power will be in a judge's hand:
Mr. McMahon has indicated workers will be asked to stay on the job while the union goes into court seeking an injunction and possibly other legal recourse. But if court intervention fails, he said the union will consider the authority's action a lockout and will not report for work.
Stay tuned. Good news though: the Boulevard of the Allies bridge is reopening tomorrow, allowing for some easier traffic through Oakland.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Port Authority Responds to CIII Bus Cuts

The plot thickens. Thanks to Joe Grata, I was able to ask Judi McNeil, the public relations director at the Port Authority, about what happened that led to the cuts at Century III Mall. Here's her response, reprinted with permission:
Mall management has only told us the same thing that they are saying publicly, that they think Port Authority should pay $150,000 to repave the mall's parking lot.

Our position is that Port Authority does not have the funds to get into the business of repaving every surface on which the buses operate. In addition, we bring the mall customers and transport employees, so we are not only transporting folks who spend money at the mall, but providing transportation for folks who need it in order to hold down a job. In other words, the taxpayers subsidize the transportation for the mall's customers and employees and, as such, should not be also expected to fund the mall's state of good repairs. The mall didn't see it that way and ordered a reduction in our bus trips. Of course, we are not happy about it--and neither are our riders--but we must comply as it is private property.

This is an issue that we are dealing with at virtually every Simon mall. The Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) has taken on this issue and plans to make it one of their major campaigns. Wallace Watson at PIIN is heading up the effort and can be reached at (412) 371-8138.
Pittsburgh Interfaith Network also has a website, and they even have a task force for transit. Also included in her email was a forwarded message from a Macy's VP. Macy's is one of the major tenants of Century III Mall.
I'm Neil Penz, the District VP of the Macy's Pittsburgh East stores and Century III Mall is one of my stores.

I recently learned of the cut back in bus service to Century III Mall requested by mall manager, Gina Mercorelli. I'm greatly concerned that this will reduce traffic flow to the mall and effect the sales of all the stores in the mall.

Also, it was unfortunate that we had to learn of this decision through the newspaper and not from the mall management personally.

I would like to partner with you in any way that I can to help resolve this issue to the satisfaction of all parties involved. If I can be of service, please let me know.
Judi also wanted to point out this quote from today's P-G:
Ms. Mercorelli said she expects to see some reduction in shoppers from the reduction in bus routes.

"I certainly think this is going to affect something because those people are not going to be able to get a direct bus route to the mall. Two neighborhoods can't make it here," she said.
Guess you shouldn't have ordered those cuts then.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November Service Changes Screw Century III Mall Shoppers Again

One year ago, the first post to this blog was about Port Authority moving the bus stop for Century III Mall in West Mifflin away from an actual entrance. It is now on the edge of a parking lot, see a map here.

It's not a major move, just 375ft. The passengers do have to walk through a parking lot that gets slushy and dangerous in winter. Not to mention the elderly who ride the buses to the mall. The move was done supposedly due to concrete problems and discipline issues.

Now, a year later the mall is demanding Port Authority either pay to maintain the road or cut service to the mall. Well, money isn't growing on trees at PAT, so they are eliminating weekday mall service on the 59A and 35A routes and trimming weekday mall service on 46G, 51C, and 55M routes. Port Authority's official release here, and another Post-Gazette story citing the monetary reasons here.

Interestingly, the two different stories from the P-G have different reasons. The first story says:
At one time, the authority hailed mall management for being so accommodating to public transit. Over the years, the mall has complained that while the buses bring workers and patrons to its stores, they also bring a number of people who basically loaf and spend little money.
while the second one does not mention this. I loafed at Century III Mall all through middle school but I was dropped off by my parents, so I guess that's OK for mall management. Where's the scientific survey of where bus riders go? I'm sure stereotyping had nothing to do with it. PGH is a City elaborates on this point also in a post from earlier this month, as does the blog Pieces of a Whole.

The idea that Century III Mall would want less transit service and less customers during an economic downturn is shocking to me. The fact that the mall is getting emptier doesn't help their situation either.

New schedules for the November 23, 2008 service changes, along with other slight modifications to other routes can be found on Port Authority's website.

P.S. Notice something on the back of every schedule? Yep, a coupon/ad for two downtown eateries. You read it here first.

Revised 11/20:
Port Authority now has a summary of Sunday's changes posted. Also of interest is a new article about Century III Mall in the P-G that includes discussion of why buses were cut. The mall is saying they did not want large cuts, while the Port Authority says they cannot pay for road repairs since every shopping center would have a case to ask for money.

Strike Update... What to Watch

Keep up with the latest strike posts here at Peak Direction by viewing all labor-related posts.

There's some great articles and websites popping up concerning the possibility of a Port Authority transit strike (or lockout) in Pittsburgh.
  • The University of Pittsburgh has a wide-reaching strike plan that included expanded shuttle service to Shadyside and Squirrel Hill (current Pitt shuttles only serve North and South Oakland); express service to Edgewood, Homewood, Highland Park, and Wilkinsburg; and (for a fee) service to park and ride lots around the county. No word on whether CMU and Chatham students can ride these buses (they can ride normal shuttles run by Pitt)
  • I wouldn't say Pittsburgh transit has a "blogosphere" just yet, but there are a few great blogs that focus on transit either entirely or in part. The East Busway Blog started last summer, and they have some great articles about previous failures of Port Authority. Let's hope that list stays short. No Commuter Left Behind also started in the summer, and the author actually works on transit for the Allegheny Conference. Green is Good has bloomed nicely, and covers Pittsburgh transit well. And last but not least, the excellent Null Space blog is letting the market decide. Place your bets on a strike!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lights, Camera, Transit!

Yes, even something as everyday as transit makes it into the movies. Here's a few times where transit has been part of a plot line: Warning: contains spoilers.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

This classic film starring Steve Martin and John Candy shows everything that can go wrong with transportation. Obnoxious people. Canceled planes. Strange taxis. Bad hotels. But what that gets Steve Martin's character back home for Thanksgiving without any problems? Yep, the Chicago L. Even in the winter weather that sets back the characters throughout the movie, the world famous elevated trains that symbolize Chicago run right on schedule. See a clip below of the ending, which takes place at the LaSalle/Van Buren stop. But how he can get back to the same station so quickly? Because he's in The Loop. Overall, a pretty good endorsement of "trains" here.

Speed (1994)

One of the most used cliches in describing a movie is saying "Movie x did for activity y what Psycho did for showers!" But I think it's safe to say that about Speed and mass transit. In one movie, a terrorist targets elevators (which may be the most ridden form of mass transit,) buses, subways, and planes. And all in Los Angeles, a city notorious for bad transportation. This movie probably didn't help, but it is a great nonstop thriller. And hey, imagine how quickly you'd get to work if your bus couldn't drop below 50!

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Who needs a car in L.A.? We've got the best public transportation system in the world.

So says Eddie Valiant, private investigator in Los Angeles in 1947. He tries to stop the evil Judge Doom, who wants to destroy Toontown. Why? To make room for a freeway. You heard that right. Who Framed Roger Rabbit isn't about cartoons, murder, or the golden age of Hollywood. It's a dramatization of the Great American Streetcar Scandal, in which General Motors bought up streetcar systems to replace them with buses. Judge Doom buys up the beloved Red Car trolley system only to dismantle it, and Los Angeles residents are forced to drive everywhere. Sound familiar?

Good Will Hunting (1997)

This might just be me. But I think Good Will Hunting brilliantly uses transit to tell the story of Will Hunting, a genius from the wrong end of the Boston Red Line. In the film the Red Line, through a few beautiful scenes with the music of Elliott Smith, symbolically and physically connects the rough South Boston with the prestige of MIT and Harvard. If it wasn't for the Red Line trains, could Will have secretly displayed his amazing mathematical talents to an MIT math professor? Could he have met Skylar, a smart and beautiful Harvard student? I'd like to think no.

But the gift at the end of the film to Will from his buddies? A car. Oh well.

Stranger than Fiction (2006)

This little gem of a film features a rare dramatic turn for comedian Will Ferrell. Transit is everywhere in this movie where Harold, a lonely tax agent, finds out he is the protagonist in a novelist's unfinished book. One day, he starts hearing the narrator and finds out he will soon die. His life then starts changing for the better, including this great scene on a bus where he talks to Ana, a free-spirited baker who he is auditing.

Notice how the discussion is made more awkward by his sitting in the middle of an articulated bus (that seems to be going nowhere... it keeps making left turns. Commentary on Harold perhaps?) A later scene has Harold reading the book about himself on a very long bus ride (that even takes him to the garage and bus wash.) And not to mention the ending... Filmed in Chicago, though the transit system is referred to as the MTA rather than the CTA. Is Chicago the only city where white collar workers take transit? According to Hollywood, yes.

Sliding Doors (1998)

Unlike driving or walking, taking mass transit makes a whole lot of "what if" moments. The bus, train, or plane is leaving whether you're on it or not. And you wonder sometimes what would have happened if you caught that bus that left as you were getting to the stop. Would you have met someone? Would you have gotten home earlier and seen something you shouldn't have? Sliding Doors explores two parallel universes: one where Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) catches an Underground train, and the other where she just misses it. See the trailer here. While transit is not the main theme of the film, how it is used to explain two different possible lives is very interesting.

"Seinfeld" (1989-1998)

The television show about nothing is often a show about New York City. And of course, transit makes a few appearances on a show set in the city where 6.5 million people take the subway every day. The episode entitled "The Subway" from the third season has an interesting encounter happen to all four characters as they take the subway to where they need to go. Jerry encounters a naked man, Kramer hears a great horse racing tip, George meets a woman who cons him out of $8, and Elaine is stuck on a broken down car on her way to a lesbian wedding. Just four of the 6.5 million stories on the subway every day. Below you can watch a great behind-the-scenes movie about the show, including the subway car set. The whole episode appears to be online, but I imagine that link won't last too long.

There's plenty of other example abound, especially involving the granddaddies of them all: the New York City Subway and the London Underground. Any other great moments in Hollywood transit?

Friday, November 14, 2008

What Pittsburgh Could Learn from Minneapolis Transit

Greetings everyone! Glad to be back. A few questions before the post:

Umm, where the hell have you been?

I moved to Minneapolis in August 2008. More in my last post.

Damn it, we're dying here! Pittsburgh only has 16 days left of transit service!

Yes, the news appears grim back in Pittsburgh. On November 23rd the union will vote on a strike after the Port Authority forced the contract into effect December 1st. The Post-Gazette has a story about how companies and people are preparing for the buses and trains to stop We reported on the story back in March. Watch for coverage here, and hopefully we'll have a few comments from those who ride Port Authority on a daily basis

So you went to Minneapolis and abandoned your transit blog? Did you abandon transit too?

Heck no. I am proud to be a daily rider of Metro Transit. It is the transit agency for Minneapolis, St. Paul, and surrounding areas. How does it stack up?

  • Around 70 million trips yearly* (Equal to Port Authority)
  • 118 Routes and one light rail line (vs 183 bus routes and 3 light rail lines in Pittsburgh)
  • Serving a population of 3,175,041 in the Metro Area (Allegheny County has 1,281,666 people)
*Other carriers such as MVTA operate in the suburbs, and bring up the total to 73 million. Numbers for this year are rising, and may hit 78 million.

So looking at these numbers, Port Authority seems to have higher ridership. Pittsburgh has more routes, but Pittsburgh is definitely a much harder city to get around due to hills, mountains, and three rivers. It's a lot more flat in the Twin Cities, streets are in a grid, and there's only one river (and a major tributary) here.

So what does Minneapolis do right compared to Pittsburgh?

Ease of paying fares. The Go-To Card was fully implemented in early 2007. It is a great piece of technology, also seen in Boston and hopefully soon in Pittsburgh.

The system is easy to use. First, you can buy a reloadable plastic smart card (currently free) from local stores, light rail stations, and by mail. You can add money to the card and/or you can add up to two monthly passes.

When you board the bus, you touch your card to a reader at the front of the bus (shown below). On light rail, you touch the card to a sensor on the train platform. You can even pay for multiple people if you enough cash or passes loaded onto the card.

The reader beeps, and even shows your balance. The great thing is that you don't even have to take your card out of your wallet; I usually just hold my whole wallet up to the sensor since it uses radio waves rather than magnetic strips. In addition, you can register your card in case of loss and easily recover any balance. Most workplaces and Universities also offer Go-To cards as an employee perk with tax benefits (also true in Pittsburgh).

To those who don't want to use the Go-To Card can also pay in cash, coins, or using older paper-based passes sold in some areas. Day Passes and 6-Hour Event Passes are available and are a great option for visitors. Fares are similar, though Express and Rush Hour fares are more expensive. There is no zone system though, and transfers are free.

Can Pittsburgh do it? Hopefully, they will soon. If the buses stay running, of course.

Free and Easy Transfers. Free transfers aren't the only great thing. Transfers are good for unlimited use for 2 1/2 hours on buses or trains. That means transfers could actually pay for a round trip if you are running to the store. Transfers are either slips of paper printed on the bus with a magnetic strip, or are implemented automatically on Go-To Cards. The on board transfer printer is also a reader, and makes it so the driver does not have to squint and see if you pass is valid. Both of these features speed up loading, but so does the next one...

Could Pittsburgh do it? Hopefully when smart cards are introduced, a overhaul of the transfers will be looked at. Free transfers were considered during the January 2007 proposed cuts.

Back Door Unloading. One of the top complaints in Pittsburgh is the sparse use of the back door on buses outside of downtown. The problem with Port Authority's buses is that the back door is controlled by the driver, which allows people to enter without paying fares. Here in Minneapolis, that problem is solved because the door can be pushed open from the inside. The driver still has to switch it on though as a safety issue. As soon as the person exits, the door closes.

Could Pittsburgh do it? Probably not unless new buses are acquired or old ones are retrofitted, since the ability to exit is a mechanical feature. And of course add in the confusing pay as you get off thing...

Real-time info with NexTrip. The phone system for buses and trains, NexTrip, provides real time information via phone, internet, and visually at a few stops. The automated phone system now has voice recognition, but is a bit less sophisticated than Let's Go!, described here earlier this year. But the feature of real time departures makes the phone number (612-373-3333) worth putting into your cell.

Could Pittsburgh do it? Fitting every bus with a GPS system costs money that the Port Authority probably doesn't have. Though a system-wide automated bus information number is very possible.

The light rail actually goes somewhere. Ok, sorry to those on the T. But Minneapolis has one line (the Hiawatha Line) that services Downtown Minneapolis, the Target Center, the Metrodome, the Airport, and the Mall of America. An extension to the new Target Field is due when the facility opens in 2010. And in 2014, light rail will also extend to the University of Minnesota and Downtown St. Paul. Sorry T, but Minneapolis has you beat there.

Can Pittsburgh do it? Doubtful. Light rail to the airport and Oakland is constantly debated. Read about the ups and downs of Oakland light rail here. To Pittsburgh's defense, light rail to the Airport and Oakland has many obstacles: distance, topography, rivers, and an already crowded road system.

A Guaranteed Ride Home. This is a regional program that gives those who have bus passes (or walk or bike to work) two free cab rides every six months up to $25 each. The coupons also work in buses or trains, and can be combined for more expensive trips. It's a great way to encourage alternative transportation for those who worry about having to leave work early or staying late and missing the last express bus home.

Can Pittsburgh do it? It will require more funding, but they definitely should. It makes transit riders all fuzzy knowing that they can always take a taxi if needed.

Schedules at the stops! Yep, at a lot of shelters around the city the schedules are posted for all routes. Even at ones owned by advertising agencies. I've lamented about this before. And if a stop is out of service? There's a very simple white paper sign: "Buses do not stop here."

Can Pittsburgh do it? Hell yes they should, and somehow they should force Clear Channel (the advertiser and owner of many bus shelters) to allow bus information in their precious shelters.

Schedules on the buses! Metro Transit seems to be a lot better about putting the right schedules on the buses. Hmm... I've also lamented about this before. See a pattern?

Can Pittsburgh do it? They sure can. Just plan ahead more.

A system map! In print and online. Ok, this is getting ridiculous. Did Metro Transit read my post?

Can Pittsburgh do it? They may have to hire someone to make it, but it's a bit unbelievable that they don't have an internal one.

Driving on the shoulder! Yes, buses are allowed to drive on interstate and local road shoulders if necessary to bypass traffic. State law requires cars to allow buses to merge back into traffic, though in practice this may not happen.

Can Pittsburgh do it? It would take legislation, but whether this is necessary given the busways is not known.

A free rider newsletter! TAKEOUT is published every month and is always hanging on the bars in buses and trains. It contains news about upcoming events and is mostly a paper copy of the news section of the website. However, it allows those without a computer to read about service changes and other information.

Can Pittsburgh do it? Sure, it would be a great way to spread info about changes and upcoming events and even the status of the North Shore Connector.

Free rides! Metro Transit seems to be better about encouraging users to try the system out. They give free rides to hockey fans, arts festival goers, attendees of the world famous Minnesota State Fair, those going to the downtown Holiday Festival, partiers on St Patrick's Day... Heck, even when I sent away for the "New Rider Information" packet they included two free tickets.

Can Pittsburgh do it? Maybe if they attracted more sponsors.

Easy info by mail. The website has an easy to use form that allows you to send away for schedules, system maps, bike riding brochures, and all kinds of info. There's a great New Rider Information book that shows how to read schedules, pay fares, etc.

Can Pittsburgh do it? Sure. This is easy web stuff, they already offer information by mail but over the phone. This feature makes it a lot easier to try out the bus for the first time.

Frequency information. The schedules are a lot better when describing the overall frequency of buses and trains, as seen on my route's info page. Some routes are even designated as High-Frequency routes, and schedules and stops reflect which routes are frequent (described as being every 15 minutes or better weekdays from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.)

Can Pittsburgh do it? Yes, the designation as being "high-frequency" can attract residents to look for places to live and work that fall on a high-freq line. It's all about publicity and letting riders know which buses are worth waiting for even without a schedule.

Nice drivers! This is just my opinion, but the drivers seem to be more willing to answer rider questions. This is a state known for being nice though. However, I have had the occasional surly driver.

Can Pittsburgh do it? With more group hugs and sunshine perhaps.

Wow, that was a lot of good stuff. But don't sweat it Pittsburgh, an upcoming post will be about what's better back home. Yes, there are some things.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What happened?

I am very sorry to anyone that still reads this blog. Sadly I have left the Burgh for the Twin Cities, and the summer was just a whirlwind getting ready for the move. Hopefully soon I will post another item or two, especially comparing Metro Transit here in the Cities with good old PAT. I miss Pittsburgh already, and (unlike this blog) hopefully the buses will be running without interruption.

Again, thanks for your support. See you soon.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Rapid Transit to Oakland: No Foolin'?

Hello again. Well, I have to report on the recent stories in the press reviving a Oakland-Downtown public transit link. The Tribune-Review has reported that the county has approved a contract with Lea+Elliott, a consulting firm that specializes in transit. Its projects have included the Las Vegas Monorail, Amtrak's Acela express trains, and Pittsburgh's own existing light rail system. They mention a specialization in automated transit systems. Which, as has been mentioned before in a Peak Direction review of Oakland rapid transit, seems to be the direction Dan Onorato wants to head in.

This seems to be driven by a recent report by the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group, which recently published a report on improving public transit. Sadly, it's a report that has been issued by other state PIRGs and has no specific solutions for Pittsburgh, though the PIRG has advocated light rail in Oakland. Joe Grata in the Post-Gazette covered the release of the report.

The real question is why does Onorato want a futuristic automated system? What's wrong with having people operate it? Oh, right:
The transit contingency planning session will brief attendees on the Port Authority of Allegheny County's labor negotiation process and route restructuring plans to help companies prepare for service disruptions that could create problems for commuting employees.

That's right, more planning for a transit strike from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. No foolin'.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Port Authority CEO Defends North Shore Connector

Usually the monthly Rider Report from the Port Authority is pretty non-eventful. However, this month the report has a very good rebuttal by CEO Steve Bland on why the North Shore Connector is important. He mentions not only direct service to the booming North Shore (including stadiums, museums, businesses, CCAC main campus, a casino, and nightlife) but also use of the large North Shore Parking garage sitting of top of the future T station.

It's good to hear that the Port Authority is thinking bigger than just being a shuttle for Pirates and Steelers fans. I think the nightlife opportunities of the North Shore Connector are huge. Many new bars are opening by the stadiums, and the casino will be one stop away from these bars thanks to the new T stations. In addition, patrons can "bar hop" to Station Square by riding through downtown. Believe me, as I saw on Saturday during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, people like taking the T to Station Square. Now, if it was extended down East Carson...

Anyway, the Rider Report also unveiled this little gem:

It's a snake, right? I think. Anyway, the North Shore Connector now has a mascot! Oh god. I'm just waiting for "CALL 4 ACTION: PORT AUTHORITY WASTES MONEY ON SNAKE WITH HARDHAT!"

And I cannot wait until the new web page about the NSC:
Very soon, Port Authority will include a special link on its web site devoted to the North Shore Project called “The Bore to the Shore.” There, readers can learn more about the project through a variety of new interactive features.
Interactive features! Like a specialized version of Dig Dug using tunnel-boring machines!