Friday, January 18, 2008

A Drinker-Friendly Port Authority

Yes, the drink tax is a bit controversial:
It all adds up to one prediction: these taxes will not last longer than Onorato's term, whether it ends in 2011 or he leaves early to run for Senate or Governor. The focal point of anybody getting his job will be repealing this tax. So Port Authority better use this money while it lasts to improve ridership.

How can it do that? Well, maybe by catering more to the drinkers that will now be funding it!

Some current reasons why drinkers should ride the bus now:
  • Don't have to find a parking space on the South Side!
  • Drink up! You aren't driving!
  • Low floor buses, so no difficult steps to stumble up!
  • You don't have to tip the driver!
Ok, but there's plenty of reasons drinkers would not ride a bus after a night on the town. I have a few suggestions to alleviate those problems by looking at the 54C, the route that connects the colleges and the bars on the South Side:
  • Friday schedules. Right now, buses have separate Monday-Friday, Saturday, and Sunday/Holiday schedules. This does not make sense for buses that would be used by bar goers, since Friday buses to the South Side and the Strip would be more popular due to the weekend. Port Authority knows this, since the 54C route runs much later on Saturdays (Leaving South Side for Oakland, last bus is 12:49a M-F, 2:24a Saturday.) Instead of adding more trips to every weeknight, how about adding them just to Friday nights when they'll be busier? It might even allow for small curtails of service of other nights.
  • Move last bus closer to last call. Staying at the bar until they kick you out on a Friday night? Sorry, the last bus left 70 minutes ago. And on Saturday? There's just one departure, at 2:24a. Yep, waiting on East Carson Street at 2:00am for 20 minutes.
  • Run short trips for partygoers. Hey, I don't know when the 54C is crowded, but my guess is that between the Strip and the South Side it's way more popular than when it continues to the North Side or Bon Air. On weekends, reduce the length of the route from 1hr to 30min for some trips by making the popular spots of the Strip and South Side as turnaround points. This would allow for some more frequent service.
  • Bus info at shelters. These people will be new riders, unfamiliar with the system. Everyone constantly makes calls for schedules and maps at shelters. A 2005 City Paper article showed some of the issues, including the fact that Port Authority does not own the shelters. Perhaps publicizing the number for Let's Go on Bus Stop signs would do the trick?
  • Deals with local establishments. Ok, this is not going to happen easily now that the drink tax has made the Port Authority the enemy of bar owners. But hopefully some would be willing to keep some schedules and passes on hand to give to patrons wanting to save on cab fare.
A lot of these ideas may sound like the UltraViolet Loop bus that ended in 2004 due to lack of funding. According to this old schedule, when was the last run from South Side to Oakland? 3:09am. Damn. According to this City Paper report, the bus had a lot of overlap with the 54C and really wasn't too popular until after midnight. It also ran year-round, when a seasonal service might have helped save money during summer break for colleges.

I think that by adding some later trips with a bit more frequency on Friday and Saturday nights could help bar goers swallow the tax a bit more easily. Of course, there probably are other areas that increases in bus services on weekends could help, but I'm only one man Port Authority. Figure those out for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Hey I've always wondered what the UV bus was all's all over my Shadyside neighborhood but I've never seen it coming through. Guess I know why now...would've been great to be able to take a bus directly to South Side from way over here...

    This is a great post, and I truly believe that the Port Authority owes the restaurant's customers, as it's us who pays the tax in the end, not the restaurant owners (though I understand that they will possibly see a hit as well.)

    You might also be interested in this Port Authority / Drink Tax article that I wrote up over the past two weeks after interviewing tons of people on the subject.