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.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - you really said it "Christmas has come early for us transit nerds."

    I was just about to tuck into a marathon session of The Sarah Connor Chronicles but I think I'll peruse all of these links instead.

    I pray that the Port Authority heeds this advice and I see a much improved transit system when I get back to the PGH.