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.