Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Maglev again??? Are you freakin' kidding me!!???

I was perusing the land of transit-hate known as The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and found a very interesting, and I have to say disturbing article about the Pittsburgh Maglev project. This project that somehow seems to cling to life is ready to receive another shot in the arm.

Before I bash this project (and I will), I will tell you that I am not against MAGLEV technology. It's potential to move people between cities cleanly and VERY quickly (in excess of 200MPH) is very attractive. I also think that the fact that the main proponent company named MAGLEV Inc. is local company in McKeepsort is great as well.

The only problem is, the Maglev is a TERRIBLE idea for a local rapid transit. It's incredibly expensive, and I think would be a better application over a long distance route (from Pittsburgh to Philly.)

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Business times from '07, the last cost estimate done for the project was done in 2003, and at that point it was over $3 Billion for the 54 mile proposed line. If we all know anything about transit cost estimates, is that they tend to run over, just a little bit. They run over even more during times when material costs are high. Just look at the NSC (North Shore Connector), three years ago it was supposed to cost $435 Million, barely 3 years later, the cost is now $552 million.

Imagine the inflation on $3 Billion over 6 years. That's assuming that they start tomorrow. Who knows the actual date that construction would begin. By that point, more years could elapse and more inflation could occur.

Price alone should not necessarily kill the project, but look at what you are getting for the cost. You are getting a single route from Greensburg to the airport, with stops in Monroeville, Downtown, and the airport. Just how many people would really need to take the trip to the airport these days? Flights are waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy down. The only real potential would be as a service to daily commuters from Greensburg, and perhaps from the airport (but I can't say how much of a market there really is for that) It could certainly attract riders in that capacity, but I don't know if that would outweigh the costs. The way the route is set up, I don't really see an additional value to it. Additionally, if it is only operating in this capacity, how much money is wasted by not operating during off-peak or off rush hour time periods?

There is enough transit half-assery in Pittsburgh already. You've got a number of incomplete and non-integrated( The T, and Busways that don't interconnect in any way) modes of transit already in place in Pittsburgh. We don't need a $3 Billion + addition to that list. Additionally, we've already spent a half a BILLION dollars to get across the Allegheny River. Do we really want to call that good enough? In my mind, and like I said in my post yesterday, one of the few silver linings about the NSC is at least it could be a spring board for expanding the T into the North Hills, or in the general direction of the airport. There is a limited chance that would take place if the NSC were the only major project, but there is a ZERO chance if the NSC was competing with a multi-billion dollar project in the Maglev.

I like the Maglev, its a great concept for intercity travel, but it's the wrong form of transportation at the wrong time in Pittsburgh.

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