Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Commuter Rail Update

A big update for potential commuter service in Pittsburgh came when Study # 2 of 1,105,289 was completed recently. Read the article here, I have some comments to the outcomes, it is a bittersweet conclusion, that is for sure.

-To me the biggest surprise, and the bitter portion of the conclusion was that a line to Greensburg would not have ridership to support operations. This surprises me, obviously a lot of people from Greensburg commute to the city. I know just about every Westmoreland transit bus I see on the busway in the morning is PACKED. In fact, when Republicans Mike Turzai and Mark Mustio proposed that agencies from other counties be able to pick up/drop off passengers in Allegheny County* the Director of the WCTA (Westmoreland County Transit Authority) Larry Morris replied that his buses could not (presumably the Greensburg Flyer) because they were already too full.

On the other hand, most of the route along which the Greensburg line would have traveled through are depressed to say the least. The NS Pittsburgh Line travels through the borough limits of one of the hardest hit Rustbelt victims, Braddock. Despite that, I still feel a commuter service could have drawn from other more suburban areas, like Monroeville, Holiday Park, Plum, etc.

-Luckily, on the bright side, the segment from Arnold/New Ken still appears to be a viable option. There appears to be an issue of operating subsidies, and that might get the NIMBY's fired up, but it appears to at least be viable. Rep Jason Altmire, a big proponent of the service feels that he should be able to secure funding to begin laying the ground work, including devising an operations plan, and beginning to upgrade the route, among other things. That's exciting.

There are issues here that still must be solved as well. Where will the line terminate? Will it share any tracks with NS? (that could still be a big hurdle, and for all we know, may be the reason the Greensburg line was deemed unfeasible) Where will the needed operating subsidies come from?

It's still a long way from completion, but one step is out of the way.

* The move was more of a publicity stunt to by these two representatives. They were attempting to "scare" the Port Authority into operating more efficiently. However, the argument was a moot point, and should have made the two look pretty silly. The law says the authority (in this case PAT) has the ability to make that decision on their own. The Port Authority had already allowed outside county transit agencies to pick up/drop off in Allegheny County. D'OH!

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