Monday, May 4, 2009

Connect '09 Recommendations Announced

The results of the Port Authority's Connect '09 study have been released. The report has not been uploaded to the website yet, but it should be soon, as the Post Gazette and Trib both have stories detailing the findings.

The report focused on three main options to improve efficiency and service (in no particular order): The Grid system, Better Radial System and Better Radial "Plus"; all of which are designed to reduce costs while increasing efficiency and ridership.

The "Grid System" idea was axed pretty quickly because it involved a number of feeder routes to existing separated grade lines, such as the T or East/West Busway. It was determined that this would not generate the needed ridership, and would also increase costs and lead to increased fares. (This is a shame, I think this concept has promise if you have a robust enough backbone system to support such operations. Think Chicago or Boston)

The "Better Radial System" is still in the running. This system maintains Downtown and Oakland as urban "hubs" and concentrates on moving people to these two hubs. As a result, some service would focus on moving people primarily to Oakland (thus bypassing Downtown) and moving others primarily to Downtown (thus bypassing Oakland). This would ultimately speed service to those hubs by reducing the number of buses and routes that have to get stuck in Downtown traffic BEFORE getting to Oakland, and visa verse.

The third system, known as The "Better Radial System PLUS" involves the changes outlined in the Better Radial System, and also involves a number of significant improvements to bus service. In my mind, this is the best choice of the two remaining choices, however, it will involve more investment to get it running than the "Better Radial System".

  • "Rapid" Bus Service: 61 series, 71 series and 500 would become like a "BRT light" system used by other transit authorities. Changes would include dedicated lanes where possible, priority signaling at intersections, upgraded stations, and "limited" service (A reduction in number of stops). This operation would be similar to Los Angeles Metro's "Rapid" service.
  • 28X, more of an "Xpress": Right now, the 28X Oakland to Airport service has a slow meandering route to the airport that includes a number of stops in Robinson Town Center. Operational changes under this idea would have the 28X bypass Robinson Town Center, slashing transit time to the airport. RTC access would be provided by extending the current 100 route.
  • More bus only lanes: This service concept would provide for bus only lanes (like 5th Ave in Oakland), and priority signaling wherever possible.

Universal Changes proposed include:

  • Reduce the 16,000 stops on the Port Authority system by a significant number (The actual number, I believe will be determined by another round of studies)
  • Eliminate variations of a single route
  • Route number overhaul (YES!) which would change many bus route numbers and get rid of the antiquated T route numbering system completely in favor of a color coded system.
  • Construction of new park and ride facilities.
  • Downtown routes would centralize on fewer streets with fewer stops, with the goal of simplifying operations and improving efficiency.
  • Creation of "transit centers" throughout Allegheny County in areas where several routes converge, i.e. RTC or East Liberty. These centers would have updated schedule information, as well as a climate controlled environment.
Overall, not too shabby, there's nothing glaringly wrong with this plan. I also like the basic premise, transit improvements on a budget, making the most out of the system we and resources we have Right Now.

I know this study was based on things we can change right now, but I still would like to see a capital improvement plan that would, ohhhh I don't know, get us an integrated separated grade transit system (See any recurring themes here?)

1 comment:

 JKirchartz said...

I hope they don't change the 500 TOO much ... I rented my apartment based on access to the 500 line, I don't have a car & I need it to get to work.