Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Standing on the Platform Watching the High Speed Train go by

The Pittsburgh blog scene has been on fire with posts concerning the flurry of train related news that has popped up in Pittsburgh's media. It's exciting to see all this sudden attention focused both on local commuter rail and on Pittsburgh's piece in the HSR puzzle.

Much has been said about where to go first, Cleveland, Harrisburg, or Washington D.C.? They each bring up good points. (For my two cents, Cleveland would be the easiest first step, and since we're already behind the 8 ball, we should be looking for easy right now).

Where we should go first is not the point of this post however. The purpose of this post is draw attention to the fact that we are, indeed, behind the 8 ball when it comes to HSR. Here's a brief synopsis of where some other programs stand in comparison to the extended "Keystone Corridor"

-California: In addition to having a pretty sweet website, California is first in line for $$$ so says Joe Biden. This surely has to do with the bond issue for $10 billion with a B that was approved last year.

-Florida: The sunshine state has developed a comprehensive rail plan which you can see here. Additionally, they are well ahead of the curve for the myriad of studies that must be undertaken. Several studies including a ridership and cost study were undertaken in 2003 and would just need to be updated. Their application to receive federal funding is also nearly complete.

-Ohio: Ohio has already dedicated $7 million to study HSR. Additionally, they have banded together with 8 other Midwestern states that would have Chicago as a hub in the hopes to increase their chances of securing funding. Multi-state cooperation is said to increase the likelihood of funding.

This is not an all inclusive list, but from this brief list it's easy to see who the front runners are for the money. It doesn't help that apparently the state of Pennsylvania has done....absolutely nothing. Until Mr. Altmire's speech about extending the Keystone Corridor or connecting to Cleveland, no one was so much as speaking about HSR involving Pittsburgh. With an application deadline of August 24th, we are fast running out of time to take advantage of this round of funding. Another $50 billion is slated for further down the road, but the winds of politics could change by the time that money is to be appropriated.

A failure to capitalize on this opportunity would be a failure by the leaders of our region and state. While our local leaders should do all they can to promote and build our transit infrastructure, it is our State and Federal representatives who need to push this forward. So far Jason Altmire is the only one who truly seems committed to making this happen (all while pushing commuter rail in parallel).

Pittsburgh has failed so many other times when we had a chance to better our transportation assets. This time the responsibility does not fall squarely on Pittsburgh's shoulders. It falls on the State and Federal representatives . We do not need to be standing on the platform as Obama's HSR Express flies through without stopping


theorbo said...

Whatever happened to the much-ballyhooed Maglev project? Why isn't that being revived for this stimulus money?


BTW, thanks for blogging about this subject!

East Busway Blogger said...

Hopefully nothing will ever happen, at least with the Greensburg to Airport MAGLEV. I think the concept is great and it could work great for inter-city transportation but it's incredibly expensive and to advocate it as a form of commuter transportation is foolish and wasteful.

In Pittsburgh we can't even built a coherent integrated transit system (i.e. the T only goes to the South Hills and the busways don't connect). I think we as a city and a region should focus on that before bringing in another form of transportation that doesn't form a system.

Adam said...

An express line like the Maglev only makes sense once you have a more local service that is either at or near capacity. We don't have anything close to that.