Wednesday, September 23, 2009

G 20 Journal

The nice thing about having my own blog is I can plug other blogs that are mine.  Living near a pretty large number of protests is going to be interesting, and the history major in me wants to record it.  If anyone is particularly interested, check out my daily journal-blog about the G20.  In all honesty, I hope it's boring, but we'll see. 

G20 in the East End

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dahntahn Lockdahn

This blog post is probably not news to anyone, there have been a bunch of articles about how the G20 will affect transit in downtown. Check out Post Gazette article here. Also, here's the link to the Port Authority's detour pamphlet. Actually, I felt left out of the collective G20 hand wringing, so I figured I would highlight the changes that will be taking place this week.

The Changes
Basically, the Port Authority will be vacating the Golden Triangle. And there you have it, there's my highlight.

Helpful huh? Honestly, there's a chance that a lot of bad stuff could go down, and there's a chance it could go (relatively) well. Call me optimistic, but I think it won't be as bad as everyone thinks it will be. Personally, I am in the same camp as Illyrias, who does not believe the sky is falling.

However, just in case the sky is in fact falling, I think we should harness the pahr of Pittsburgh Pride. I believe Steelers emblems should be plastered all over any potential protest site/Starbucks. The first rock or frozen turd to deface a Steelers emblem will cause yinzers to close on the site and destroy anyone who may have possibly maybe been involved. Nothing is scarier than watching towel wielding, mullet and zoobaz wearing overweight yinzers bear down on you and your fellow anarchists.

Ok, I kid, but seriously it would work…you know it would.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Changes?? Poppycock!

I don't want to belittle the concerns of people who have legitimate transit needs in Allegheny County, but I just don't like the point of today's article in the Post Gazette. I think the article focuses too much on a TINY minority of people that will be adversely affected by the changes that are coming about as part of the TDP.

Additionally, I flat out disagree with the comments of the people interviewed. They should do their homework before making broad public comments about service changes. Both people quoted in the paper have easy alternatives given the proposed changes (see the maps for the updated 51C/54C and alternatives for the 13B). The notion that the Port Authority will be driving (pun intended) people to their automobiles is misguided and just plain incorrect. If anything, the TDP will attract riders. Decreasing stops and focusing on rapid service has the potential to draw riders, not chase them away.

Although the article seems to lump fare increases in with the TDP, the fact is the two are separate. A fare change was meant to be part of the TDP, but not an increase. The TDP was well under way when the Port Authority announced that it was increasing fares to cover increasing legacy costs. In fact, you could argue that the TDP could help to minimize an increase that was going to happen anyway. The separation between the two is important and needs to be drawn lest people come to believe that fare increases were proposed as part of the TDP.

The problem, I believe, is the simple fact that the Port Authority is trying to change anything at all. Opinions such as those expressed in this article are the reason it's taken this long to get anything done in the first place. I've always held the opinion, despite the fact that Pittsburgh is incredibly innovative and has been throughout its proud history, it's people, for better or worse are very conservative and resistant to change.

You could argue that people will be affected by the TDP changes and will not have alternatives, but the people quoted in this article DO have alternatives and do not face significant changes. Again, the problem is that they face changes at all.

If you like the TDP and you use transit, get out and voice your opinion in favor of it. I personally don't want to see the plan derailed by the same old Pittsburgh attitude...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Keeping MAGLEV Inc. Afloat

In the latest victory to justify and allow their continued existance, a $28 million grant was awarded to MAGLEV, Inc. yesterday. Check out the article here in the Post Gazette.

My feelings on MAGLEV are pretty clear. I don't have a problem with the technology, and would love the idea of getting on a MAGLEV train and getting to Philadelphia in an hour or Chicago in a few. I just think this application as a commuter route to a nearly empty airport is absolutely ridiculous. All at a cost of $3.75 BILLION. By the way, that's in 2003 money. It's a safe bet that a more updated estimate would put the cost over $4 billion for 54 miles of MAGLEV track. Transportation in Pittsburgh already has enough black sheep, we don't need another. For the record the NSC at least allows Pittsburgh to expand its light rail network in the future to the north and west of the city. I don't envision a rapid transit system in Pittsburgh of interconnected MAGLEV lines.

I guess the bright side is that apparently this money was earmarked specifically for MAGLEV and does not come out of any sort of HSR funding.

While the MAGLEV funding wouldn't come out of a pot that Pittsburgh could use for transit, it's tempting to think about what you could get if you managed to get $3.75 billion for transit in Pittsburgh! Imagine the LRT or subway system you could have! Bottom line, there are so many better uses for the $28 million, let alone the $3.75 billion.

I feel like a broken record.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Something from Nothing

I've (finally) looked through the TDP and there's enough information out there on the net and in print as far as analysis of the TDP goes, so I figured I would take a little bit of a different view. I decided to pick the best of the best; the route change which, in my opinion was the best "new" look created as part of the TDP.

This year's Something out of Nothing award goes to: The G2 West Busway/Downtown/Oakland (Formerly known as the 100) (check out page 203 of the document). The Port Authority took a route that had some value, gave it additional responsibilities/routing and the route ultimately came out a much improved product.

Why do I like this so much, you ask? Simple, it creates a route that increases interconnectivity, maximizes grade separation that will increase not only its own efficiency but efficiency on additional routes. As any of you who read this blog with any regularity will know, I love interconnection, separated grades, and efficiency.

The new routing starts in Robinson Town Center, and travels the Parkway to the West Busway, through downtown to the East Busway to Oakland. It returns by the same route. The old route started in Carnegie, traveled on the West Busway, and made a big loop in the East End, meaning it went via the East Busway to Oakland and returned downtown via 5th Ave and Boulevard of the Allies.

First of all the routing is much improved. By routing the G2 on the East Busway in both directions, the transit time between the two will be quicker, and will have fewer stops. This will make it a more attractive option for students trying to get downtown or to Robinson. To me this is an incredibly simple change that will pay dividends.

Secondly, by extending the route to Robinson, the G2 will take on the 28X's responsibility of stopping in Robinson Town Center (the bane of any rider's trip to the Airport in the past). This could potentially increase ridership on the G2 in addition to the fact that the 28X(R28) will now be able to shave a significant amount of time off its schedule making its service more appealing. A good scenario for both routes.

In some of the more sensationalized, attention grabbing headlines I have seen concerning the TDP; they have advertised it simply as the latest in a series of "route cuts". Not so my friend, and the new G2 is the perfect example proving that the program is not just another in a long series of "route cuts".

Note: The Port Authority needs to clean up the maps vs. route descriptions on the TDP website. If I look solely at the map, it seems that the new G2 will operate between 6 AM and 12 PM, and will use the existing route structure once across the river (between downtown and Oakland). If I read the draft recommendations document, it states that the bus will operate from roughly 6 AM to 12 AM and will use only the East Busway in both directions from downtown to Oakland.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Rapid Buses, Noise, and Customer Service

TDP and the BRT

I haven't been focusing as much on the TDP perhaps as I should be, but as usual, Paz over at Politics and Place gives some good analysis on some fluff on the TDP concerning rapid buses. For my two cents, if Pittsburgh wants to emulate anything they should emulate L.A. which has developed a comprehensive "rapid" bus system and has taken BRT further than any other transit agency in the nation with its Orange Line and Rapid services. When it comes to levels of bus service, L.A. is a standard we should work towards.

Quiet Buses

This may be one of the most exciting topics I have ever written about in the short history of this blog. That's right folks, bus mufflers. Even if you're not transit-geek enough to notice by looking, if you ride the bus, you've probably noticed the noise improvement because of the distinct lack of that loud obnoxious Port Authority bus sound and the frequent plume of black smoke.

I love these things for several reasons:

1. Makes buses quieter

2. Gives buses, and transit in general better PR

3. Potential emission improvements

I'm not sure if these new mufflers are actually filters as well, or if they are just mufflers. I searched the web and Port Authority's website but couldn't really find out much information that would point to whether these new exhausts were filters or not. I attempted to contact the Port Authority but (surprise, surprise) have not received a response.

If indeed these new exhausts are filters, my first question, is why the hell aren't they on all the buses. This ties in well with my post about the emission reduction grants. Spare the hybrid buses for now, and improve your whole fleet using the federal money. I do not know the price of these exhausts, but think of the number old stinky buses that you could fit for the price of one hybrid bus. I don't have the facts to really do a comparison analysis, but the question is; is anyone at the Port Authority doing the analysis? Has anyone asked the question whether it would create a greater benefit in emission reduction to outfit all the buses with this new filter or get a few hybrid buses? From my experiences with the Port Authority, my guess is probably not.

Customer Service, or Lack Thereof

I don't have that much experience with other transit agencies, but good god is the Port Authority not-user friendly. From rude drivers, to tying to get information of any kind (other than schedules), I have had so many headaches it's ridiculous. When I do a post about the Port Authority that requires technical information from the Port Authority, I pray that I can find it elsewhere, because trying to get it either from calling them or through their online comments section is like pulling teeth. What are your experiences? I have a hard time believing I am alone in this experience.