PAT Public Comments : 2010 August

Sunday, August 15, 2010 9:40 PM

From: "Glenn A. Walsh" <gawalsh@planetarium.cc>

To: "Jim Ritchie" <jritchie@portauthority.org>

Cc: "Glenn A. Walsh" <gawalsh@planetarium.cc>


To:   Port Authority Fare & Service Proposals
      Heinz 57 Center/Gimbels Landmark Building
      345 Sixth Avenue, Floor 3,
      Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222-2527

From: Glenn A. Walsh
      633 Royce Avenue
      Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15243-1149

      Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Subject: Service Reduction & Fare Increase Proposal - 2010 August

1) Brown Line Rail Service - I oppose complete elimination of Brown Line Light-Rail Transit service between Downtown and Allentown. Rush-hour service, perhaps more limited than at present, should be maintained for the inner city neighborhood of Allentown.

2) Restore Fare Zone 3 - The previous fare restructuring eliminated fare zone 3, giving commuters who do not pay Allegheny County taxes an immediate fare DECREASE of fifty cents per ride(!), while zone 2 riders and ticket users, and also all pass holders, suffered a fare INCREASE, and zone one riders and ticket users fares remained the same. Premium fares should not be imposed without the return to a fare structure where out-of-county riders pay their fair share!

3) Park-and-Ride Lot Fees - Once the Smart-Card System is implemented, weekday morning parking fees should be assessed at park-and-ride lots at rail and busway stations, which fill-up in the early morning. Commuters who arrive at rail and busway stations by walking, or by paying fare on a feeder bus, should not be subsidizing the parking service PAT provides to commuters who come by automobile. Once the Smart-Card System is implemented, this parking fee should be easy and inexpensive to assess. Weekday morning parking fees should be assessed for commuters arriving at these park-and-ride lots up until 10:00 a.m. To attract off-peak riders, and particularly shoppers bound for Downtown during the middle of the day, parking fees should not be assessed after 10:00 a.m. weekdays and on weekends and holidays.

4) Restore Cost-Effective Light-Rail Service - Red Line and Blue Line service should return to Downtown to South Hills alignments and service previously provided by routes 42S and 47L, respectively. The current Red Line and Blue Line service is currently more costly as it provides more Blue Line service than demand would require, while providing less Red Line service for a line that has always been much more greatly used.

The perfect example of this is weekday evenings after 7:30 p.m. During this time period Blue Line rail service, from Downtown to Washington Junction, has 15-minute headways for the rest of the evening, while the busier Red Line has only 30-minute headways for the rest of the evening! This is a misallocation of resources.

I am presuming that the extra Blue Line service is being provided to give South Hills Village riders a faster ride between Downtown and South Hills Village, along with greater headways, as an extra incentive to help fill the South Hills Village Parking Garage. This may make some marketing sense, when PAT can afford to provide the extra Blue Line service. However, when proposing to eliminate 35 percent of all service, this extra Blue Line service makes no sense.

I am very supportive of the effort to educate riders to transfer between transit vehicles, as is necessary when using the Library Line on weekends and the Red Line when traveling from Beechview to South Hills Village. This is one of the few portions of the TDP that I actually supported. Such transferring can allow the better allocation of transit vehicles and could actually provide increased headways to neighborhoods.

However, in the case of the Red and Blue Lines, when a 35 percent transit cut is proposed, the most cost-effective service would be to return to Blue Line service from Downtown to Library, via Overbrook, and Red Line service from Downtown to South Hills Village, via Beechview.

Although this will mean a little longer ride for commuters who travel between Downtown and South Hills Village, the ride IS just a little longer. According to PAT schedules, the MAXIMUM difference in running times, between Downtown and South Hills Village, between the Red Line and the Blue LIne, is seven minutes--and some runs are less than seven minutes. Such a small time difference, which South Hills Village commuters have accepted for nearly 25 years, should be acceptable, when a 35 percent service reduction is proposed!

5) Premium Fares - About 15-20 years ago, at a PAT rate hike hearing, I proposed premium fares on Red Flyer Express buses. I specifically proposed premium fares on Red Flyer Express buses because, at that time, nearly all commuters who used Red Flyer Express buses had a local bus (i.e. non-premium fares) alternative. Hence, those commuters who felt they could not afford to use the premium service could use local bus service at a more reasonable rate. At that time, my proposal was not implemented.

The current PAT premium fare proposal does not provide an alternative to many riders of, what would become, premium fare service vehicles, particularly the rail lines. Thus, people would be charged a premium fare by the luck of where they happen to live!

Further, this could result in premium service vehicles, particularly the rail lines, running close to empty in off-peak hours. While the North Shore Connector, and the original subway system, are major capital improvements intended to attract new riders, the premium fares will do the exact opposite, hence confirming critics' fears that the rail lines were only built for, and used by, more affluent suburbanites! Critics will receive greater ammunition to denounce the rail lines, showing that, due to premium fares discouraging ridership, PAT cannot attract a critical mass to support such major capital projects.

This could be devastating for future major, transit capital projects for Pittsburgh. Hence, our city would lag in rapid transit development, while other cities continue to progress in rapid transit.

6) Edgewood Towne Centre Service - The current proposal eliminates bus service to Edgewood Towne Centre. A new, small, and cost-effective station (simply transit shelters) on the East Busway should be built to serve Edgewood Towne Centre. A bridge or tunnel to the shopping center, from the East Busway station, would be the major cost of this proposal.

7) Off-Peak Headways - On July 21, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that "Every Port Authority route would have fewer trips during off-peak hours as the authority tries to preserve as much rush-hour service as possible." It should be remembered that many PAT riders have working hours that do not conform to the traditional weekday peak hours. Further, many people traveling to medical appointments and on shopping trips also do not do so during regular peak weekday hours. And, a very large percentage of these patrons are transit-dependent riders. Headways cannot decline so much as to make these important non-peak hour trips impractical.

8) Toll Roads - The ENTIRE "System of Interstate and Defense Highways" is completely overbuilt, considering that state and Federal transportation revenue has never been enough to maintain the entire system. It would have been much better if each state, in coordination with adjacent states for highway connections, would have simply built as many toll roads as they could afford to maintain. Federal money could have assisted with this construction, but only if the particular highways could be financially maintained.

ALL Interstate highways should be tolled, to solve the transportation financial problems we have today, and to free-up some transportation funding for public transportation. With Smart-Card/E-Z Pass technologies, this could now be done more cost-effectively. And, this technology could also allow discounts for local traffic on Interstate highways, one of the concerns of people who live near Interstate 80.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://friendsofthezeiss.org >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
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