posted by C. Briem at Saturday, March 23, 2013
The idea of spending at least $1.4 billion (likely much more) on a T extension along highway routes to the North Hills isn't "inconceivable". Rather, the term I would use is "ill-conceived," and extremely so. It is the wrong technology, the cost to benefit ratio would be way too high, there are many more transportation needs in the area that shuld be a much higher priority, and it very likely would not get the sort of regional public support some folks seem to be counting on once the actual allocation of costs (both capital and operating) became apparent.But because it has a sort of crude appeal when you ignore rational, informed, even mildly in-depth analysis, it is a good bet we will keep seeing people talk about it without it ever getting done, which is a strong regional tradition.
By the way, it is probably worth briefly explaining how the politics of this actually work (or they don't work at all).So you need state and federal money to do big transit projects in Allegheny County. That isn't because counties like Allegheny are net takers of state and federal transportation money--just the opposite, we are net contributors, which is why we need to get some of that money back so we can do our transit projects.Allegheny County alone probably doesn't have the political weight it needs to get those funds (I say probably, because we do a pretty poor job of coordinating our efforts and so the proposition hasn't been well tested). There has been a meme lately among some Pittsburgh bloggers that to solve this problem, we should offer hyper-expensive transit projects that will touch on outlying counties. That is foolish, because they won't go for it, because they don't want to spend their own political capital and local funding on such projects.The way this actually can work is that everyone gets some funding for what they actually want--what is sometimes called horse-trading. For outlying counties that is mostly funding for roads and bridges (and state police, which the state has lumped into these discussions). Allegheny County devotes more of its share of federal and state funding to transit.Of course this isn't a perfect system, as demonstrated by the fact that at the end of the day, Allegheny County is a net loser in terms of taxes paid minus funding received back. But that system can work, and traditionally did work, provided that everyone is in a cooperative mood.To summarize a complex topic, recently the Tea Party types who have taken over the state and federal Republican parties have been trying to destroy these traditional ways of getting things done. But again, you won't be able to pull them back into the fold with promises of extending hyper-expensive transit projects just outside the borders of Allegheny County. Those forces are just going to have to be decisively and repeatedly defeated in state and federal elections, which may take a bit of cohort replacement.
I just heard a report on WESA this morning saying that an extension to the North Shore anytime in the foreseeable future is highly unlikely. It's in the Trib's interest to promote it, since so many of its readers are up there. But as readers of this blog know, the most logical next step is Oakland and the East End.
I'm no transit expert, but as one who lives not far from the Camp Horne Rd exit off the Parkway North (and drives it during rush hour often enough to know), it's really the least congested artery in the region. Just expand the little-used HOV lane further north to relieve some AM congestion earlier, or put in place a Trans Mileno style rapid bus system. Now, figuring out a way to run the T along Route 65, one that eventually connects to the airport somehow? That might just spur some new development in areas that could use it, like Brighton Heights, Bellevue, Avalon.
And now - BY POPULAR DEMAND -The Light Snail Express to Cranberry Township! Do you suppose there's something in the water around here?
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