Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bus stops

I feel like I have lived or worked in just about every neighborhood traversed by the 54C. In fact it was in hailing a 54C that my mother tells me 'bus' became my second spoken word coming after 'Dad' and even before 'Mom' to her chagrin. If for that reason alone I am obliged to point out that that tomorrow is national Dump the Pump day promoting public transit. Pittsburgh, or to be precise Allegheny County, has always ranked high in terms of public transit ridership. But like many other things in town, what has been true in the past is not equally true these days. The tea leaves are not positive about the future of public transit in the region. This figure shows the dramatic rise over the last quarter century in the percentage of Pittsburgh region workers who drive alone to work, along with a corresponding decrease in the percentage who carpool. More than most other industries, public transit relies on an economy of scale that breaks down when ridership drops to such low levels. Your average bus costs upwards of a quarter million a pop and there is no way to make it come close to breaking even $-wise if run mostly empty. Probably the bigger danger is that as public transit ridership continues to sink, the perception of transit as a public good diminishes as well. Will higher gas prices change this trend? I dunno.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does carpooling include bus riding? Is there anyway to include walking and biking or are they insignificant?

Thursday, June 08, 2006 7:48:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I tweaked the figure to make it clearer. In the definition used for this carpooling is a subset of private vehicle use and thus not public transit at all. I have a map of patterns of biking/walking somewhere I will post, but you are right the %'s are pretty small. Without getting into whether these numbers really count transportation patterns correctly, census #'s for Allegheny County show just 0.2% biking to work and something like 4% walking.

Friday, June 09, 2006 8:55:00 AM  
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

I wonder if this increase in driving alone, and decrease in taking transit is a result of people no longer commuting as much to downtown as they used to, and an increase of suburban commuting as companies no longer are interested dealing the hassle of being downtown.

Other cities with a large percentage increase in driving alone were Norfolk, Buffalo, DC, Philly, Rochester, Jacksonville, Hartford, Indy, KC, San Diego (surprising), and St Louis. Some of these also have IMHO less desirable downtowns.

Mark, here is the web page for the data that Chris references, Chapter 4. MEANS OF TRAVEL TO WORK from the Census Transportation Planning Package (CTPP).

Exhibit 4.13 Transit and Walk Commutes: 1980-2000 For the PIT MSA, the transit/walk percentages were:

1980 10.4/6.6
1990 7.4/5.0, and
2000 6.3/3.6.

Exhibit 4.10 Means of Transportation to Work: 1990, Pittsburgh, % Bike, 0.1.

Exhibit 4.11 Means of Transportation to Work: 2000, Pittsburgh, % Bike, 0.1.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

employment in the city proper is as high as it ever was.. if anything, employment in city by place of work has trended slighly up through the 1990's.. so if there is any decrease in downtown employment it has been offset by employment elsewhere in the city.. which probably means Oakland. I have neighborhood level employment numbers for the city here:

Downtown here is listed under "Golden Triangle". When you see employment numbers for Downtown Pittsburgh you have to be clear what they are defining as Downtown.. often they are including parts of North Shore, Southside, Uptown or Bluff. The numbers in these profiles are for the very small area between the rivers and below uptown for the most part. At over 95K, I would be hard pressed to say there has been much erosion of downtown employment. The new bank centers offset a lot of the weakness seen in the commerical space elsewhere downtown.

Thursday, June 15, 2006 6:07:00 AM  

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