Monday, April 06, 2009

on those Port Authority changes coming down the road

If someone really disputes this I would be surprised... but it seems clear to me that the Port Authority has signalled its intention to decrease the number of stops it services when it revamps its routing. I know full well some out there think that fewer stops is somehow analogous to 'efficiency'. Might be a good thing for some riders, but certainly a bad thing for a lot of transit riders in Pittsburgh. Thus the 'efficiency' term is being misused at the very least. 'Efficient' and 'cheap' are not synonyms.

Nonetheless, if anyone thinks it's a good thing here there is a great little bit of research just out that documents the obvious that distance from a transit stop is highly correlated with the propensity of elderly to use public transit.

See: Access to Public Transit and Its Influence on Ridership for Older Adults in Two U.S. Cities by Daniel Baldwin Hess, Journal of Transport and Land Use.

Remember... we might be getting younger, but at the end of the day Allegheny County remains one of the oldest counties in the nation... certainly one one of the oldest large counties in the US. In fact I would speculate that the Port Authority serves the single oldest ridership of any major transit system in the nation by large measure. Keep that in mind when thinking about the 'efficiency' changes that will be proposed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always found it interesting that Pittsburgh/Allegheny County doesn't lead the nation in public infrastructure for the elderly. Florida, for example, has done a lot of interesting things.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 9:01:00 AM  
Blogger Jerry said...

It bears mentioning that the number of stops wouldn't be such a big deal if we had a well-designed transit system. Say there were one high-speed subway or LRT running from Oakland to downtown along Second Avenue, one running from Homewood to downtown along Penn Avenue, and one from Ross to downtown along East Street/279. Then use buses as feeders. If you're only on the bus for a few blocks, making 4 stops doesn't seem so bad.

As it is, I could name a number of stops which are unnecessary delays and, from my observation, have no elderly boarders.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm all for considering the elderly when making transit improvements but you also have to consider that in many neighborhoods the bus stops are so close together that if you stand at one of them, you can see the next two or three down the line. To me that's a little too close.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The transit stops are way, way too closely packed. Ride the "T" through Brookline where PAT stops a light rail vehicle (a train for crying out loud) every couple hundred yards. That's as inefficient as it gets. The only big changes, which Burghers will inevitably complain about, is that there will be transfers on nearly every non-busway/LRT route. Just like everywhere else in the country.

As for the terminology of "efficiency", after going through the near-strike, I think that just means "cheaper" or "what we can afford", not necessarily "better". Unfortunately, if we want more service, then we need to raise rates and taxes annually above ordinary inflation. You know, like Pitt does with tuition.

But no one seems to want to do that.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where I get on the bus there are 3 stops within ~700 feet. If they remove one of these stops then I'll have to walk an additional 350 feet, heaven forbid. Personally, I would rather have the bus run more frequently, by making less stops.

Eliminating tightly grouped stops could decrease trip time, increase frequency and decrease fuel usage. I would call all those things 'efficiency' and note that the study you point to doesn't look at how some of these benefits would affect ridership.

That being said, the Port Authority could do more to include public input in these changes. Back to that study, a much more important variable than 'distance to stops' is 'knowledge.' When elderly people wake up and find there bus stop is no longer there, not knowing where to get the bus might be a bigger impediment then walking an extra hundred feet.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 3:03:00 PM  
Blogger n'at said...

I think this is stumbling towards the premise of an earlier blag posting of yours, Mr. Briem, or the Allegheny Institute regarding the means at which the Port Authority is primarily interacting with and receiving feedback from the public. Although there have been public meetings around the County, the majority of the feedback is received by email and the Port Authority webpage created for the project.

Not many transit riding bubushkas are versed in the innerwebz - now there's a graduate study on precision and bias, if I ever saw one...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 6:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

n'at very good point. The elderly are not computer literate, they just know that there bus stop was there, and now its gone. Further isolating them. The newspaper, of which the elderly were avid readers, doesn't provide the kind of information that it used to. Maybe we need to revisit, AGAIN, smaller mini buses, that feed into larger routes. Transport the elderly to the larger bus route. Have main bus routes, full stops, and mini bus feeders to the full ride.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 12:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: the number of T stops in Beechview. As a former PAT employee way back when the rail system was being designed, there were public meetings in Beechview. The original plan way way back then called for a tunnel under Beechview with maybe two stations. That went over like a lead balloon. Since the T is essentially a modernized trolley line that follows the same alignment as the old line, the folks in Beechview demanded that they keep their same stops above ground. That's why we have the over-stopped area of beechview today.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 9:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a query for all of those who are seeking "feedback" from any particular group: How do you propose soliciting it in a meaningful, timely and economically viable fashion?

As n'at said, there were public meetings held around the County. And PAT drove its specially-designed planning bus to senior centers and community centers all over the County soliciting input. What else is needed? Or is the fact that Port Authority is also taking comments via email some sacrilegious violation of its duty to function in the least cost-effective way possible?

This seems to me to be nothing more than a pre-emptive exercise to complain about whatever PAT changes in the ridiculously complicated and inefficient transit system that was inherited from Pittsburgh Railways.

And nice job Chris, your anti-PAT streak continues unabated.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 9:06:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I thought I am pretty pro-PAT?? Not a fan of PAT management for the reasons I have explained repeatedly. The two are very different issues.

So let's try it this way. Whatever PAT has or has not done to this point. Are you really trying to make the case that the public knows enough about what is happening, or about to happen. Have you talked to any seniors yourself and do they have an inkling of what is being planned. I am serious with that question. I have asked it a lot and get very consistent answers.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 9:15:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

and very good attempt at an ad hominum attack there. Do you have any thoughts at all on the research which is the subject of this post. I think it passes the objectivity and thoroughness criteria don't you think? Is this type of analysis part of plan?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 9:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have any of you actually ever ridden a Port Authority Bus? Seniors make up about 4% of ridership in my experience.

Poor people ride the bus. Students ride the bus. Black people ride the bus. Seniors do not.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 9:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The study that is cited and the proposed PAT changes really get to the nub of what planning should facilitate and what we can afford. Do we want light rail to Oakland? If so, then we need to come to grips with the fact that few seniors will use it. Do we need more service to growing areas like the North Hills to serve commuters? Again, that will likely lead to fewer senior riders.

Based upon my anecdotal experience riding busses around Pittsburgh, senior PAT riders are mostly minority and tend to be more heavily concentrated in areas where transit already exists (e.g., East Liberty). So yes, "efficiency" will decrease service in those areas unless PAT's funding is significantly increased.

Real planning requires rationing of services and, IMHO, a guideline of the structure that you want to develop. If you want to preserve senior ridership, then the system should not change. If you want to increase access to employment and encourage use by car-centric populations, then senior ridership as a function must decline accordingly.

And for the former PAT employee, correct me if I'm wrong but Jack "Good Government" Wagner was the most vocal critic of any streamlining of T service through Beechview, wasn't he?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 10:47:00 AM  
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