Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Skybus lives!

Slow vacation week has me even watching the evening news... KDKA's Dave Crawley has a great story on the history buff who literally found the last Skybus car semi-abandoned, but is now on it's way to be displayed at Bombardier's headquarters.  I'll post a link to the story when it comes up.

When it comes to politics and transit, Skybus is the mysterious force that connects it all here in Pittsburgh.   I really am not joking.  To this day almost nothing in regional transit development does not suffer from some aspect of the demise of Skybus.  The busways, the T, the lack of a Spine Line and everything to the North Shore Connector are all merely vestiges of trying to salvage something of what was once planned back in the 1960's.  Too long to get into here, but I swear it is true.  Fodder for another day/week/year/decade.

As for the politics of it all. Just read this:  SKYBUS Pittsburgh's Failed Industry Targeting Strategy of the 1960s.  by Morton Coleman, David Houston and Edward K. Muller. 2000.

On public transit...  Sometimes I get asked some question about transit in Pittsburgh starting like this  "Why doesn't Pittsburgh have ...."..  and you can fill in the end of the sentence yourself.  A real subway?  Commuter rail? A clue?  My answer is really Skybus, the nexus of it all.  When you add it all up, nowhere else has a region gone from being so far ahead of the curve to so far behind when it comes to public transit.  Some places have always been transit backwaters.  Some have always been ahead of the curve and some places have made great progress moving from the former to the latter.  But when it comes to moving backwards we stand alone.  We have only to look to ourselves for once being on the cutting edge and just collapsing. Collapsing in vision, in funding, in focus and just plain implementation. My explanation is that it all goes to the multiyear, if not multidecade, trauma that was not to become Skybus which sapped all the energy there was to making transit better here. Now our only meaningful transit goal is a narrow ill-considered definition of 'efficiency'.  

From my list of favorite YouTube videos is this of the Skybus history:


Anonymous Johnnyg said...

Skybus may be the cause of transit failure, but its handmaiden was the utter failure of the regional transit tax initiative. Every mid-size region with decent transit--Bay Area, Portland, Denver, St.Louis, Minneapolis-St.Paul, Charlotte, Miami--have such a tax. Those that don't have such a tax--Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Kansas City, Baltimore, Atlanta, Sacramento, San Diego--are underserved by transit.

In that vein, you think we have problems now, just wait until a Republican wins the Governor's mansion next year and kills the plan to toll I-80 once and for all. Every Republican candidate has pledged to kill it.

Happy new year!

Thursday, December 31, 2009 6:35:00 AM  
Anonymous RoboticGhost said...

I remember an elementary school social studies book of mine that mentioned the Skybus. The little illustration that went with the story showed an African American in a hard hat waving goodbye to his little boy before he hopped on the Skybus to zoom off to the mill. The image pops in my head from time to time while commuting about. I was way big into raisins and cartoons at the time, so the politics of it all sailed over my head. I'm going to read the referenced paper, but it seems to me that all transit projects and funding tend to die at the State level where rural bias rears its ugly head.

Thursday, December 31, 2009 9:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skybus. Still the fastest way to get from Corrigan Drive to the buffalo herd!

Monday, January 04, 2010 1:31:00 PM  

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