Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One day in Pittsburgh

Can't believe I missed this.  National Geographic Magazine's June issue uses Pittsburgh as an example looking at some energy metrics and commuting.  See: One Day in Pittsburgh.  Click through the link to see their graphic. 

There is this bizarre disconnect out there isn't there?    BP-induced oil phobia growing...  greater 'green' talk all around.  I bet eco-consciousness (whatever that really means) is higher than in a long time. Yet the thing that may have the biggest impact on oil usage, that would be your mode of commuting, people don't really care much about what is really happening to the things that actually do conserve energy. 

Note how the National Geographic "eco friendly" commuting patterns for us supposes a +40% increase in transit usage for Pittsburgh.   Yet there is virtually no public reaction to the announcement that the Port Authority may soon cut routes by 30%.   In fact, given the limited footprint of the AC Port Authority within the greater region,  coupled with the minimal transit options once you are outside of Allegheny County, how is it even conceivable you could really bump up transit usage by 40% in less than a generation (or $6/gallon gas I suppose).

So +40% in some conjectured world of National Geographic, but -30% a real possibility on the ground. That's quite a difference in and of itself.  Worse than that by far when you think about it.  The routes and ridership the Port Authority will lose will inevitably be its longer routes and longer distance riders... So the commuting by auto that will take the place of those routes are proportionally much larger generators of new demand for fuel than the routes the Port Authority is likely to save which are the shorter routes, and the shorter-distance passengers closer in to the city.

It's hard for me to watch any news or commentary on any of this... it all makes so little sense from just a pure consistency point of view.  Pro-transit or anti-transit or whatever your thoughts are is up to you... But most seem to want to have their cake and eat it too... thinking they are doing ever more environmentally friendly things, but leaving transit to consolidate into dysfunction. Consider that most 'green' initiatives you can do on your own are likely obviated by commuting by car vice almost any other alternative. 

At the end of the day...  the trends for transit usage are all down and if that bothers you there isn't anyone really to blame other than ourselves.  To borrow a headline:  We've met the enemy, and it is us.


Anonymous MH said...

I still don't see why I can't blame the tunnel for the downward trend in transit usage. I am, once again, a fairly regular transit user, and I think the PA is hugely wasteful and poorly organized. Presumably people who never take the bus hold even more negative opinions.

Anyway, this sort of theater happens all the time with public services as a way to build support for increased taxes, or at least test the water to see if it can happen. It's always the disaster-case that comes first.

But, if they do have to make cuts, I think the suburban routes are where to cut. You may save more gas on one individuals commute, but I'd bet that convincing (or requiring in the case of the carless) living closer to the city would save even more gas than getting somebody on a bus. Certainly in the long run, if they can't shift residential patterns, public transit won't be effective at saving much CO2. Even if you take a bus to work, if you live far enough out, you take long drives to do almost everything else. And in the time a bus takes to run to Cranberry and back, another bus could have taken three different sets of people on a shorter commute.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 8:51:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Sorry. Blame the tunnel for the downward trend in support for transit, not a trend in use.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 8:58:00 PM  

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