Thursday, August 05, 2010

The NSC strikes back

A few days ago a report was out listing the North Shore Connector as one of the more wasteful stimulus projects.  Newsweek is just now pushing back on that list: How Wasteful Was Stimulus Spending, really? Their conclusion in general that is it was not such a bad idea.  More interesting is how it labeled the project in the article. According to Newsweek the NSC was merely the "North Shore Connector to Professional Sports Stadiums, Casino ".  I wonder if their description was meant to bolster the idea that the project was useful for some purpose.

Seems like even if the NSC wins this little battle it loses the war if that is its permanent moniker. Isn't CCAC over there? A city neighborhood or two? A few new corporate headquarters sprinkled in last I checked. For dreamers, the whole point of the route was the initial step in getting mass transit out to the airport.  All has been scaled back so far and muddled by the political process that nobody talks about it like that anymore, but that is where it really started long ago.  and if you ever really want to get mass transit to Cranberry, you have to get over one of those dreaded rivers one way or another. As it stands now, will the Port Authority even have money to use the tunnel once it opens?

Anyway, there is another NSC story in the news in the Trib:  North Shore Connector job effect difficult to detail.The article gets to a growing problem I call the demise of economic impact analysis.  The confusion over simple stuff in analysis is getting worse.  What constitutes 'job creation" and what the inputs are to our modesl used to meausre these things is degrading.  We try to be consistent and call job creation a metric of net new permanent job creation... so jobs that last.  Looks like the numbers associated with the NSC connector are "person years" or "person months" or who knows?  But job creation is not just a count of bodies associated with a project, especially if their work amounts to only a period of time. It is the exact same flaw in a lot of the discussion surrounding Marcellus Shale economic impacts.  Basically you never really want to count construction jobs as part of your long term job creation analysis.. and if you really feel a need to do that, you really need to label that as such.  The point it to figure out the investment the new construction will then induce and for the NSC there are lots of interesting questions.  With parking rates going up, will there be a new flux of parkers on the North Shore walking or biking into the Golden Triangle or biz looking for space now moving out of Downtown?  Those are the real questions someone needs to be looking at now.


Anonymous Jt said...

The NSC missed the opportunity to really make an impact on the North Side. While it is ideally situated to serve PNC Park, Heinz Field, and the Rivers Casino, other destinations that have would have a higher daily commuter usage are left underserved by the NSC. CCAC, the National Aviary, Allegheny General Hospital, and the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum are all on the far side of Monument Hill from the NSC station and will likely see little to no impact from the NSC.

Personally, I’m one of the few people in the city that actually live at one end of the line and work within walking distance of the NSC station. It is just a shame to see how politics has degraded the project to a national mockery.

Thursday, August 05, 2010 1:44:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I assume that knowledge of how to do economic impact analysis is alive and well and that the reason we don't see a clear answer to the questions you've listed is because the answers are that bad.

Thursday, August 05, 2010 2:21:00 PM  
Blogger Infinonymous said...

All one needs to ridicule (let alone refute) the 'we'll go north under the Allegheny to get to the airport from downtown' assertion is (1) a map and (2) a third-grader.

And all one needs to know about the North Shore Connector is that no one takes "credit" for the project. It would have been better to hire union members to dig straight down in an outlying field until the money ran out; same result, less disruption.

Thursday, August 05, 2010 2:39:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I remember reading why they wanted to cross the Allegheny to cross the Ohio to get to the airport when 95% of the existing tracks are already on the same side of the river as the airport. But, I can't remember what the reason was, probably because it didn't sound very convincing.

Thursday, August 05, 2010 4:00:00 PM  
Anonymous DBR96A said...

How dare we spend stimulus money on an infrastructure project! We could have used the money to open a puppet theater instead!

Thursday, August 05, 2010 8:17:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

One cheer for being less useless than a worst case scenario.

Thursday, August 05, 2010 8:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason they would need to go through the North Shore and over the Ohio River to go to the Airport is because having lines from the south and west combine somewhere around S. Hills Junction and go into town would completely overburden the system- especially at rush hour. Another plus would be the fact that it would serve communities like McKees Rocks and Sheraden which really need an economic boost.

Thursday, August 05, 2010 9:58:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I don't know about Sheraden, but the Port Authority needs an economic boost far more than McKees Rocks needs one.

Friday, August 06, 2010 10:12:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

You don't need to go through South Hills Junction. If you are doing a new river-crossing anyway, you could basically finish the original West Busway plan and do a new Mon crossing around Stanwix or so. That saves you a second river crossing over the Ohio, and you also get to finish the West Busway (no reason not to make it a combined system), increasing the bang for your buck.

Of course that raises the larger point, which is that T-style light rail to the airport is a dumb idea anyway. It isn't substantially faster than a bus in long-distance applications, and you are just wasting transportation capital once you get past the congested parts of I-376.

Oh well. Even though the NSC wouldn't have made my Top 10 (or probably even Top 20) list of transportation projects in the Pittsburgh area, it is not like it will be useless--plenty of people are going to ride it.

Friday, August 06, 2010 2:08:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

and you are just wasting transportation capital once you get past the congested parts of I-376.

Yes. The 28x is really a very nice way to get to the airport, especially at rush hour, because of the busway. I've heard that it doesn't mess around at Robinson Center anymore. If true, the 28x must be faster than a cab from downtown.

Friday, August 06, 2010 2:42:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Yep, part of the Port Authority's Transit Development Plan was to eliminate the Robinson loop to speed up the 28X--and that was one of the first changes they actually implemented.

That service could be improved further by finishing the West Busway (which would improve many other routes as well). But even as is, it is definitely good enough to make the idea of light rail to the airport a boondoggle.

Friday, August 06, 2010 3:23:00 PM  
Anonymous n'at said...

Once upon a time PAT had first rate planning, engineering and operations divisions. They all took quite a hit when Cranmer and Dunn drove County government into a ditch.

Only to prove their worth then and now where's our former commissioners and where is Skoutelas, Millar, et al?

Friday, August 06, 2010 6:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I recall the NSC was originally part of a line that was to go through Downtown and out to Oakland and Squirrel Hill. Didn't the Dunn/Cranmer regime kill that?

The T would never be a viable alternative to bus or car travel to the airport unless it was able to actually travel above 10mph and not stop every 500 feet like it does in the South Hills.

BTW- it's like that because Jack Wagner didn't want to lose stops in his home neighborhood of Beechview. 25 years later he's complaining about PAAC waste. Hypocrite much?

Friday, August 06, 2010 9:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Rachel C. said...

thanks chris. however, having spent the last few years asking for those economic indicators all over the economic development world, i tend to agree with MH's suggestion, that it's not necessarily that we need to get smarter about how to measure impacts, we need the political will to uncover the subsidy system.

Monday, August 09, 2010 10:29:00 PM  

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