Thursday, February 10, 2011


Hypothesis: Transit is being cut precisely where population and jobs are growing the fastest.

Sounds pathological.

Reality: Last Bus Out of Cranberry

Not even going to get into: Spatial Mismatch


Anonymous Ken Zapinski said...

The 13K Marshall Express costs $5.53 per passenger trip, which is higher than average for express routes and far higher than the Port Authority per-trip average bus cost of $4.44. In contrast, a route like the old 61C has a cost of $1.90 per passenger trip, and serves nearly twice as many people for each hour it is in service. (Evaluations of each individual Port Authority route are available at:

So, in a time of limited resources when service hours are going to be cut, how is cutting one of the highest cost, lowest productivity routes pathological?

Thursday, February 10, 2011 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I'd be careful with that logic Ken... i.e. cutting the highest lost least used route. Apply that to airlines and the Paris route would be a no-brainer for elimination.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

OK.. I apologize Ken and let's try a less snippy answer.

First off, read the report on spatial mismatch for just one answer.

But the cutting of routes precisely where the most population and job growth is has a broader implication. It means the strategic vision of transit is only that of minimal social service. Once you eliminate your presence in that whole borad demographic you really are saying there is no hope for increased transit usage ever. Might as well just shut down all suburban routes. People's transit use, and their perceptions of transit persist for decades so abandoning the specific market will have implications for decades.

Then go back to the spatial mismatch piece. Awful lot cheaper to get folks to a job in Cranberry than for them to not be working at all.

and if you doubt any of that, I'll give you the long answer.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:04:00 PM  
Blogger Infinonymous said...

Everyone is correct, in part.

The InsolvenCity-Paris route is a no-brainer. Even the ossified, obsolete Allegheny Conferencers know it.

There are important, complicated points associated with transit cuts (and in particular cuts that estrange entire sections of the funding base from service). But they are primarily long-term issues, and involve factors other than propping up established economic interests or hollow cheerleading, so it is difficult to expect them to become part of the local debate.

(Plus, much of Cranberry's population consists of people whose feet voted against taxes and services, so perhaps those feet should not mind walking . . .)

Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:19:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

For the record, I love the Pgh-Paris flight.. Going for my gold star even. My pocketbook, and those of my various employers, greatly appreciate the subsidy I have to admit. But I am also Catholic which means I feel guilty about everything... Everytime I am on the flight I feel I should be making a donation to the Conference. It is a nonprofit I think, so I could write it off.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Zapinski said...

Actually, Delta is quite happy with the cost and productivity of the Paris flight, which is why they are expanding to daily service in June, even after the agreement with the Conference expires.

If your argument that we are pathological (collectively) for having an insufficient funding mechanism that would allow for robust transit service to outlying -- but growing -- suburban communities, that's one thing.

But it sounded like the 'pathological' comment was directed toward the Port Authority, i.e., they were making a disastrously bad decision to cut the 13K as opposed to some other route. That's a perspective I don't quite understand. All things being equal, I'd love to have a transit system that could provide suburban express service for all the reasons you mention (though very little of it is used for reverse commuting to Cranberry job centers.)

But all things aren't equal and cuts have to be made, so keeping the high density routes -- which also tend to serve the social service lifeline function -- should take priority, I believe.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:32:00 PM  
Anonymous n'at said...

I believe what lives in cranberry also works in cranberry, a few jilted tax dodgers have no recourse anywho. North park is still theirs for natting around.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:37:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I'm with n'at and Infi (and I suppose PAT) and this. If Cranberry wants a better bus, they can pay for it. Full disclosure: In between bouts of being annoyed into driving, I ride the 61c (also the 61a, b, and d as well as the 71's and sometimes a few others).

Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:45:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Once you eliminate your presence in that whole borad demographic you really are saying there is no hope for increased transit usage ever.

That's true, but I don't see how this is the Port Authority's fault. If any public transit authority has had appreciable success at serving low density housing plans without a massive subsidy, I'm not aware of it. From a public policy perspective, an envirnomental perspective, and a regional development perspective, I think we'd be better off encouraging more central development.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 2:08:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Ken, the last public news on this is that the conference was encouraging bookings because they anticipated the decision to continue the flights to happen in the spring. So if you are saying that has happened already and they made a decision to continue without subsidy I would think that is big news. they have had their fall schedules including the paris flight for a couple months now I believe. So the scheduling in itself does not say much. Just wondering if you are letting us in on big news, or if I am misunderstanding.

As to whom I am addressing 'pathological'.. it certainly starts beyond the conference and more at a collective leadership.. though the port authority goes along pretty easily. That is another topic in a sense.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 2:12:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

You do remind me of an important point and I'll skip some of the bigger issues..

but when we want to cut something, interesting how there is data made available to justify it. Is there disclosure of the subsidy cost per passenger on the Paris flight over the first 2 years? I may have missed that being available.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 2:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Captain61A said...

How about a compromise - PAT agrees to continue bus service to Cranberry if Cranberry riders agree to pay Pgh Earned Income tax.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 3:06:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I'm not that familiar with Cranberry, but from the 13K route map, it looked to me like the 13K is of very little use for somebody working in Cranberry and living in Pittsburgh but of potential use for people going the other way. It starts in a parking lot and all. I could be wrong on that, but if that is the case, it is hard to view the 13K as anything but a subsidy for a relatively wealthy community.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 3:13:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Yeah, I don't see blaming PAT for cutting their higher-cost routes, when they have no choice but to make cuts. I do see blaming the state for cutting its funding to PAT, and in general I see blaming politicians who have turned transportation policy into just another battlefield in the Culture Wars, which in turn is just a cover story for efforts to transfer as much wealth from urban areas to rural areas as possible.

Friday, February 11, 2011 8:48:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

I looked it up on the web and you can take a private bus from Butler County to Pittsburgh for only $6 each way. If Butler wanted to subsidize that, they can. Unless the bus service is structured so that it could plausibly be of use to somebody who didn't have a car in Cranberry, I don't see that asking them to pay the real cost is a problem.

Friday, February 11, 2011 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Actually, prior to the cuts that have already taken affect, it was clear to me that logistically, we run one of the most inefficient public transit schemes in America.

Here you had the 67A, the 67C, the 67E, 67F AND the 68A/B/D/E/F/G. the 67s (except the 'H' which served Squirrel Hill via Panther Hollow/Schenley Park) all used Forbes Ave outbound to Beeler St. to Wilkins to Dallas to Penn to the Wilkinsburg East Busway. In a real transit system, we would have service FROM Wilkinsburg TO Oakland via Point Breeze and Squirrel Hill, and all that Southeastern inbound traffic would be served by smaller buses dumping at the Busway in Wilkinsburg, where expanded local and express service along the East Busway would bring the Downtown traffic Downtown. Essentially, the East Busway is terribly underutilized. Had we followed the recommendations of the Eastern Corridor Transit study and used the Norfolk Southern line from Downtown to Greensburg in adition to the East Busway, we could eliminate so many fixed routes we could redesign service to the East. Once we complete the AVRR commuter rail we can fundamentally reconfigure transit to the Northeast. We still have active rail lines that head to the airport (granted they are already on the side of the river that the airport is on) and greater use of the South and West Busways in addition to greater use of the 'T' will allow us to increase ridership on our fixed guideway modes and decrease bringing all those buses through the entirety of the South Hills and through the transit tunnel/bridges.

The decades-long regional lack of vision is what leaves us with a system that is worse than the one we had in the 60's. The surface transportation network was never properly completed because of that same lack of vision.

The cost, in today's dollars, of fixing our transportation and transit systems is almost prohibitive, yet it stands in the way of our future.

High-speed rail from Pittsburgh to Cleveland will be nice, if it stops at the airport, or else we'll never get light rail there. If we had commuter rail from Downtown to Greensburg/Latrobe, and high-speed rail to Cleveland that stopped at the airport, we might possible be able to link all of our job center and all of our airports.

The Spine Line from Downtown to Wilkinsburg, linking Oakland, Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze would decrease the need for all of those 61s, 67s, and those hybrid buses we now have, and if we also used the CSX link to Homestead, we could connect the waterfront.

I can ramble on and on and on, but we made this bed 50 years ago with small-minded thinking and it will take some extremely creative thinking and financing to get us out of it now.

Friday, February 11, 2011 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

The decades-long regional lack of vision is what leaves us with a system that is worse than the one we had in the 60's.

And yet your whole comment kind of assumes we could undo that and doesn't address where we go from here.

if we also used the CSX link to Homestead, we could connect the waterfront.

If we had a rail bridge over the Mon that would work just great if we also had a way to get from the bottom of Panther Hollow to someplace useful. I think it was ADB who called that line a way to connect a brown field to CMU's basement. As far as Oakland's job sites, it doesn't get you much closer than the busway.

Friday, February 11, 2011 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think I stated that we would have "prohibitive" difficulties in addressing the impacts of that lack of vision.

The Spine Line as it was theorized, was, in actuality, the "Forbes Avenue Subway", as it essentially follows Forbes Avenue from Downtown to Wilkinsburg, so that would address the Oakland part of your question. We do have a railbridge over the Mon, right next to the New Glenwood Bridge in Glen Hazel, where that particular CSX line has to cross the river. that same CSX line also goes to Lawrenceville the other way where it connects to another set of rail lines near the East Busway's Neville Avenue onramp.

Granted, it would cost almost $3 billion to construct the Forbes Avenue Subway under the highest-price realestate in the region, but it would almost be worth it in terms of connective synergies.

The Downtown-Greensburg commuter rail would be actually not that expensive, and since there is also a branch of that line, that in Homewood, extends over the Allegheny River to rail lines near Waterworks Mall and Northeastward, we could serve many nodes via its above-grade crossing at Franstown Avenue at Washington Blvd on the edge of Homewood.

As for where we go from here? Taxes I suppose, because as long as the GOP controls the state and federal taxing capacity, we're going to have to reform what we do at the local level to finance it. If we didn't also have the world's oldest water and sewerage pipes in dire need of reconstruction under a federal mandate, this would be easier.

But if we don't do it, our kids won't be any better positioned to do it, either.

Friday, February 11, 2011 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Since this has become a free-ranging discussion, I will once again mention that I think Pittsburgh would be well-advised to look seriously at using urban gondolas to provide relatively rapid transit to Oakland. That technology has certain limitations, but one thing it can do is provide decent rapid transit over hills, ravines, and rivers at a reasonable cost. So instead of billions, we could be talking hundreds of millions, and we could be conceiving of routes that would be practically impossible using other technologies.

Here is one possible map, just to help illustrate the possibilities:

Friday, February 11, 2011 12:41:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

The gondolas practically pay for themselves.

Friday, February 11, 2011 12:56:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

You joke, but they likely could be operated with relatively low subsidies, if any, and in fact they could be good candidates for a PPP.

Saturday, February 12, 2011 9:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


wouldn't we be required to, oh, say, rip up the streets and unchannelize all the storm sewers, or flood the City first?

Saturday, February 12, 2011 10:52:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

When the moon hits your eye on a car in the sky that's the Port Authority.

Saturday, February 12, 2011 1:06:00 PM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to get from the eastern part of the North Side to the South Side without going what seems like a million miles out of my way. I'd hop a gondola over the Hill in a second, or just a ski lift.

Saturday, February 12, 2011 1:21:00 PM  
Blogger EdHeath said...

If PAT's transit mission is defined primarily a a social service function, then I think it will become an attractive target for budget cutters in Harrisburg. Those people commuting from Cranberry to downtown likely use more gas than someone commuting from Point Breeze. From a sustainability point of view, bus service from Cranberry is rather more important than service to Point Breeze.

Saturday, February 12, 2011 1:27:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

From a sustainability point of view, bus service from Cranberry is rather more important than service to Point Breeze.

That's just wrong. You're only considering the fuel saved by the commute to work. Even if the person in Point Breeze commuted to downtown every day by personal car and the Cranberry person took the bus downtown every day, the Cranberry person is still very likely to have a bigger transportation-related carbon footprint because they not only have to travel three times as far to work, but all of their non-work trips are going to be hugely more distant. Lots of stuff about fuel usage is uncertain and tentative, but the idea that a providing a subsidy to exurbs could do anything but make things worse is absurd.

Also, you need to consider how much it will cost to get somebody to use transit. The Point Breezer (Breezian) is going to be much cheaper to serve and you could provide service to many for the cost of serving one Cranberrite. Furthermore, lots of self-selection is involved. People who are very willing to ride the bus are far less likely to move to Cranberry than to Point Breeze.

Saturday, February 12, 2011 2:48:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...


These are the sorts of gondolas that are suspended on cables. See The Gondola Project (a blog) for much more information.

Also, I'm not sure that link works. This might:

Saturday, February 12, 2011 6:18:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Nope, cut off. This?

Saturday, February 12, 2011 6:21:00 PM  

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