Pod or bust for me
We learn that that the nation's über transportation consultant, Parsons Brinckerhoff, is working on a bus rapid transit type improvement. Funny thing is, just a couple years ago the talk was about a Personal Rapid Transit system along that corridor. Was all that considered and rejected? I missed that news story along the way possibly. Or is there a plan for PRT still in the works? Hard to tell from the pittsburgh-oaklandconnector.com web site. Personal Rapid Transit (or PRT) you ask? What they have at West Virginia University and that which is the remaining legacy of... SKYBUS!
Why does it matter? There happens to be new research out of Ohio State that looks at the state of metropolitan transportation planning in America and how it impacts regions. For us the summary: "...transportation sustainability declined more quickly than average over those years in such cities as Pittsburgh and New Orleans". Pittsburgh is listed among the "Cities that lost the most ground in transportation sustainability". Yes, we are moving backwards.
Parsons Brinckerhoff, by the way, really is the über consulting firm for transit and transportation across the nation and going back a long time. For Pittsburgh it was Parsons Brinckerhoff that put together the rosetta stone known as the 1967 Allegheny County Rapid Transit Study . That and other seminal pieces of the city and region's transit policy history are on my Pittsburgh Transportation Bibliography. I do need to update it and I recently acquired a copy of the 1951 Mass Transportation Study of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. (yes, that the type of thing I am goober enough to buy on Ebay when I find them). But I still need to scan it.
Why does it matter part 2? So plenty of folks take issue with my position criticizing the abandonment of all future rapid transit development in the region. Rapid transit by most definitions means underground, subway, elevated railway, metro or metropolitan railway. By that definition "Bus Rapid Transit" is arguably an oxyomoron technically. I think some are exhausted by the North Shore Connector debate. I do appreciate the cost issues involved. Still at the end of the day there are some clear examples of how new rapid transit can impact communities in ways there are far fewer examples of similar impacts of bus routes (whether 'BRT' or not).
For example, see the latest research looking at what has happened in specific District of Columbia neighborhoods. and no, I appreciate the greater complexity of neighborhood development, but I just don't see how you escape the impact of rapid transit lines. In DC and the Green Line example mentioned there is an extreme case. Long ago before the line was even begun I and some friends almost rented a house in DC that wound up being right next to where a new station was slated to go in. Let's just say that the house next door from what we were looking at had a true growing up through the house. Not intentional either. Now the same real estate must cost a fortune.
So we can have that debate, but I will throw this out there. I bet the usage of the North Shore connector is higher than many expected. It also represents the hardest part of getting rapid transit over to the other side of the river. Why do the hard part and stop there? Is it time to talk about extending transit to some of the fastest growing parts of the region in the North Hills and Southern Butler County? Yes, I said it. Rapid transit to Cranberry! Anywhere but Pittsburgh it would be normal to at least debate the need to get rapid transit to the fastest growing part of the region.