Thursday, November 30, 2006

feedback from City Council Post Agenda meeting

Our City Council Post Agenda meeting was well covered in the PG this past Tuesday.

Does it bother anyone else when the local papers always write the word crisis in parentheses? as if this is being fabricated.

I also thought that I'd share some feedback from David Wohlwill, Lead Transit Planner, of the Port Authority had to say about our recommendations and presentation to Council.
"First, I want to thank and congratulate the 2006 Fellows for all of their diligence and thoughtfulness in the recommendations regarding the Port Authority and other providers of transportation services in region and the statement. I also appreciate the comments on the Transportation Funding & Reform Commission's recommendations. It is refreshing to listen to speakers motivated by how they think this area could have better transportation instead of preconceived ideology. Lastly, I like to thank Councilman Bill Peduto for inviting me to attend the presentation.

I concur with many of the recommendations regarding Port Authority including:

Providing real time passenger information to riders
Securing dedicated funding for transit
Establish Bus Rapid Transit between Downtown and Oakland using traffic signal priority
Encourage public employees, including elected officials to use public transportation
Better coordination of transit and land use planning
Safety improvements for pedestrians
(although this was not a specific recommendation for transit, it still supports transit-oriented lifestyles as transit users walk to and from their stops and stations.)

Port Authority and Westmoreland County Transit Authority have considered commuter rail service on existing freight railroad lines. A major challenge will be gaining access to the area's Class 1 railroads, Norfolk Southern and CSX which have very high freight train volumes (and you recommend even greater usage of railroads for moving freight) through the Pittsburgh region. Ensuring reliable commuter train operation will involve significant investments in new track and signal and communications systems.

In response to the recommendation for abandoning the hub and spoke system, please bear in mind the high passenger loads on most routes serving the Golden Triangle and Oakland during the peak travel periods.

With respect to creation of a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) as the means for better coordination of transit service, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission convenes a Transit Operators Committee to facilitate such coordination among the region's transit providers. Additionally, Port Authority has worked with the Westmoreland County Transit Authority on the two Eastern Corridor Transit Studies and with all of the other transit providers for the Regional Visioning study. At the operational level, Penn Station on the East Busway is now a major transit hub where riders can transfer among all six of the region's transit operators which serve Downtown Pittsburgh. Allowing one of the other providers to pick up and drop off riders within Allegheny County can be accomplished by changing the existing law.

Creation of an RTA will introduce the question of how to resolve different pay scales and benefit levels among the region's operators. It should also be noted that in the Twin Cities district of Minnesota, an area whose public entities are more regionally oriented than most places in the country, some communities have opted out of the Metro Transit system and there are several smaller independent transit providers.

Ultimately, an RTA may be best institutional arrangement for to provide transit service in Southwestern Pennsylvania. However, the above points need to be considered by proponents of an RTA.

Councilman Bill Peduto cited Denver's transit system. On page 11 of the booklet I handed out, there is a photo which I took of Denver's 16th Street Transit Mall. This is a one-mile exclusive transit guideway with amenities such as landscaping, lighting, seating, vendors and street art way finding. I use this as an example of what a BRT facility could be like within the Golden Triangle and Oakland to enhance the transit experience and the urban environment as well as make the guideway attractive to developers.

While some routes feed into transit centers at opposite ends of the mall, it should be noted that many other bus routes operate to and within Denver's Downtown. A map of the Downtown routes can be found at www.rtd-denver.com.

In 2004, the voters of the Denver region approved a plan to raise local taxes for the local share (50%) of a $4.7 billion program of rail and bus transit improvements. If this amount was spent on both roads and transit, this would still be impressive. However, for region to fund this level for transit only is truly amazing. Additionally, the Denver RTD just opened its Southeast Corridor light rail transit line (also known as T-Rex) on November 17.

Again, your efforts are appreciated."

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