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Monday, June 22, 2009

Commuter Rail Options For Pittsburgh

The results of a delayed 15-month study are finally ready and the results are good for mass transit in the Pittsburgh region. The map below is a rough mock-up of the two potential commuter rail lines studied (plus the existing South Hills light rail line and a potential future airport line for balance).

Pittsburgh Rail Map

Not too shabby.

The study found that the cost of building both services would be about $200 Million (much less than the expected $300 Million). Also, the study states that the Greensburg line would attract at least 1,500 passengers per day, and the Arnold line would attract at least 2,700 passengers per day.

So, what's next? Another study. Still, this is a very timely study and very promising. These rail lines could really help transform Pittsburgh into a world-class city with viable regional transit options. Considering the cost of the current construction on Rte 28 is scheduled to cost between $150 and $170 Million, $200 Million for 2 alternate routes seems pretty damned reasonable.


Paz said...

It's all about the Benjamins. Are we going to have the cash for the local/state contribution?

East Busway Blogger said...

This is certainly good news but it seems like somewhat of a reversal from the articles of late April that announced the Arnold line was viable where as the Greensburg line was not.


I'm curious what, if anything changed.

Schultz said...

If the citizens of Pittsburgh want commuter rail options then I think a financing initiative should be put on the ballot instead of waiting on the state and federal government to come through like they did for the NSC. It is time to let the Pittsburgh voters decide on their transportation future. A few years back the voters in Charlotte - Mecklenburg County approved a .5% sales tax that would go towards funding a new light rail network. So far the first LRT line of the new LYNX system has been a success, with future LRT lines in the planning phases. Phoenix also passed a local sales tax to finance its first LRT line and has since received a nice chunk of federal stimulus money for an extension of it. Here in Raleigh Durham there will be a half cent sales tax on the ballot this fall that will provide funding for LRT, Commuter Rail, and rapid bus lanes to all corners of the Research Triangle region. This same initiative failed back in 2005, but with the region growing so fast and congestion increasing it seems like the tide may have finally turned. If the people in RDU and PGH want better transit options that badly then transit and rail advocates like us need mobilize, educate, and help to turn out the vote in support of these ballot initiatives. I like what these folks in Durham and Orange Counties have done, with this new coalition in support of the regional transit initiative. Pittsburgh has the SWPAC but they need a group of citizens driving this rather than the bureaucrats at the SWPAC.

What would it take in terms of a sales tax in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County? I was in favor of keeping the drink tax at 10% and using all of proceeds to finance public transportation expansion. Pittsburghers are always going to drink, so that funding source is secure for infinity. If the commuter rail options are going to include Westmoreand County then I think it would be fair to have those folks contributing to the financing of those two rail lines mentioned above. A lot of questions to be answered but I think if we can get more of the users and the fans like us to get behind these ideas and initiatives then something like a new transit financing tax could be passed, even with all the Republicans in USC voting against it.

erok said...

Today, Transportation for America is organizing a National Call-In Day to Congress on the new draft House transportation bill. I like your idea shultz, but let's not disregard that there could be federal funds available in this new bill. i'm not saying that the bill will save everything and give us all the transit we want, but it does call for more cash for this type of development.

anyway, for more info on the call in day: http://bike-pgh.org/2009/06/24/action-alert-tell-congress-no-new-transportation-money-without-reform/

Jason D. said...

I wrote a similar post about that dealt with aspects of commuter and high speed train transportation in PIttsburgh. We could even connect to Cleveland and stimulate the region as a world class leader in clean-tech manufacturing and infrastructure.