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Friday, August 28, 2009

3 TDP Final Draft Takeaways

Over the past year or so, Port Authority did an amazing thing. They hired consultants, performed an extensive study, held meetings to get feedback on the results of that study, and today is the day we've all been waiting for. Today is the day that the results and timeline get revealed. Well almost. There's one more hearing, but beginning in March 2010, changes will be implemented.

3 Most Important Takeaways - plus 1 Bonus Personal Item

1. The base fare is not increasing. A one-zone fare will remain $2 for the foreseeable future. Steve Bland didn't want to force commuters to carry coins. Perhaps this issue will be revisited next year when smartcards are in use?

2. Port Authority is inevitably embracing Bus Rapid Transit lines with no vision for how a potential light rail line between Oakland and Downtown would ever fit in. But maybe that's just realistic and practical?

3. The 28X Airport Flyer will no longer include the obligatory stop at the Ikea/Robinson megaplex.

Bonus Takeaway: There is no silver line. Port Authority dangled the Silver Line in front of me, then snatched it away. It's depressing for me and for Richard. But that's life.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

PennDOT and High-Speed Rail

PennDOT submitted their first request for Federal High-Speed Rail stimulus money this week totaling $28.2 Million.

$27.45 Million for improvements along the Harrisburg to Philadelphia line.
$00.75 Million for a feasibility study for increasing service between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

The last study [regarding Pittsburgh to Harrisburg] concluded in 2005 that track and signal improvements would be needed if more passenger trains were added, in order to avoid slowing down freight trains.
What's changed? 4 years of doing nothing have out-dated this study bringing us back to square one. But 4 years ago, George W. Bush was the acting President of the country, and the last thing he cared about was high-speed rail. Maybe we have a chance for decent rail in Pittsburgh now that we have a President who has a vision for this country. It's only a shame how much money and time has been wasted in the meantime.

And will PennDOT resurrect Maglev and request funding for the next stage there? We have until October 2 to find out.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

One Bus At a Time

Pollution in Pittsburgh is a tough beast. Our air quality has improved ten-fold over the past few decades, but we are still topping up on worst-of lists nation-wide. One of the major culprits is that one of the places that air quality is measured in the region is downwind of the largest coke plant in the country, Clairton. US Steel is regularly fined for the awful state of this plant, and last year agreed to spend a record billion dollars on improving the plant. We had hope of falling behind Los Angeles yet again when this construction was done.

Then US Steel announced in April that the recession was forcing it to nix its billion dollar plans to clean up its Clairton coke plant, and I gave up hope of us ever making it off the list.

But maybe I was wrong? Maybe I should be thinking of particles in the air one ton at a time, by each diesel-powered dump truck and Port Authority bus. The latest round of federal stimulus grants is hitting Allegheny County, $3.5 Million to upgrade these pollution belchers. If we can get rid of all these relics, maybe our pollution rate can still drop enough to make a difference. Maybe it's like all of us switching out one bottle of petroleum-based detergent or adding one energy-efficient light bulb or riding our bikes to work once a week. Or maybe not. But if there's one thing I've realized, it's that we can't depend on US Steel to get us there.

Netroots Nation and the Greenroots in Pittsburgh this week

Today the progressive blogger conference known as Netroot Nation kicks off in Pittsburgh. In addition to tonight's keynote address by President Bill Clinton, and a host of other progressive bloggers and public figures, climate change the green economy will be on the agenda. Below is a list of the green panels that will be taking place over the next few days in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh's green economy will be on display during a panel with local green gurus, which include Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and local Green Drinks coordinator Bernie Lynch. If you cannot make it to down to the convention center this week there will be opportunities to view the live sessions over the web via UStream or Facebook.

A Warming Web: The Blogosphere and Climate Change

Thursday, August 13th 9:00 AM - 10:15 AM
Panel, 318
Thursday, August 13th, 9:00am - 10:15am

Global warming blogging is red hot: The Senate is debating climate change legislation. The Obama administration is pouring billions of dollars into clean energy and green jobs. Countries are maneuvering for position in this December's crucial international climate treaty conference. And nearly every week scientists are revealing how global warming is changing the conditions of life on Earth -- and how much worse conditions may become if we don't slash our greenhouse gas pollution. At this panel, some of the top bloggers covering environmental politics and climate science will talk about what they do, how they do it, and why it's more important now than ever before.

Panel Details

Building the Blue-Green Movement Online

Thursday, August 13th 3:00 PM - 4:15 PM
Panel, 318
Thursday, August 13th, 3:00pm - 4:15pm

Among the priorities of the Obama administration are passing clean energy and workers’ rights legislation. Representatives from the Blue Green Alliance — a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations — will discuss how this unique partnership is working to expand the number and quality of jobs in the clean energy economy. Join us for this panel, which will include union members already working in the clean energy economy, to discuss building an online effort to create good jobs while reducing global warming and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Panel Details

Green Economy in the ’Burgh

Thursday, August 13th 3:00 PM - 4:15 PM
Panel, 301/302
Thursday, August 13th, 3:00pm - 4:15pm

One reason Netroots Nation is coming to Pittsburgh is the incredible range of work being done here in sustainability, green jobs, green buildings and building equity. This session lets some of the folks doing great work in the area share their perspectives on Pittsburgh's role as a model of post-industrial revitalization through sustainability.

Panel Details

Friday, August 7, 2009

LEED in Pittsburgh

Lots of people call LEED-certification a scam (in the same boat as "USDA Certified Organic" foods.) The process to get your building certified is expensive, arduous and long. It also sometimes misses the point:

"In LEED, you need 26 of 69 possible points to get certified, and all points are weighted equally, even though some have far greater environmental benefits than others."

That translates to a bike rack being the same value as a million dollar HVAC system. Which do you think developers are choosing to install?

At the same time, LEED is what we've got. A bike rack is better than nothing. And the program is popular. There are now over 100,000 certified LEED professionals. This Spring, 11 architects from downtown Pittsburgh firm, Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goetell (PWWG), hopped on the bandwagon and achieved certification. It's a lot easier to build an LEED-certified building when you have an LEED-certified architect designing it.

"Most architects can already design green, but LEED-certification is a good marketing tool," says Anne J. Swager, Hon. AIA, executive director of AIA Pittsburgh.

Congratulations to PWWG for making Pittsburgh a greener place, at least in the eyes of marketers. In a city that's historically suffered in marketing itself, this is a good green step in the right direction.