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Monday, April 19, 2010

On Driving, Biking and Riding in Pittsburgh

Last month, Ray LaHood declared an end to favoring motorized transportation. He should have declared an end to favoring self-motorized transportation. As much as I love the health benefits of biking and walking, I will never be able to get rid of my car until we have serious public transportation for short trips. Taking the 28X to the airport allows me to travel to any major city in the world conveniently, cheaply, and safely but I can't say the same about Penn State, Harrisburg, Cleveland or any suburb. We need to see progress on commuter rails to Greensburg and Latrobe. We need to see progress on train rides to Harrisburg and Cleveland. We need to see progress on service between Oakland and Downtown. Instead, we are seeing cuts.

Nationwide, public transportation is facing cut after cut. According to the Post-Gazette, "Systems in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, New Jersey, Louisville, Ky., Orange County, Calif., and Fort Worth, Texas, are among those cutting service or proposing to do so."

Closer to home, the recent Federal decision to decline tolling on Interstate 80 is forcing Port Authority of Allegheny County and SEPTA in Philadelphia to ponder yet more service cuts and/or fare increases.

Public transportation fans around the country cheered when the Federal Stimulus bill devoted $8 Billion to high-speed rail projects. This weekend, I drove from Pittsburgh to Albany, New York. I couldn't help but notice the abundance of road construction occurring along that route, but I didn't notice any public transportation project construction. That's because overall, the Department of Transportation received almost $40 Billion, and most of that money is being devoted to highways.

Are we an irreversible car society? I hope not. But we are going to have to keep fighting on all fronts if we want to turn the tide. For now, I'll take hope in news that the megabus has restored service to Pittsburgh and Allegheny County has started talks with Westmoreland County to move forward with a commuter rail from Latrobe through Greensburg to downtown Pittsburgh. They are also considering a line that starts in Arnold and goes through Penn Hills to downtown Pittsburgh. A study determined last year that both lines were feasible.

When I asked my neighbor of 70-something years if he thought the commuter rail would go forward, he said: "Yes. If there's anything I've learned, it's that you can't stop progress." He's optimistic because he's watched the slow but steady progress of Pittsburgh's transition from a steel city to a green city. Personally, I think they should sell it as the "Steelers Training Camp" line. Ultimately, Pittsburgh will fund anything involving the Steelers.


shadow said...

the greensburg commuter train was last tried in 1982-83 as the Parkway Flyer, during Parkway East reconstruction. I still have news clippings in a box somewhere

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