Thursday, March 24, 2011

My testimony on Port Authority's service and fare proposals (Feb. 9, 2007)

February 8, 2007

Port Authority Fare and Service Proposals
345 Sixth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-2527

This will serve as my written testimony concerning the proposed fare hike and service cuts. There are three separate parts to this; please consider each separately, as each one is relevant, each is significant, and none has anything to do with either of the others.

The three parts are:

1. Fare-change proposal: Go with the flat-fare proposal.
2. Remedy for two lost routes: Suggested 11D extension along Gass Rd to replace 11F and Camp Horne 16B
3. Comments concerning lost sales, and what should be done to remedy this.

Part One: Fare proposal.

Absolutely, definitely, go with the flat-fare choice, as proposed. This really should have been done a long time ago, at whatever rate of fare. Many riders require two, three, or even more changes to get to and from work, each direction.

I can show how, under the current fare structure, a recent trip taking my two children to an Oakland medical appointment did truly cost a minimum of $20 in fares. Under the flat-fare plan, it would have cost $6, at most $12.

In essence, this changes the idea of paying fare from "paying to ride one bus" to "paying to use the system for two hours" – a long overdue improvement.

Part Two: Suggestion to remedy two lost routes.

As proposed, the 11F West View is to be discontinued, as is the Camp Horne Road extension of the 16B Brighton. Meanwhile, the early morning 11D Perrysville does not service West View Plaza. Since the stores of West View Plaza, as well as those near the Camp Horne extension, are places of work as well as shopping, it makes a good deal of sense to provide service both to and from them, on at least an hourly headway between early morning and late evening.

Specifics: For certain outbound 11D Perrysville trips, proceed to West View Plaza (WVP) as is done now, but not end the route there. Instead, exit WVP via left onto the Center Avenue access road, left onto Center Avenue (now 11F routing), right on Cornell, left on Highland, right on Gass Road, straight onto (becomes) Ben Avon Heights Road. Stay on this road to Home Depot and Giant Eagle. The distance from WVP to Camp Horne Road is 3.0 miles. (See diagram on last page.) Inbound would be the reverse.

Reasoning: Anyone living in the Gass Road area served by the 11F would not be stranded, mid-day, and inner-city residents needing to get to work at either of the Giant Eagle stores or Home Depot could do so. Gass Road residents who worked or wanted to shop at the Camp Horne stores would actually be able to do so whereas they cannot do so now. Inner-city residents near the 16B needing to get to work could transfer near Federal and North to an 11D, or use the (now-500) 16C to West View and transfer there, depending on their proximity to either other line. On the headsign, it may help to designate these trips 11D/F Perrysville-Gass Road / To Camp Horne Road.

Part Three: Lost sales.

By "lost sales", I refer to the massive ridership loss to private automobiles over the last 25 years. In brief, I've determined through my own research into U.S. Census records and other government sources that roughly 80,000 more Allegheny County households own two cars than did so in 1980, and roughly 30,000 more own three or more than did so in 1980. In that time, Allegheny County's population has changed comparatively little.

A car, any car, every car, costs thousands of dollars per year to own and operate. Just in insurance, one pays close to or in excess of the cost of an annual transit pass subscription. (I myself pay $661.30/year for car insurance, comparable to the current $660 Zone 1 annual pass cost.) Add to that the cost of gasoline (10,000 miles / 20 mpg = 500 gallons x $2.50/gallon = $1,250), maintenance (easily $1,000, whether oil changes, a new muffler, or fuzzy dice to hang from the mirror), monthly payments (easily $250/month x 12 = $3,000), not to mention parking (for many this is free), and you're looking at well over $5,000/year for most any car, for most any owner.

When compared side-by-side with transit in this way, then transit is the clear winner. Why pay $5,000/year for transportation when $60 to $75/month (x12 = $720 or $900) will get you around? So why do so many more County households have two, or three or more, cars? Because they don't know how to use transit! More to the point, it does not occur to them to use transit, and so they don't put any money into the system, instead spending five to ten times as much to own and maintain multiple automobiles.

This matters greatly! If each of those now-two-car households purchased an annual Zone 1 pass, Port Authority would annually have over $52 million more to work with. The now-three-or-more-car households' purchase of an annual Zone 2 pass would annually put nearly $25 million into the transit system. That $77,221,100 is not going into the transit system each year! Those "lost sales" very nearly equal the forecast $80 million deficit!

What to do? Pretty much what I said at the September 9, 1992, Ross Township hearings on that year's transit cuts, and the 32-point list of suggestions accompanying my June 2, 2002 testimony on that year's transit cuts: Make it easier to use the system!

The single greatest reason People Who Do Not Ride Transit do not ride transit is because they do not know how. Beyond that, the learning curve is extremely steep, and unforgiving. You can't just give them info and hope they'll figure it out. Your business depends on getting them on board, getting them where they're going, and having them smile at the end of the journey.

What I would do is make transit information an order of magnitude more accessible – inescapably, embedded, maybe even unwelcome (in the same manner that detour signs on a highway are unwelcome, but they must be there, and they must work, else you land in the river because the bridge is out). Make it impossible to get or give directions anyplace without also having the transit option available. Every store, every apartment building, every company's how-to-get-here directions, every advertisement for a public activity, should be equipped with transit directions that are easily enough understood.

I know how to do this! I personally live with only one car, which my wife has most of the time, so I must get around by bus. Even as an experienced rider, it still requires a lot of figuring out to conduct my daily errands by bus. Ultimately, it saves me thousands of dollars annually, money I use to improve my family's quality of life. Ask me for help!

Thank you for listening.


Stuart M. Strickland

Proposed 11D/F Camp Horne Extension shown in blue (W. View Plaza shown in red)

1 comment:

bus15237 said...

Comment added March 24, 2011, by me: Of the three parts of this four-year-old post, the first and third are just as valid and valuable as they day they were written.
1) Pay to use the system, not each bus.
3) Make it much easier to figure out how to use transit, and more people will ride.