The Economic Crisis Rolls on in Cities like Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Busway and Light Rail

» The U.S. economy may be improving in some ways, but transit services across the country continue to reel, thanks to lower-than-expected tax revenues.

The board of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, serving the Pittsburgh metropolitan region, announced last week that it would have to cut services by 35% by September 2 — the largest cut ever for the agency — if it is not provided an increase in state aid. The agency expects that it will have to increase fares and lay off 500 workers. This comes a year month after the agency reduced services by 15%.

The service cuts planned would be, suffice it to say, devastating. As the maps below illustrate, the Port Authority’s austerity plans would eliminate almost half of the region’s routes. This is in a city where, according to the U.S. Census, more than 25% of households have no vehicle available and

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Ohio Hub Advances as Passenger Rail Connections to Toledo and Pittsburgh Studied

Ohio Hub Potential Corridors

» Governor Ted Strickland’s push to connect state via intercity rail is likely to go beyond initial Cincinnati-to-Cleveland corridor.

Following through on a years-long promise to include fourth-city Toledo in the next phase of rail investment in Ohio, the administration of Governor Ted Strickland has announced the awarding to an engineering firm an $8 million study of future intercity routes that would connect the Lake Erie city to the rest of the Buckeye State. A line into Pittsburgh is also up for evaluation.

Because of its geographic position between the Chicago-based Midwest rail network and that of the East Coast focused in New York, Ohio could serve as an essential link in a national rail network if the state makes the right investments.

In January, Ohio received $400 million from the federal government to implement intercity rail service on the 256-mile 3C rail line between Cincinnati, Cleveland,

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Philadelphia May Accept Money to Privatize Station Naming; Pittsburgh Considers Similar Move

SEPTA Paoli

» SEPTA board votes Thursday on plan to rename station on behalf of AT&T in exchange for $3 million. Is the public interest being sacrificed?

The last two years have been extremely difficult for virtually every American transit agency — they’ve been slaughtered by declining tax revenue and been forced to both decrease services and increase fares, despite a general uptick in the market of people interested in riding public transportation. This lack of funds — and a realization that Washington is not riding in on a white horse — has led agencies to do things many wouldn’t have considered appropriate just a few years back, just to make a quick buck.

In Philadelphia, that may mean the renaming of the Broad Street Subway’s Pattison Avenue terminus to the AT&T Station by August if the SEPTA regional transit board agrees to the deal in a session later this week. Pattison

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Pennsylvania Calls Special Session to Resolve Transportation Funding Crisis

Pennsylvania Interstate 80

» After losing bid to install tolls along Interstate 80, state looks to other solutions to impending transportation funding gap. An opportunity to rethink the state role in transport.

Today, Pennsylvania state legislators will meet to fill a massive $472 million gap in the transportation budget — almost ten percent of the overall $6.1 billion in road and transit spending planned for this year. Governor Ed Rendell called the session after his plan to toll Interstate 80 fell apart due to a federal law that makes it illegal to use revenues gained from a Washington-funded road on something else. The I-80 tolls would have generated up to $950 million in annual revenue once the infrastructure was put into place by 2011 as originally planned.

The need to assemble a special legislative session comes at a terrible time for the state. Pennsylvania’s road and transit systems need $3

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Pennsylvania Releases State Rail Plan, Promotes Increased Investment in Intercity Systems

Pennsylvania Priority Passenger Rail Corridors Map

» A state rail plan does not mean Pennsylvanian will move forward with a specific project. A lack of ambition, or a reflection of few funds?

The U.S. government’s unwillingness to commit to prioritizing certain rail corridors and its fear of moving beyond empty rhetoric to describe the country’s future rail system are frustrating reactions to the sometimes paralyzing federal system. But intercity rail advocates should take some comfort in the fact that certain states are taking advantage of their governing responsibilities to promote projects and develop detailed long-term proposals. The investment made by states like California, Illinois, and Wisconsin in specific new lines is one indication of this take-the-first-step strategy; so are the proliferation of state-level rail plans.

Several states have assembled long-term reports that indicate how spending would be distributed over the years; Virginia’s 2025 proposal, for instance, highlights what could be accomplished with

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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