To: Patrick Roberts, Principal Transportation Planner, City of Pittsburgh
From: Glenn A. Walsh
Subject: Public Comments: Proposed BRT Project
The following are my public comments for the National Environmental Policy Act Review for the Proposed Downtown--Uptown--Oakland--East End Bus Rapid Transit Project. I understand that these public comments are due 2015 June 4.
I completely oppose any so-called Bus Rapid Transit line / system being constructed in this corridor. First, there will be nothing "rapid" about this transit line, should it ever be constructed. Being the equivalent of a bus-lane, which will necessitate dealing with traffic congestion at nearly every intersection, the buses using such a BRT line will be marginally faster, if even that, than the buses that travel this corridor today.
So, with BRT bus travel times between Downtown and Oakland being pretty much the same as what we have today, what would be achieved after the expenditure of $200 million of the taxpayers' money? GLITZ ?
I think so. We would achieve a pretty bus line, which still takes 10-12 minutes, on average, to travel between Downtown and Oakland. This is not a reasonable expenditure of taxpayers' money.
If you want to achieve real rapid transit in this corridor, then you will need to construct a rapid rail or light rail line on an exclusive right-of-way. Due to the congestion in the middle of the city, then this will need to be either elevated or underground. With many people against the aesthetics of elevated systems, and with the need to directly tie-in with the existing Downtown subway system, underground makes the most sense.
Yes, an underground transit system between Downtown and Oakland will cost a lot of money, probably in excess of a billion dollars. However, this is what is really needed if you want to build real rapid transit, which truly serves the transportation needs of the city and the region. So, we should not be wasting $200 million and several years building a system that will not truly provide a real rapid transit system.
We spent a half-billion dollars getting the subway to the North Side. Yet, we are not willing to spend a billion dollars to go three-times the distance, in the most traveled corridor in the region, connecting the second and third most densely populated employment centers in Pennsylvania?
If the proposed BRT system is built, we will have missed an opportunity to spend the time and money more productively, building a transit system that we really need. Further, I fear that future politicians will use the BRT line as an excuse to avoid building an improved rapid transit line between Downtown and Oakland. They will not want to spend money building a subway line in a corridor that they will claim already has "rapid transit," despite the fact that this so-called "rapid transit" is not much faster than the older buses it replaced.
Now, if we do not have the money to proceed with a subway project at the current time, then we should wait and not build something else that does not truly provide the real rapid transit that is needed, just so we can build something now and the politicians have a ribbon-cutting they can attend. Although, I must add that a supposed lack of money did not stop the planners and public officials in the 1990s from proceeding with the North Shore Connector; and it was built !!!
Source: Glenn A. Walsh, 37- year public transit advocate and a Charter Member of the Port Authority of Allegheny County's citizens advisory committee (member of Allegheny County Transit Council: 1984 to 1989).
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