Archive for the ‘transportation’ Category

PATransit Tuesday: The future of PAT

We’re looking at the future, and actually, it’s looking good!

Port Authority is working with the massive amount of data that they have to create a system to let riders know in real-time, if their buses will be late.  CMU’s app Tiramisu  aimed to do that, but was based on rider input.  If no one was on the bus ahead of you to record the data, it reverts to the timetables.  It’s still a really cool app and I love using it, but this is the obvious next step.

And in even better news: no rate increases or service reductions are on the horizon!  For the first time in recent history, PAT has an influx of cash, thanks to Act 89 from Harrisburg.  And thankfully, the board of PAT is taking it’s time: while they want to restore service, they are committed to seeing what is most needed and working with the low-hanging fruit first.

While there was no mention of Bus Rapid Transit, and that would mostly come from capital money anyway, I’m still wary, especially since the latest plans have it running between Oakland and Downtown, an area already adequately served, but we’ll hold off that discussion for another day.

For the love of Joe DeNardo, help improve the Parkway East

PennDOT is looking to improve the Parkway East.  Now, before you get too excited, they want to make sure we temper our expectations.

Their first phase is to gather information.  They want to know how people use the Parkway, approximate destinations, use of public transit, alternate routes, etc.  The format is easy to use, and only takes about ten minutes.  In addition, they’re combining that data with traffic studies, community comments and outreach to publics directly impacted by the corridor, so all in all, it looks to be pretty comprehensive.

And while we may not be getting an added lane to the Squirrel Hill Tunnel, at least we’re on the road to improvements, and I can think of three interchanges right off the back that need scrapped and rebuilt from scratch to give us a good start.  Check out the information here and participate in the survey by clicking the large orange button.

PATransit Tuesday: The future of ConnectCard?

Scientists from MIT teamed up with Boston’s public transportation agency and created the Sesame Ring (as in, “Open, Sesame”).

The ring operates with RFID technology, like the ConnectCard, and Boston’s equivalent, Charlie Card, which pays for trips when it is tapped/waved in front of a reader on the bus or T.

It’s a cool idea, and it was funded through Kickstarter to address the problem of people not being able to fish out their cards in time, but I have to wonder if that is really a problem.  I’ve never had a problem pulling out my card, and even when people have had to fish for their card, pass or money, the bus normally takes off and they pay or swipe what they need to as the route continues.

Either way though, it’s a cool idea, especially since you could get them customized, but I just don’t see the need of them, aside from being a cool fashion accessory.

PATransit Tuesday: Testing, testing

PAT is looking for participants for two pilot programs.

First up, they are finally opening up the ConnectCard program to allow online payment management.  Check out the routes and if you ride one (or more) of them regularly, sign up here.  Also, I’m a bit confused as to why they’re looking for riders only on certain routes, probably just to centralize help if there are any problems I suppose, but still seems a bit odd for an online pilot.

And secondly, PAT is looking to test a new automated phone service, allowing you to find out information and bypassing hold times.  Hopefully it is in real time and somehow hooked up with dispatch, but we’ll see.  To find out more or sign up, check it out here.

PATransit Tuesday:BRT and Transit cuts, elsewhere

A couple links to pass along about transit cuts and bus rapid transit.

First up, the public transportation in Tacoma is making dramatic cuts, very much like we could have seen here.

And Seattle is finding out, that without committing to rapid transit, it won’t work.

I know PAT is still looking to expand into BRT, but I just don’t think we’re dedicated enough to really embrace it and make it work.  At least not now.

PATransit Tuesday: BRT on the way, slowly

Bus Rapid Transit is one of the big additions to PAT’s system, being courted since at least 2010.  I’ve posted here before about it, but other cities which have tried BRT, have found no faster service.

Seattle suffers from the same problems we probably will, long lines of people waiting to pay cash (we’re still in the testing phases of the ConnectCard, after all), and buses stuck in the same traffic jams they were before.

Although I do like the idea of rerouting buses to run on the same streets, and adding bike lanes (but not being a cyclist, I hope it is done in a safe manner with input from Bike Pgh).

I’m still not sold on the idea, but maybe you want to try your hand at it.  Blogh has the info about a bus rapid transit simulator that anyone can play around with, go check it out.

PATransit Tuesdays: ConnectCard revisited

I’m part of the ConnectCard pilot program, as I talked about earlier.

So far, it’s really awesome, with two caveats.  One is about the machines used to reload the cards.  I certainly wish there were more, or more importantly, the ones at Penn Station were working when I needed to use them.  Although to be fair, it gave me an excuse to go into the Wood Street station, which I never have before.

The other thing I dislike about the machines, and this really is a small thing to quibble over (but also a small thing to fix): the slot where you put in your credit card only accepts cards one way, and it’s not marked.  Took me three tries to realize I had to flip over my card, which was a bit of a pain, since you have to restart the whole process each time (from the short time out).  Like I said, stupid little program, not really worth mentioning, but easy enough to fix (just need a sticker).

The one big problem I ran into, is one which the card system is trying to take care of, actually.  When the operator accepts payment via a ticket or a pass, they hit a button and the rider puts the ticket (if applicable) into the little bag or gives it to the operator, no problem, quick and efficient.

If a rider pays by cash, the fare box takes about 10-15 seconds to reset before a ConnectCard can be scanned.  A few times, I ended up holding up the entire line of passengers behind me, as I waited to tap my “quick and efficient” card.  I’m not sure why there is such a long wait period, but it’s a major problem of the system.

Aside from that, once you can reload money via an online system, I’ll feel like PAT is really on the cutting edge (of 1990’s technology), hopefully that comes along soon.

I was approached by the Tribune Review, which is putting together and article about the reactions to the pilot program.  As soon as I see it posted online, I’ll post a link here.

Update: Found the article, here it is.

PATransit Tuesday: ConnectCard off and running, sort of

Today is the start of the public pilot test of the ConnectCard, although already some people have been testing the system (Pitt students/faculty/staff and those with an annual pass).

The first step is setting up the security of your card, in case you lose it, you can recover the balance.  I have to commend the Port Authority workers, I called yesterday the first day to set it up and begin using the card, and their computer system was down.  But the woman on the phone was very helpful and very nice.  She asked a few questions and then took my phone number in case she had to call back with something they might have missed.

Sadly, the machine to put money on the card at Penn Station is out of order, but I’ll be heading to Steel Plaza to put money on my card later this week (I have some paper tickets to use up first), hopefully that is a pretty easy process.

PATransit Tuesday: Meeting new friends

Slog reports on a study from Science Daily about sitting on a bus:

If one of two seats is occupied, you look for two seats that are free. Only when you can’t find two empty seats do you take a free seat next to a person. This is “the greatest unspoken rule of bus travel.” Here’s where the problem begins: When seats must be shared, the “seated passengers initiate a performance to strategically avoid anyone sitting next to them.”

The first part is certainly true, but very rarely do I see riders on PAT buses trying to block out other riders.  Sure, I do see it every now and then, but most often, people are more than welcome to share the seats.

And besides, that’s how you can find new friends (or sometimes in my case, people who just want to hear themselves talk).  But of course, I guess I would have to be awake to meet new friends.

A visualization of the PAT cuts

The Roundabout, the PG’s transportation blog, has an awesome image up, showing the impact of the upcoming PAT cuts.  I’ll try to embed the image below, but sometimes the PG blocks that, in any case, you can see it here.

The word was thrown around a lot during the last round of cuts, but Draconian does seem to fit.  Maybe I’m a little bitter since for the second time I’ll be losing my bus route.  And this time I really can’t find an alternative.

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