November 18, 2008 |

It's time to take the bus

Despite declining gas prices, a person can achieve an average annual savings of $8,754 per year by taking public transportation instead of driving based on today's gas prices and the average unreserved parking rate according to the American Public Transportation Association's "Transit Savings Report."

Based on gasoline prices as reported by AAA on Sept. 4, 2008, Pittsburgh Public Transit riders save $716 a month and $8,589 annually. Public transportation provides greater freedom, access, opportunity and choice for Americans - even if they never board a train or a bus.

High quality, affordable public transportation is vital to Pittsburgh. Public transit gives commuters a way to avoid high gas prices and congested highways, helps seniors and the disabled with limited mobility get around, and helps tourists reach destinations. Port Authority of Allegheny County is the second-largest public transit agency in Pennsylvania and the 11th-largest in the United States. When considering that its service area is the 20th largest in the U.S. in population, per person the Pittsburgh area enjoys more transit service than nine larger metro areas.

A person who rides public transportation instead of driving reduces his or her carbon dioxide output, a harmful greenhouse gas, by more than 20 lbs. a day and 4,800 lbs. annually. That saves more than weatherizing a home, adjusting a thermostat, switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs and replacing older appliances with higher efficiency models, combined.

There are other benefits that go well beyond the carbon impact: an increased sense of community (when was the last time you ran into a friend on the highway?), the ability to use my commute how *I* want (e.g. reading), reduced stress (no traffic jams, no car accidents), and the sheer convenience (no parking issues) makes me wonder how I ever did it any other way.

More than 200,000 Pittsburghers rely on Port Authority everyday. I think Allegheny County needs to offer a far superior product than the "existing" mass transit system. We need to put our money where it will yield a more efficient transportation system.

I moved to the city in spite of the higher taxes to take advantage of the money saved on transportation. I personally have noticed a savings each month in spite of higher income tax, a newly imposed drink tax and 1percent higher sales tax just by relying on public transportation. I can walk to the grocery store, walk to the movies, walk to the hospital (for now).

We want young professionals to move into our city, I am wondering why I did.

There's a theme for Pittsburgh's birthday: "Imagine what you can do here." I am having a hard time imagining what I can do here if I can't get anywhere.

Automobile dependency is a term coined by Professors Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy to capture the predicament of most cities in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and to a lesser extent, large cities in Europe.

Automobile dependency implies that cities where automobiles are the predominant transport not only deny their residents freedom of choice about the way they live and move around the city, but that the culture of automobile use has produced a kind of addiction to them. The analogy is made with addictions to harmful substances and activities because of the well-known law of diminishing returns in relation to increasing use or participation - the more that is used, the less of the desired effect is gained until a point is reached where the substance or activity has to be maintained to remain ‘normal' - a state of dependency.

When it comes to automobile use, there is a spiraling effect where traffic congestion produces the ‘demand' for more and bigger roads and removal of ‘impediments' to traffic flow, such as pedestrians, signalized crossings, traffic lights, and cyclists.

Happy Birthday Pittsburgh. Imagine this: Buildings are replaced by parking lots. Open air shopping streets are replaced by enclosed malls. Walk-in banks and fast-food stores are replaced by drive-in versions of themselves that are inconveniently located for pedestrians. Town centers with a mixture of commercial, retail and entertainment functions are replaced by single-function business parks, ‘category-killer' retail boxes and ‘multiplex' entertainment complexes, each surrounded by large tracts of parking.

Sherri Lynn Dunik

South Side

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