Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Honz Man and Tunnel Call

I got to speak with Fred, the Honz Man, as a call in on his afternoon KDKA Radio show yesterday. I wasn't clicked off the air too quickly. This is worth a re-cap as there was a funny moment, just after our conversation ended.

I hate the tunnel (Honz likes it) and the same for the "fair tax." We never got to talking about the fair tax however. Plus, I don't like the re-do of Point State Park either -- and Fred agrees with me on that waste.

The tunnel is a bad idea because it has a poor return on investment. R.O.I.

Honz's point of 'where was I' in offering opposition to the tunnel years ago does not wash with me. I hated the tunnel for a long time and I spoke out against it on many instances over the years. Too many to count. http://Ratsburgh.blogspot.com.

We naysayers did score a victory when they decided to nix the change in the light rail stop for the back of the Convention Center.

Honz wonders what we gain if the tunnel under the river for expansion of light rail is stopped.

I point to the Wabash Tunnel as a real example that has direct connections. The Wabash Tunnel was built with federal money. The capital construction cost for the Wabsh Tunnel was significant and today it is fair to say that the tunnel, owned by PAT, was a poor investment. The R.O.I. for the Wabash Tunnel is very, very bad.

The project was missguided and the spending was a huge waste. Furthermore the operation of the tunnel is so expensive that PAT wants to jetison the tunnel. Only 400 autos use the silly tunnel each day. It isn't worth the upkeep. PAT wants to get rid of the tunnel or close it.

PAT built a downtown t-stop that is seldom used. PAT owns a HOV car tunnel that is seldom used. Light rail to the North Side Stadiums is sure to be a seldom used extension. It won't help our quality of life in the region. People can walk over or back. Each ride to the North Shore would cost about $40 -- for every passenger. That is a low side estimate. It could climb to $80 or $100 to cover the capital costs and on-going upkeep of that tunnel. It isn't worth it.

Honz Man didn't see the obvious links between the Wabash Tunnel, after it was built, and how it is still a weight around the necks of this year's operational budget. Some projects are a drain to keep, year in and year out, beyond the one-time capital cost. The $1-Million per year for the Wabash Tunnel upkeep could go a long way in keeping other bus routes alive in this pending service cuts.

Honz pressed and asked again, "what does it gain by killing the tunnel?"

I said "trust."

Fred said, "You make some good points. But, trust doesn't buy you anything." He must think trust and rightous acts are worthless. I think that they are valued for our times and for that of our kids in the years to come.

Click. Call ends.

Then comes the clincher! Going into the 4:00 news, right after Honz finished our conversation by implying trust among citizens, government and budgets is to be blown-off, KDKA's producer airs a news promo -- "NEWS YOU CAN TRUST, KDKA-Radio." My sons and I were were in the car heading to swim practice and we laughed and laughed.

I love a good turn-about when words and concepts spin. The big-mouth (Honz Man) makes a senseless claims ("Trust buys you nothing.") and then his own forces (KDKA-radio promo) goes directly counter to what he just said. There is VALUE in NEWS YOU CAN TRUST. Bang, bang. It was like Honz got hit in the face by a pie -- thrown at him by his own station.

Too bad I was driving and wasn't able to run a tape to capture those 15 seconds.

More background: PAT wanted to build a new stop behind the Convention Center. Citizen outrage and a pinched budget deleted from the plans of that new stop on the line, thankfully. An existing t-stop on downtown's light rail system is already near the Pennsylvanian and just 2 short blocks from the Convention Center. It is there now. It is only used once a day to keep the rails from getting rusty. PAT wanted to move the stop a half block! How dumb. Moreover, how expensive. Put up a walkway from where it is to where people need to flow to. Install signs. Run the trains where you've got the stops and move the people from point to point in a light, safe, flowing way. But don't move train stops underground for no real gains.

Moving the stop would have also taken the course of the tracks off of the right of way for the busway that flows to the east. That would have been a fatal killer. One day, and the sooner the better, the east bus way should be re-tooled as a light-rail line. Then there is a straight shot out of downtown, past the block behind the Convention Center, to the east. That's where the next logical expansion should occur.

They wanted to move the stop to the Convention Center to insure that the east would not get the expansion.

I think it is better to put a t-stop in areas that need a pick-up so as to make an investment where it is needed. You don't run the t-stop to the Convention Center because we've already made a huge investment there. You want to spread out the opportunities. You want to get the entire area buzzing.

The area around the Convention Center would pick up if you put the t-stop slightly away from the Convention Center. The area around the Convention Center would decline if you put the t-stop right at the Convention Center.

Same too for the North Side. I think it is wrong to put a t-stop at PNC Park and Heinz Field. Put the t-stop at CCAC, at Allegheny General Hospital, in the North Side Business District. Presently, one can get off at the t-stop in Gateway Center and walk over Clemente Bridge to PNC Park. That walking from stop to destination is great for pedestrian traffic. It is great for the hundred of other locations that can spring up from here to there. We want street merchants. We want sidewalk cafes. We want a flow of walkers with a wide choice of destinations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mark: most MP3 Players have a mic and record function...get one! Easy capture device for such a time!
Trust..a huge intangable...perhaps even priceless!!