The History, and (Questionable) Future of Pittsburgh's Public Transit

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(Photo (cc) by Flickr user: Amphis d'@illeurs)

Like many cities, Pittsburgh is fending off steep transit cuts.

To catch you up on the stakes in Pittsburgh, the Port Authority, the agency in charge of public transit needs money, about $64 million.  In January, it announced a plan to cut 35 percent of overall service, from 102 down to 56 transit lines. Late-night and weekend service would be severely curtailed as well. The cuts are set to take effect in September.

The folks at WRCT Radio in Pittsburgh have tried to figure out how their city's bus system came to be a the brink of breakage despite average population density and spending for other cities with similar service.

In their hunt for transit funding answers, WRCT does an admirable job turning to history for insight. Listen as they board an antique streetcar (within a history museum) to compare a transit map from 1950 -- when the system was privately run -- to the current map, as the public agency in charge of Pittsburgh's mass transit contemplates cutting 46 lines.

From there they hear from a bevy of experts on how streetcars became bus routes and a private streetcar enterprise became a public good that got short shrift in funding battles. Download it as a podcast and take it with you on your next ride around town: it's a two part series, each part is 30 minutes long.

Audio and full article at WRCT.