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Money for projects

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Anonymous

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Dec 9 2012 at 3:49pm #

in a few different threads, the subject of “not enough money” has come up regarding ideas for various projects. For local projects…

If you care – go to the public meetings regarding the tax exempt status of UPMC, and other tax exempt organizations.

http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/racs-/-icd-9-/-icd-10/upmcs-tax-exempt-status-to-be-reviewed.html

UPMC holds 14 hospitals – if, for simplicity, we say each campus is worth $500 million at current property tax rates in the city (aprox 3%) that results in a tax bill of : $210,000,000

This number does NOT count other UPMC held properties, in and outside of the city, nor does it include income, sales and other taxes which UPMC ‘dodges’.

Locally – $210 million dollars would fund nearly EVERY cycling related project we could ALL come up with…

As has been said before – get involved.


Anonymous

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Dec 9 2012 at 5:05pm #

Although I’m not a fan of UPMC business practices, they are at least saving lives and doing research for the health of the general population. There is a different category of institution, and although they “save lives” too, I would prefer to revoke their tax-exempt status before a hospital’s. Reason being, a hospital is open to everyone, so the tax-exempt status helps anyone who uses a hospital. Those other institutions only serve a subset of the population. The need for health care is universal, but beliefs are a personal matter.


stefb

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Dec 10 2012 at 1:02am #

Everyone needs food, so let’s not tax giant eagle?

I agree with taxing other types of institutions.


Pierce

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Dec 10 2012 at 2:07am #

@brybot

UPMC is open to anyone who can afford it or has health insurance, which not everyone does. It does have financial assistance, but that’s not available for all procedures and it’s cumbersome to figure out what will cost what beforehand.

UPMC had what, 500 mil in profits last year? And is notorious for paying ridiculous amounts for property. So yeah, I’m for taxing them


Anonymous

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Dec 10 2012 at 2:24am #

additionally, as I understand IANAL (I am not a lawyer), UPMC is required by state and/or federal regulations to treat *anyone* who walks in the doors of their emergency room(s); regardless of the patient’s insurance status, or ability to pay, and regardless of UPMC’s tax exempt status.

Also, in concept, tax exempt status is given to organization(s), because their contribution to the local society is as large as or larger then their tax burden would be.

UPMC claims, no idea if this is reality, to give away $200 million in health care service/year (last year?).

Lets assume this to be the case – then that amount is *still* far short of just their (by me) estimated property tax burden.

Of course the value of the health care they ‘give away’ is not an amount which can easily be calculated.

Do you use the rate at which UPMC charges uninsured people, what UPMC charges Highmark insured patients, or what UPMC pays itself, as most of you should know not only is UPMC a health care provider, but also a health insurance provider.

Even if you pick a methodology for pricing, comparing/determining the cost of such services is not like a commodity product such as a TV.

nothing like rigging the system…


stefb

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Dec 10 2012 at 2:28am #

I think we can all agree that there is enough money that could go around for projects that would increase safety for cyclists and stimulate the local economy, and that the richest 1-2% really don’t need to be that rich. That money could also go toward things that would help everyone.


Anonymous

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Dec 10 2012 at 2:32am #

true dat!

I saw recently a statistic which indicated that the Walton’s (the family that owns Wall mart) own/has more wealth then the lowest 30% of the population in US.

(behind an advert click through – sorry)

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2011/12/14/six-waltons-have-more-wealth-than-the-bottom-30-of-americans/


Anonymous

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Dec 10 2012 at 2:34am #

In response to the comment(s) directed at me:

I merely suggested that we should tax other untaxed groups before hospitals. I did not say that we shouldn’t tax hospitals (sorry for the double negative there). I also said I disagree with the UPMC business model.

The supporting statements I gave were reasons to reorder tax-exemption revoking priority, not reasons to suggest we shouldn’t tax hospitals.


stefb

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Dec 10 2012 at 3:07am #

Sorry I didn’t get that.


Steven

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Dec 10 2012 at 3:21am #

Of course the value of the health care they ‘give away’ is not an amount which can easily be calculated.

As I understand it, they use the list price for this. When somebody with insurance gets some test, they claim it costs $300 but the insurance has negotiated a price of $30. When somebody without insurance gets the same test, they bill for $300, accept the same $30, and report they gave away $270 in free care. Increasing their generosity simply requires increasing the fake prices no one is expected to pay.

Of course, they’re giving away something, but the specific amount they report is fiction.


stefb

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Dec 10 2012 at 10:04am #

Upmc also gets more money than other health systems for the same services from certain insurance companies.


StuInMcCandless

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Dec 10 2012 at 12:08pm #

I did attend the UPMC hearing at the courthouse last Tuesday. They’re rolling in money, yet paying many of their people so little that full-timers have to go on food stamps. They’re #3 in the state, behind Wal-Mart and McDonalds, in employees on food stamps.

But this is a discussion about funding bicycle projects. The gist of my prepared comments about UPMC concerned suggesting that they pay for their employees to use transit. Every person who switches from car to transit for commuting reduces demand for highway expansion, and helps the transit system pay for itself. That in turn frees up construction money for more cost-effective projects, namely bike/ped.

UPMC employs 55,000 people. If even 1/10 of them switched modes, that would have an enormous impact on the balance of demand, and thus, with it, we would get the money for the projects we deem important.


stefb

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Dec 10 2012 at 2:35pm #

Nice idea stu. I am a little annoyed by the recent talk of a new tunnel that we “need” because traffic is so bad. Get rid of the traffic- your suggestion is a good way of reducing traffic while having the excessive profits go toward something positive for everyone.


jonawebb

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Dec 10 2012 at 3:43pm #

I’m surprised UPMC isn’t taking part in the commuter tax benefit program. From IRS publication 15-B:

Exclusion from wages. You can generally exclude the value of transportation benefits that you provide to an employee during 2012 from the employee’s wages up to the following limits.

• $125 per month for combined commuter highway vehicle transportation and transit passes.

• $240 per month for qualified parking.

• For a calendar year, $20 multiplied by the number of qualified bicycle commuting months during that year for qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement of expenses incurred during the year.

I can understand my employer out here in Monroeville not doing this, since transit is so poor and I’m the only biker, but UPMC is in the middle of the best transit in Pittsburgh (such as it is) and they’re not doing this? Someone needs to talk with HR.


sloaps

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Dec 10 2012 at 6:00pm #

UPMC employs a private transit company to shuttle their employees from surface parking lots around the periphery of Pittsburgh into their various facilities. Their employees don’t use PAT as much as you’d like.

Their surface lots on the South Side and Lawrenceville are very large.

My understanding from retired PAT folks is that UPMC approached PAT to develop routes, but couldn’t come to an agreement on schedules and costs.


Anonymous

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Dec 10 2012 at 6:36pm #

@jonawebb I approached HR of company I work for. Amount of paper work to get in is discouraging. :(


Anonymous

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Dec 11 2012 at 3:30am #

Jona – as an ex, my employment was transferred to Pitt, UPMC empolyee who still works in a UPMC facility…

They do participate, You can purchase bus passes from UPMC with pre tax dollars, – no they (UPMC) does not contribute.

As to parking, when I was in Oakland, UPMC increased the cost to park in their facilities from $110/mo to $170.

At the facility I am currently working in They charge $170/mo to park in the attached parking facility, and $55/mo for the flat lot (about 15 minutes by UPMC provided shuttle).

This money, to my knowledge is NOT pre tax.


Anonymous

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Dec 11 2012 at 3:36am #

Sloaps -

I have significant problems with PAT.

Not with the service they provide – but with the way they have routes setup –there are, to my mind HUGE wastes.

I like to pick on one route as a particular example : 61C

This route starts in town, goes through Oakland, Sq. Hill, Homestead, Kennywood, and some routes off to McKeesport

to drive – not stop at every other tree – this is a 2hour route, probably 3 in rush hour. How many buses are needed to put a bus through a stop in Oakland every 10 minutes at rush hour????

This route should be at least 2 maybe 3 routes.

61C should stop no further from town then Waterfront

other routes, likely running smaller busses, should be meeting the 61C, and others, at Waterfront

I Think they call this Spoke and hub

I have advocated both to PAT and to various county counsul members for these sorts of changes – as you can see it has fallen on deaf ears.

I, personally, think that there is a movement to privatize PAT.


StuInMcCandless

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Dec 11 2012 at 3:51am #

We can argue PAT till the cows come home and solve nothing. The issue at hand is finding money for the projects we cyclists deem worthy. If we stop expanding the highway system, there is plenty of money. A single traffic light runs $100K-$250K. Reconstructing an intersection might be a million. A bridge overhaul might be $20M. The last I checked, every bike/ped project on the TIP, if we built them all, wouldn’t cost $60M.

The rubric I have always referred to for any government spending, but particularly apt for transportation, is: Spend the least amount of money to do the most good for the greatest number of people.


Steven

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Dec 11 2012 at 7:06am #

This route should be at least 2 maybe 3 routes.

61C should stop no further from town then Waterfront

other routes, likely running smaller busses, should be meeting the 61C, and others, at Waterfront

There’s already a 61D route that goes from downtown to Homestead. PAT uses a mix of 61Cs that go all the way to McKeesport, 61Ds that only go as far as Homestead, and a few 61Ds that only go as far as Greenfield.

If they changed all the 61Cs to go only from Homestead to McKeesport, that would reduce service between downtown and Homestead. There’s enough demand to justify the current service level, so they’d wind up adding more 61D buses. The result would be the same bus miles as now, but with more transfers for passengers.

If they’re running more 61Cs than they need for the segment from Homestead to McKeesport, all they’d have to do is turn some more of them into 61Ds. I suspect they measured demand and picked the current mix based on that. Whenever I’ve been on the 61C to McKeesport, there were sufficient passengers to justify the trip.

(I’m ignoring the fact that 61Ds terminate in the Waterfront while 61Cs take a different route. Easy enough to walk from one to the other.)

to drive – not stop at every other tree – this is a 2hour route, probably 3 in rush hour. How many buses are needed to put a bus through a stop in Oakland every 10 minutes at rush hour????

The 61C runs every 30 minutes, increasing to 15 during peak periods. The trip takes up to 74 minutes in each direction at the busiest times, but only 50 minutes best-case. I think there are around 10 buses on the route at peak times.

PAT uses hub-and-spoke extensively. Most of the routes between two arbitrary places on the system have to connect downtown. That’s the main hub. There are other minor hubs, including McKeesport, Homestead, and increasingly, Oakland.

There are alternative models to hub-and-spoke. For instance, Manhattan largely uses a grid-based system where buses run either N-S or E-W. And before the airlines switched to hub-and-spoke, they used more of a point-to-point system, with direct service between most points. PAT’s consultants for the TDP project considered a grid-based system, but decided our topography wouldn’t make it work. A point-to-point system would be too expensive to consider.

But hub and spoke doesn’t mean buses get to a hub and turn around. Think of hub-and-spoke at airlines. A USAir flight from Pittsburgh arrives at their hub in Philly, then continues on to Boston, say. This is better than turning around, and running another flight back and forth between Boston and Philly, because it means those passengers bound for Philly don’t have to switch planes (even though most will have to). (If it just turned around, nobody would be able to stay on the plane and not have to worry about missing connections or running through an airport.)

This is a lot like how PAT runs 61C buses through Homestead, where you can either transfer to a 59 or a 53, or stay on to continue to McKeesport, the most popular of those options.

There may well be some routes that could be turned into feeder routes (maybe that’s the term you meant, instead of hub and spoke?), connecting to an existing route instead of continuing to downtown (as PAT did with the 14 and 18 when the North Shore Connector opened, and as they did with various other routes as part of the TPD project). But I don’t think it makes any sense for the 61C.

Sorry for the long post. I assume if the cows were out before, they’re all home by now. Somebody should really put them in the barn before they chew up the linoleum.


jonawebb

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Dec 11 2012 at 1:29pm #

BTW this is in part the idea of the BRT. Make a fast frequent connection between downtown and Oakland, moving the start of the suburban routes farther out. So you get a better match between service and need.


Benzo

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Dec 11 2012 at 3:32pm #

I’d love to see more circulator busses. I think of the 54c, but a more pared down route. This is popular in baltimore.

Love to see a route that takes you to a lot of neighborhood business districts like downtown, strip, lower lawrenceville, bloomfield, shadyside, squirrel hill, oakland, southside, downtown.

Alternatively, have one that loops through the south hills and one that loops to the north hills. Connect the business districts. Hell, you can even give them all one downtown stop or drop them off at the nearest T station to downtown (station square or north shore).

Rough Ideas—

North Side: Commons, Allegheney west, brighton heights, bellevue, perrysville, troy hill,

east allegheney, (optionally strip, downtown)

South Side: Station Square, Southside works, Arlington, Carrick, brookline Dormont, beechview, (bottom of dusquene incline).


StuInMcCandless

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Dec 11 2012 at 3:53pm #

A lot of those routes, and more, either exist already (93, 75, 11, 4) or did (9, 62, 3), but were cut back or cut altogether in the March 2011 service cuts.

Let’s differentiate between proper funding for transit, and funding of bike/ped projects. Both needed. Both in great danger due to auto-centric thinking at the state level, where the bulk of the money comes from.


Pierce

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Dec 11 2012 at 3:58pm #

Aye, remember when they used to have those little buses that were about the size of the UPMC transit buses?

I’m pretty sure those were the spoke buses


buffalo buffalo

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Dec 11 2012 at 6:49pm #

No, those were mostly suburban crosstowns and feeders, and have mostly been dropped by budget cuts. The ones left are the spokes.


Steven

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Dec 11 2012 at 7:51pm #

All those minibuses were leased. After the service cuts, PAT had enough buses that it didn’t need to lease any. (And of course, they largely served the low-usage routes that were dropped.)

Love to see a route that takes you to a lot of neighborhood business districts like downtown, strip, lower lawrenceville, bloomfield, shadyside, squirrel hill, oakland, southside, downtown.

What would be the advantage of that over the current system with separate routes for downtown=>strip=>Lawrenceville, Lawrenceville=>Bloomfield=>Shadyside=>Squirrel Hill, Squirrel Hill=>Oakland=>downtown, Shadyside=>South Side, Oakland=>South Side, and South Side=>downtown?

Having separate routes means PAT can match demand for each segment: lots of people going from downtown to Lawrenceville, or Squirrel Hill to downtown, not so many going from Oakland to the South Side.

Yes, you don’t have to change buses if you’re going several steps along your circulator route, but on the other hand, a circulator goes more indirectly, so it’ll often be faster to use the existing direct routes instead.

Are there some specific trips you think this would make easier?


Pseudacris

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Dec 11 2012 at 8:34pm #

A little OT, but since we’re picking on UPMC a bit:

They have started a food bank for their employees and are asking other employees to contribute.

Happy Holidays, love UPMC.

http://www.pghcitypaper.com/Blogh/archives/2012/12/11/upmc-opens-food-bank-for-struggling-employees-misses-point-completely


Benzo

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Dec 11 2012 at 8:35pm #

I think a frequent circulator bus route is more for ease of use and simplification of planning for the users, and a driver for businesses to get them a larger customer base. People coming from out of the region can use it to get to some nearby attractions / businesses / restaurants and other notable places without having to learn the larger bus system. It also would allow a way to plan flexibly, knowing how they can get back to their original start points without doing any research at all.

Iphone users don’t even get google transit directions anymore right?

These busses would likely have different branding than the standard bus system and drive traffic to commercial districts rather than being focused on getting people to towers in downtown and oakland.

Who’s writing about restaurant’s in pittsburgh off the 54c?

http://bmoremedia.com/features/charmcityethniceats121212.aspx

It probably helps that the baltimore circulator buses are free to use, which eliminates a lot of the ‘new user’ confusion,the need for exact change, and other issues that can be a barrier for out of towners and non-urbanites.


Benzo

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Dec 11 2012 at 8:45pm #

Actually, my idea is probably even a bit too expansive, circulator routes should probably be even shorter. Short frequent trips. BRT might address a lot of these issues.

Although, I’m still wishing for a bloomfield stop on the east busway…


Steven

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Dec 11 2012 at 10:47pm #

OK, some people don’t want to learn the bus system. Fine. But don’t add a new fleet of buses with different paint, hoping that they’ll be willing to learn that system instead. Add signs and maps and apps, so they can competently use the existing system. Want to get to Shadyside by bus? Find a bus stop, look at its map, see which bus to take. The bus stop sign could actually list the neighborhoods each bus serves, and explain how to get to others.

If iPhone users can’t get Google transit anymore (is this even true? can’t they just go to the web site, instead of using an app?), then maybe hire someone to make an app. It’ll be far, far cheaper than a new fleet of buses.

And let me point out that most people want to go between different types of regions: residential to shopping, shopping to entertainment, residential to medical, etc. A bus to connect one small business district with other similar small business districts doesn’t get as much use.


buffalo buffalo

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Dec 11 2012 at 10:54pm #

> Who’s writing about restaurants in pittsburgh off the 54c?

Actually, Elliott Sussman wrote an ode to the 54C. More about the neighborhoods (and the people on the bus) than the restaurants, though.


Anonymous

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Dec 12 2012 at 12:10am #

@Steve star topology is good if you have a lot of small hubs at the end of “backbone” to bring more riders.

I can tell you how PAT lost 2 year around riders in my family due to this star topology and some cuts.


jonawebb

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Dec 12 2012 at 1:08am #

@Steven, you know what would be totally awesome? If they put the bus schedules underneath plexiglas at the bus shelters. I know, it’s really high tech, but if they did that you could not only see the bus map, but also tell when the next bus was due.


StuInMcCandless

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Dec 12 2012 at 2:01am #

PAT has no control over many of the shelters, and is in fact prohibited from posting schedule information at them, if an ad company owns them.


Pierce

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Dec 12 2012 at 3:26am #

Which was an agreement I don’t understand why they agreed to


Pseudacris

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Dec 12 2012 at 3:36am #

It is probably Clearchannel running the shelters here. They are HUGE. If they have a public service obligation, this would be a good use of it (the posted timetables).

Seattle posted skinny timetables on the pole that holds the bus stop sign. There are plenty of shelterless stops. I believe I have seen a similar system in manhattan. Seattle’s system, when I lived there, also had a concise way of indicating what the next “hub” (for lack of a better term) stop would be, where one could make transfers to other routes easily. I missed it badly when I moved here after 10 nearly carless years there.


melange396

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Dec 12 2012 at 4:26am #

upmc should sponsor a big bikeshare and add that to their $200M in healthcare ‘giveaways’ — theyll actually help people be healthier by reducing pollution and encouraging exercise. plus, its a whole lot of advertising space and good pr for them. they might even recoup a nice chunk of the cost from late charges, or modest membership fees, or even ‘healthy side effects’ of their donation.

on twitter about seven months ago, i replied to otb and said:

https://twitter.com/melange396/status/199864358581448704

to which upmc responded:

https://twitter.com/melange396/status/199938077534334976

,,,but the dm never came. hopefully they sent something to bikepgh


Steven

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Dec 12 2012 at 5:47am #

Too bad about the bus shelters. I suspect they were required to do it for the money, turning an expense (fixing busted shelters) into an income producer, in some previous begging-for-funding cycle.

But putting the info on poles is better anyway, since so many stops lack shelters. Here’s one from New York:

The tall narrow box on the pole has detailed info on the routes, behind plexiglass.

Here’s a very good page on bus signage, from somebody trying to get Rochester to improve theirs.


Benzo

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Dec 12 2012 at 4:58pm #

@stephen. I mostly agree that adding another system in tandem with the old system would add more confusion. After doing more research on the proposed BRT system, I’m more in favor of that. It pretty much addresses a good deal of the things I thought I wanted (Distinctive branding, shorter routes, simplified system and a bit easier to use with new fare cards if you go that route).


Benzo

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Dec 12 2012 at 4:59pm #

Though, I also wish there were more printed instructions near the bus stops, I really like the idea of mounting it on the pole.

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