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      A lot of mistakes come from assuming rationality means “thinks the same way I do” rather than “reasons from premises I might not share.” Left than 1/1000 economists predicted the financial collapse, because they reasoned from assumptions like “the market is self-correcting” or “housing prices never go down.” (Sometimes both at the same time, which is rarely […]
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Ahem, I live in Pittsburgh…

Afternoon rush hour on the East Busway at Wilkinsburg Station

Afternoon rush hour on the East Busway at Wilkinsburg Station

and I take the bus to work.

Granted, I only go partway to downtown, stopping at Oakland.  But I can’t say enough good things about the East Busway, where a constant, steady stream of buses and free parking, make it a breeze to ditch the car and take public transportation.

I’m not sure I’m totally onboard with the decision to eliminate the buses in downtown Pittsburgh just because there are too many people waiting for the buses.   That sounds like the dumbest excuse from a government official since the Republicans shut the government down for some unspecified gain they haven’t even dreamed of yet.  I mean, really, there are too many people waiting for the buses so let’s cut back on the buses and the crowds on the sidewalks will disappear?  No one will go downtown anymore because it will be impossible  to get there.  I don’t see any plans to expand the Parkway right over the river, because that’s what it would take to accommodate the increased car volume.

There are potentially good reasons for curtailing the buses downtown, but none are exceptionally convincing to me.  After all, my grandfather was a PAT bus driver for many decades and the buses downtown never struck me as the primary reason there were issues with traffic or crowds.

What I see as the traffic problem downtown is not the buses but the absolutely ridiculous amount of traffic trying to get across the Fort Pitt Bridge from either direction.  Basically, too many people are taking their cars downtown.  It’s not the buses that are causing the traffic jams.  After all, most of them are taking the Busways to get to downtown so they’re not the things cluttering up the Parkway, causing us hours to get from Monroeville to Ikea.

And while it’s true that Pittsburgh is very walkable, and because the city comes to a point, literally, nothing is very far away from anything, Pittsburgh does have possibly the most uncomfortable winter weather ever.  It’s damp, it’s slushy, it’s “slippy”.  You don’t want to go out of your house much less out of your car because the chill goes straight to the bone marrow like a thousand needles.  So, if the “presumptive mayor” wants to make life bearable for commuters who will now be forced to walk extra distances to work, he might want to take a cue from the Universities and medical centers in Oakland and employ a s^&*load of free shuttles.  They’re smaller and more nimble.

By the way, the universities pay quite a bit to PAT for the use of the buses for their employees.  If you have a university employee ID (Pitt, CMU, Carlow, Duquesne, UPMC), you can ride the buses for free.  That saves employees a ton of money in parking and gas.  And traffic in Oakland is actually kind of bearable, because there are dedicated bus lanes.   I’d call that a success.  Once you get to Oakland, your ID will get you almost to your workplace front door with plenty of shuttles and Pitt buses. There’s even a shuttle for the biotech corridor along the river. You don’t have to walk but walking in Oakland is pleasant and if you work in the medical center area, a daily workout up Cardiac Hill.  You can even track your shuttle on your mobile device.

So, maybe this plan is the “presumptive mayor’s” way of hitting up downtown businesses for money to support the bus system or a shuttle system.  Otherwise, I dread the increase in traffic.  It’s bad enough that the bus service to my area was cut back a couple of years ago.  I definitely notice a difference in the morning in traffic where the bus service picks up again.  The traffic jams going downtown are spectacular and just forget trying to get to work on time by taking the Squirrel Hill tunnels in the morning.  Nah-gah-happen.  Life would be so much better if the bus service to the suburbs went back to the pre-cutback state and more people took the buses to work along the breezy, fast moving busway.

Now, if Peduto wants to make the downtown district car free, I’m all for that.

Random thots

Pretty busy lately.  Will show pics of my new screen porch at some point.  In the meantime, I’m trying to catch up with the news.  So, here are my random thots.

Syria- NOW we want to bomb the shit out of Syria??  A couple of years ago when Assad’s forces were picking off little kids in the streets of Homs we couldn’t be bothered.  But when they pull out the chemical weapons we get our knickers in a twist?  Syria isn’t like Libya.  At least in Libya, there was an endpoint.  A deft touch of air power was all it took to bring down the regime.  In Syria, who knows what it will take?  In any case, if we were going to deter Assad, it probably would have been better to catch it early.  At this point in time, it just looks like another clever way to get around the sequester for the wealthy and well connected, in this case, the defense industry.

And don’t stick that fricking “If we don’t support the president’s actions in Syria, it’ll be the end of Obama’s presidential career” guilt trip shit on us.  You know what will permanently tarnish his legacy and make him the least effective president ever?  If he can’t restore food stamp funding.  Yeah, that and high unemployment sucks and has been going on for too long.

Harvard business school has conducted an experiment in the past couple of years to make the place more equitable for women.  I’m not sure HBS was entirely successful.  But whatever.  Gender equity is the least of its problems.  It’s a horror story of American aristocracy simultaneously distancing itself from the rest of us while figuring out newer ways to take over everything.  Chilling.  Depressing.  Places like HBS shouldn’t exist.

Speaking of unemployment, it turns out that cutting wages to the science community was not an accident.  Nooooo.  It was a plan that Alan Greenspan floated in 2007:

Allowing more skilled workers into the country would bring down the salaries of top earners in the United States, easing tensions over the mounting wage gap, Greenspan said.

“Our skilled wages are higher than anywhere in the world,” he said. “If we open up a significant window for skilled workers, that would suppress the skilled-wage level and end the concentration of income.”

Thank you, Alan for murdering the American R&D infrastructure.  It will never be the same in our lifetimes.

Other stuff:

I started taking the bus to work.  Thumbs up to the East Busway.  Thumbs down to the people who decided to cut service to the eastern suburbs once you get off the east busway.  Stranding people in Wilkinsburg because the last bus to Oakmont leaves at something like 6:30pm, not very wise, especially considering how packed the Oakmont bus is all of the time.  Otherwise, I can’t complain about the buses.