How to fight the PUC “cease-and-desist order”

In all likelihood, by the 4th of July (consider the irony) Lyft and UberX are likely to be barred from operating in the Pittsburgh region by the Commonwealth’s Pubic Utility Commission.  What change do Pittsburgh citizens demand to prevent being returned to living at the mercy of Yellow Cab’s indifference to our needs?

The logical course of action is to demand the regulation of taxi service be devolved to Allegheny County;  Philadelphia has regulated their own service since 2004.

 Act 94 of 2004 transfers oversight of Medallion taxicabs from the Public Utility Commission to the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA). On April 10, 2005, the PPA officially began regulatory oversight of Medallion taxicabs. 


Forget the Yellow Cab vs. ride-sharing argument for a moment; there is bigger issue at heart here.  Pittsburgh needs the flexibility that has long been afforded Philadelphia to control our own regulations, revenues, and destiny.


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Tower at PNC looking sharp from Forbes


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“When the secon…

“When the second leg of the Southern Beltway opens in five years, the Pennsylvania Turnpike will have spent $788 million to build 19 miles of highway that it anticipates just 7,500 motorists will use daily.”

$550 million Southern Beltway project launches for Pennsylvania Turnpike” – Pittsburgh Tribute Review, 5/12/2014 

1980’s highway planning does not advance 21st century economic development

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Uber trips in PGH

Uber trips in PGH

Uber recently released trip density maps of all the cities they serve resulting in a very interesting view of Pittsburgh. Uber and Lyft have already proven to be a huge asset to Pittsburgh despite the PUC and Yellow Cab’s attack on them.

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PGH 2030 District Update on Essential Pittsburgh (4/24/2014)

I had the opportunity to update Paul Guggenheimer on the Pittsburgh 2030 District’s Inaugural Progress Report as a guest on Essential Pittsburgh on April 24th.

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“Sprawl didn’t …

“Sprawl didn’t just happen – it is a direct consequence of ‘big government.'” – Vishaan Chakrabarti

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PIT’s post-hub strategy is backsliding

It may surprise you if you have been to the airport lately, but the Pittsburgh region is often looked to as a model of how to pick up the pieces after losing an airline hub. That story is being told with more frequency as cities like Memphis and Cleveland (most likely to be joined by Cincinnati and Phoenix in the near term) are searching for direction after losing their hub city status. Unfortunately, despite the positive economic situation in Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh’s airport successes are seriously backsliding.

Every month, the traffic reports coming out of the Allegheny County Airport Authority continue to paint a grim pictures. The most recent release from ACAA indicated a 3.3% drop in January 2014 versus last year. In an effort to channel Chris Briem’s spectacular “Nullspace Blog,” I have been playing data miner with the airport’s statistics to see what exactly is going on…

Source: Research and Innovation Technology Administration

Source: Research and Innovation Technology Administration

Spirit serves a number of leisure markets from LBE.  Photo by yours truly.

Spirit serves a number of leisure markets from Latrobe.  Photo by yours truly.

Although I have always watched the passenger and flight statistics, I really started to wonder if there is not a larger regional story at play after taking my first (and hopefully only) trip on Spirit Airlines out of the Latrobe Airport.  Latrobe leveraged a sizable federal grant to land Spirit service (you are reading that correctly, the federal government is subsidizing a redundant airport system in Western PA) which has since grown into an impressive little route structure.  Combining LBE’s passengers into PIT’s provides a better regional air service picture that is slightly rosier, but still almost 4% off the 2011 peak…

Source: Research and Innovation Technology Administration

Source: Research and Innovation Technology Administration

What is going on?  I think there are a few major factors in play, one of which is the fracturing of the leisure traveler market between two airports for no good reason.  Traffic numbers at PIT are also being hammered by a national trend of airline consolidation which has pulled significant down significant capacity and driven up prices – airlines are also profitable for the first time in decades as a result.  Prices at PIT has been particularly impacted as competition has been further reduced in key business markets, New York and Philadelphia as Jet Blue and Southwest pulled off those routes respectively.

Source: Research and Innovation Technology Administration

Source: Research and Innovation Technology Administration

Pittsburgh International is on the cusp of major changes as the CEO of the Airport Authority has departed/been forced out and with the prospect of a significant landing fee reduction in 2018.  While there are still successes to point to – Delta’s Paris flight, expanded service to the West Coast, etc. – there are major challenges in the immediate future including a significant reduction of leisure flying to Florida, further consolidations from the US Airways/American merger, and renewed competition with Cleveland.

Delta 757 in Skyteam colors at PIT bound for Paris. Photo by yours truly

Delta 757 in Skyteam colors at PIT bound for Paris. Photo by yours truly

The airport has come a long way since the immediate aftermath of the loss of the US Airways hub; the alliance of government and business interests has a lot to do with it.  That alliance must immediately redouble the efforts to attract new service and to market our existing service better or PIT risks falling behind again and dragging the region’s new found business prospects with it.

What can be done?  I have some ideas but that is for another post.


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