Monday, January 31, 2005

Transportation Project Wishes to Become a Template

Consider a city or county trip to work as a quick comfortable glide with pleasant diversions. I'm not talking about getting a new SUV. The twice daily trip in a costly vehicle, generaly alone, among swarms of others, zagging potholes takes its toll.

Our region's cooperative spirit can foster growth, development and smooth transportation options if we put our minds to the task. Clean, efficient and quiet
transport in an integrated system that included vehicle-pooling should be a higher priority. An efficient flow of people enables productivity as everyone involved is more productive, healthier, empowered and more robust for the other challenges life delivers.

Going to work without that mad rush we generally assume as necessary need not occur. To smoothen, calm and promote teamwork seems to make sense.

Our neighborhoods in the city offer various treasures for those on the way to the burbs. We have something here to justify a stop. The city is more than a place for traffic's blurh and auto fumes.

Many more could walk short distances to work instead of having to ride or drive long distances. But, our work places need to be in the city. Our city businesses need to be thriving and not over taxed. Customers, talented employees, and support elements (such as wireless internet) need to be in place.

Many more workers can devise ways of working out of one's home so as to not have to
travel to work at all. However, the home office could be among the city's urban fabric. Meeting rooms, office support materials and deliveries need to go smoothly.

Neighbors are working out of their churches to get those who are working (or want to work) to their destinations in spite of present (and projected future) shortcomings in our public transit system. If you've ever found yourself on foot in an unfamiliar side of town without any money in the middle of the night you know what so many workers face today trying to make a living at jobs which are at times and places not serviced by public transit.

The Henry Highland Garnet Society, continuing the tradition that took people to freedom via the Underground Railroad, is piloting a faith-based transportation project to begin March 7, 2005. Working with Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church, Bidwell United Presbyterian Church and Hazelwood Presbyterian Church, this group is honoring courageous ancestors (who refused to accept the systematic x-ing out of certain segments of the population) by working to assure that those who are willing and able to get to the workplace of their choosing will have that ability - regardless of their ability to pay.

People in the city need to work in other parts of the county (and vice versa). There are new jobs at South Side Works, UPMC, and the Central City hospitality and entertainment centers. Few can afford either jitney or taxi service to work, and taxi service is not available in all neighborhoods even were it affordable.

Not everyone works 9-5 Mondays to Fridays. As my dad once (rudely) answered the phone at work at ALCOSAN sewage treatment plant (when a caller expressed surprise that the plant was open on a Sunday) - "Did you flush your toilet this morning?" If we want a 24-7 town we're going to have to invest in it. People have to get back and forth to work at all hours.

The Garnet Society's Ship of Zion is networking to provide van transportation service during off-peak and non-traditional hours for workers living in city neighborhoods. They will carry job seekers and workers to/from Mercy Hospital in the Hill District to Echo Star in McKeesport via the Homestead Waterfront and South Side Works.

The project is designed as a "win/win" - good for business and labor - facilitating employers' recruiting and job retention as well as providing Mon-Valley job seekers with safe and reliable job opportunities and continuing employment for those already working.

Needs assessment and route implementation has been funded by grant from the Pittsburgh Foundation, contributions from partner churches, and volunteer time and effort by many. Future funding is not set, but may include governmental sources.

Long term goals:

1. Create routes to be absorbed by Port Authority;

2. Create routes to connect with Port Authority;

3. Assist other faith-based and community groups in replicating this project from their particular areas.

Contact number Ship of Zion "Carrying You to Work" - 412-302-7026

The project is endorsed by the Pittsburgh Presbytery, which is it's current fiscal agent while 501c3 status is pending.

Management Team:

Rev. Dr. Johnnie Monroe, Pastor, Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church

Diane Watley, Certified Community Leader, Administrative Aide, Grace Memorial

Elder Richard LeGrande, Garnet Society, retired airline manager, former pres Allegheny County Transit Council, Access to Work Task Force, Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission public participation panel, Pittsburgh Transportation Equity Project, Group Against Smog and Pollution

Advisory Team:

Jane Downing, Pittsburgh Foundation

Christy McSorley Bell, Port Authority

Maureen Pezwater, Job Developer, Access to Work


Cecilia Wandiga, PARG Associates, form member City Planning

Don Bell, professor University of Pittsburgh, former Chief of Operations Port Authority,


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