"The millennials are coming in force."
That was top among Pittsburgh's major economic trends noted by Bill Lawrence, one of nine panelists who spent the last week touring the region and meeting with interest groups to help Port Authority come up with a long-term vision.
And it turns out many of the panel's recommendations for the transit agency involve attracting that demographic group born after 1980 who apparently really hate cars and really like public transit. It's what the panel called "a shift from utility service delivery to hospitality delivery."
The panel recommended a number of technological improvements: a mobile platform that would handle everything from schedules to fare payment — something they said could be rolled out within the year; interactive bus shelters complete with touch screens; real-time information about when the next transit vehicle will arrive (The real-time system is already a work-in-progress).
Other recommendations included expanding late-night transit options and coordinating to make sure that future development throughout the region is transit-oriented and making service to the airport more attractive.
The panel seemed to agree with Port Authority that Act 89, the state legislation that gives Port Authority roughly half a billion more dollars through 2019, doesn't offer enough funding for new projects or restoration of old service. (Largely because the agency had been projecting large and increasing deficits).
All of which raises the question: who's going to pay for a technologically advanced transit system? The panel suggested a number of options, ranging from a regional sales tax increase, to a $2 fee at every Port Authority parking lot and every paid commuter parking lot.
There were plenty of other suggestions presented this morning — Port Authority says the panel's slides will be posted on their website soon, and the full written report will be available in 2-3 months.
"This is an excellent start to think about," said Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean immediately after the presentation. "It's comprehensive and a little overwhelming."