Rome wasn't built in a day and all roads that led there took longer. Sometimes the payoff for projects doesn't come quickly, and that certainly will be the case with Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato's new attempt to improve transit both between Downtown and Oakland and within the Oakland community itself.
This effort requires both a long-range view and an open mind.
First, the long view. Parking has been at a premium in Oakland for as long as any Pittsburgher can remember, and the growth of its universities and hospitals makes the shortage worse every day. The Port Authority's mass transit service to Oakland, while helped by express service via the East Busway and a lane on Fifth Avenue that is restricted to buses, remains inadequate to serve a sufficient number of students and employees. But study after study, proposal after proposal, have failed to produce a solution.
That's why the latest idea, which asks for solutions from the private sector, is worth pursuing. While the city and county lack resources to solve the problem on their own, the governmental bodies do have the capacity to offer private firms a carrot -- the rights to develop parcels of land along the transit routes they might develop.
Mr. Onorato's solicitation for private investors also is aimed at improving transit service within Oakland and the Second Avenue corridor, where the eds and meds of Oakland have spread. That trend is bound to continue, and Oakland's traditional borders will have to stretch wider, with the most recent evidence coming last week with news that the premium office space market in Oakland has become so tight that one real estate firm says the vacancy rate is an unheard of zero percent.
Mr. Onorato's Transportation Action Partnership is hoping to form a public-private agreement with a firm that would design, build, operate and maintain the transit systems in exchange for long-term leases for development parcels.
Now, about the need for an open mind. A lot of the ideas that come out may sound familiar -- an elevated people-mover system in Oakland, for example, or a dedicated thoroughfare between the Downtown business district and Oakland. Just because these features never got off the drawing board before doesn't mean they might not have a chance at life with the involvement of private enterprise.
The challenges posed by Oakland have gone unresolved for too long. There's no time like the present to start looking for a better plan for the future.