Starting with the introduction of smart card fare collection technology, the Connect '09 initiative is ultimately aimed at overhauling how the entire transit system is structured. Data collected from smart card usage will give PAT a better idea of its customer's riding habits claims PAT Chief Executive, Steve Bland.
One thing that is funny is that many of the things that Bland states have been being said for decades and totally ignored by PAT. Suddenly PAT discovers what needs to be done and acts as though it has never been thought of before. Wrong Steve, much of this has been said from long before PAT even took control of Pittsburgh's public transit system. I know personally that I've been waving the banner claiming PAT needed to look at transit in a new way for decades.
The Connect '09 plan also can be used to integrate the surrounding counties into a single transit system with either a direct agency or as an umbrella agency. That fact was heavily downplayed at the press conference by PennDOT Secretary, Allen Biehler as well as Mr. Bland.
Now before any catcalls about how PAT can afford this, it is being paid for through a Federal grant and has no effect on the service cuts. The cuts would happen with or without this program. One side note however is that the grant only pays for this to be used on the buses and PAT will have to come up with other forms of funding to pay for the implementation of the smart card technology on the rail vehicles.
While Steve Bland has earned himself and PAT a few Lances since his arrival, I must give him a Laurel for finally acknowledging that PAT needs to overhaul its route structure. It took long enough for someone in a position to do something to actually shed light on what us common folk have been pointing out for decades now.