Somebody at Port Authority Transit must have a screw loose.
The series of bus and trolley changes include eliminating:
- 124 of 213 weekday bus routes.
- 55 of 100 Saturday bus routes.
- 26 of 75 Sunday and holiday bus routes.
Light-rail service would be trimmed by cutting hours of operation and increasing the time between trolleys. Besides reducing the number of daily transit vehicle hours, the changes would reduce the number of one-way vehicle trips by 24 percent and overall ridership by 11 percent, the authority has estimated.
PAT and county officials are claiming that the proposed cuts aren’t meant to scare Harrisburg into bailing them out again. Let’s suppose for the moment that they aren’t (yeah, right). That doesn’t mean PA’s government can wash its hands of this mess. Philadelphia faces similar problems, and what hurts the two major metropolitan regions in PA, hurts the whole state.
Apparently Gov. Rendell has more important issues to deal with. He’s busy bending over backwards to accommodate the Penguins’ demands in an effort to keep them in Pittsburgh. The last time the PAT and SEPTA cried about how broke they are, Rendell miraculously “found” some surplus money in the state budget (and I’m still wondering where the hell it came from) and then patted himself on the back for “solving” the problem. His new solution seems to to just ignore the problem. Judging by how easily he was reelected, Pennsylvanians aren’t too bothered by his style of leadership.
As for the state’s legislators, they thought giving themselves a raise was more important than solving fiscal crises such as those faced by transit systems. Many paid the price for that arrogance on election day. I wonder if their replacements, or the remaining incumbents, will continue to navel gaze.
Then again, given that PAT and SEPTA are bloated and in desperate need of responsible and efficient management, could ignoring their cries of “Wolf!” be the right idea after all? No. Punishing them for their mismanagement by ignoring their budget crises and underfunding them isn’t the answer. “Poor planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine,” says the old proverb, and if PAT and SEPTA bureaucrats were the only ones affected by such “tough love”, I’d be all for it. Unfortunately, the citizens of Allegheny and Philadelphia will suffer if PAT and SEPTA have to make major service cuts.
Here’s the money quote of the article:
[Allegheny County Mr. Onorato said the nation’s 28th-largest county can no longer afford the nation’s 15th-largest public transit system.
Ah, good old lies and statistics. Does he mean population or by geography, budget or number of routes?
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Those numbers are just meant to confound and placate you. They don’t tell you that places to park are too few and too expensive for a lot of people, that traffic is already a nightmare and fewer buses will force more people to drive, or that Allegheny County has a lot of elderly folks who are dependent on buses for transportation. What the county really can’t afford is to let the public transportation system rot from within.
Is PAT in desperate need of an overhaul? Absolutely. Should residents of Allegheny County be punished for PAT’s bloat and ineptitude? No. This isn’t what folks have in mind when they expect PAT to ride them*.
The complete list of proposed changes can be found here. The PDF includes a number to call and complain and a list of public hearing dates. I encourage folks to give PAT a piece of their minds. Even better, suggest alternatives to this nonsense, like introducing an Octopus card or paying bus drivers less.
*In Pittsburgh slang, saying “PAT is riding me” means “PAT is transporting me” or “PAT is giving me a ride [to some destination(s)]”. Idiomatic uses of “to ride” include “to ridicule or harass persistently” and “to control, dominate, or tyrannize over”. Given PAT’s reason for being and what it’s reportedly going to do to me (and anyone else in Allegheny County dependent on public transportation), I thought the play on words fit.
Update: According to Ken Zapinski, senior VP of transportation and infrastructure at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, this nonsense isn’t a scare tactic. We’ll see.
Update: Save Our Transit is organizing a rally to protest the proposed service cuts and fare increases.
Addendum: There are a couple interesting posts on this topic at the Burgh Report.
Perhaps the Port Authority is not a business. Perhaps having a network of busses and trains that run from point to point throughout the city is a basic element of civic infrastructure, existing not as commerce, but to facilitate commerce.
Currently, the bus network is run as a public corporation. That means that it is a government controlled entity trying to operate as a business, but without a genuine profit motive. In other words, it is a non-viable bastard child of the private and public sector. Instead, what I am saying we should be doing is treating the transportation network not as a public corporation, a strange public-private business hybrid struggling to break even, but as a public service contracted out to the lowest bidder.