Port Authority pitches 'drastic' cuts in jobs, routes

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AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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The Devil’s Advocate is a rhetorical tool.

It’s not MY position. Just seemed like an obvious follow-up to draw more detail out of the dialogue.


Greasefoot
Participant
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This is NOT my position…unfortunately these are the sentiments of State Sen. Kim Ward…I don’t endorse her statements…I know we need funding for transit but I don’t think the lame duck governor has the support to pass any type of tax or fee increase…

Sen. Kim Ward of Hempfield issued a statement criticizing elements in Mr. Rendell’s backup plan for transportation funding, such as higher fees for drivers’ licenses and vehicle registration and a 3.25-cent-per-gallon increase in the state’s 31-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax.

She said that the governor wants to pass “the burdensome costs of the mass transit systems in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to those hard-working men and women in rural Pennsylvania who have no other means of transportation except for their automobile.”

Ms. Ward also called for a change in the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, so that highway and bridge projects could be funded by the bonds — which can’t happen now.

As part of the recently enacted 2010-11 state budget, borrowing of up to $600 million was authorized for new RACP projects. These included Mr. Rendell’s call to spend $10 million for a new building to house the papers of deceased Johnstown Congressman John Murtha and another $10 million for a library for U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in Philadelphia.

Ms. Ward said that “instead of reaching into taxpayers’ pockets” for transportation funding, Mr. Rendell “should reach into his own and [change] the permitted uses of the RACP for public transportation infrastructure projects. RACP dollars would be better served as reinvestment in aging roads instead of a library named after Sen. Specter,” 


rsprake
Participant
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Burdensome costs… give me a break. Like increasing the measly $36 registration fee is going to break the bank.


Ahlir
Participant
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Why should my taxes pay for state road maintenance in McKean County? I certainly never use those roads.


edmonds59
Participant
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Ahlir hinted at what I was going to say – people in rural areas require a lot more money per capita to build roads out to them in their remote areas, and the roads are there primarily so the country folk can get their goods or whatever it is they make out there back into the cities so the city folks can buy it. Country folks could never afford to build the roads that serve them. That’s ok, city folks just want their share in the form of public transit.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Ward’s position is untenable anyway. What she claims about transit systems being bloated and inefficient —

If these authorities were businesses, they would have to find ways to cut or to work more efficiently…

— might have had some relevancy a couple of years ago. But Act 44 required transit agencies to work more efficiently, hence all these TDP changes.

What do Ward and her ilk want to have happen that the TDP is not causing to happen? The whole point of TDP was to address these concerns.


Impala26
Participant
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Stu, is there any hope of salvation, even in the short-term? Or is all aboard the doom train for Pittsburgh?

I’m going to be really depressed if this is indeed permanent.


JZ
Participant
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Ward, Hempfield. Hey, isn’t Hempfield using state police (paid out of taxes collected in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) for local law enforcement because they don’t want to pay for it themselves?


edmonds59
Participant
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“If these authorities were businesses, they would have to find ways to cut or to work more efficiently…”

Oh, you mean like farm subsidies?

Farm subsidies in PA: “Ten percent collected 59 percent of all subsidies.

Amounting to $868 million over 15 years.

Top 10%: $13,781 average per year between 1995 and 2009.

Bottom 80%: $679 average per year between 1995 and 2009.”

From the national farm subsidy database.


Greasefoot
Participant
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+1!!! JZ

Someone should remind her of that fact!


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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The salvation lies in getting 100+ Republicans in Harrisburg who think like she does to change their minds. Or at least enough that a pro-transit majority can get something passed.

JZ, you’re on to something. I still own a house and land in Hempfield (that I lived in from 1984-1992), so I’m definitely sending her a letter, as well as to my own GOP rep and senator (Turzai, Orie).


Lenny
Participant
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It’s really too bad PAT is cutting transit routes,but maybe something positive will result in the fact that more people will be getting around by walking or cycling, and also the need for having more sharrows and bike trails in our areas.I know a couple others who now bike everywhere due to the last PAT transit strike.If we can build safer roads and more trails,we will have a healthier society.I just got a job in Oakland, and now walk or bike to work.I live 3 miles away and presently will never consider taking PAT transit.I hope this strike has this same kind of thinking for others also.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Unfortunately, Lenny, the opposite is likely to happen, that making these cuts is going to put even more cars on the road, making it harder for bikes and pedestrians to get around.

Bikes work pretty well for sub-3-mile trips like yours, but there are a lot of people who live 5 to 15 miles out whose service will be cut altogether, and they aren’t going to walk or use bicycles, even in good weather.

And in general transportation cost cutting, trails and bike infrastructure is the first thing cut and last thing reinstated.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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My letter to legislators is here.


rsprake
Participant
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Here here Stu.

As for highways and bridges, when the 1945 amendment was passed, the reasoning was that their upkeep would be funded through fuel taxes. So, if it is not collecting enough to keep the roads and bridges fixed, either raise the tax, or require PennDOT to economize and streamline like transit is doing

Well said.


salty
Participant
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There is nothing positive that will occur if transit service gets cut.


dwillen
Participant
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From twitter:

PGHtransit: Port Authority vote on proposed service cuts postponed til Nov to give legislators more time to solve transportation funding crisis.

PGHtransit: This means that if no solution is found, earliest service cuts could go into effect would be March 13, not January 9. (4 minutes ago from web)


sloaps
Participant
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Special Session House Bill #8 is currently being pushed by Rep. Evans. It’s the only bill in Harrisburg that is providing additional funding for mass transit.

However, the formula that was used for mass transit funding will only provide an additional $50million for operating expenses, yet $500million for capital expenses.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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PAT has a $47M hole; $27M of that is directly from the I-80 fiasco. $50M statewide for operating expenses, by the formulas I am aware of, would be roughly $10-15M for PAT.


dwillen
Participant
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http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10277/1092588-147.stm

PAT gets $22.7 million to buy busses. Presumably these will look nicer sitting in the garages when PAT runs out of gas money to run them.


wojty
Participant
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Is there any money to be made in auctioning off the old equipment, even just for scrap or something?

I realize money for new buses is money in a bucket that cannot be used directly, but there has to be a round-about way to at least glean a bit.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Yes, they routinely auction off old buses. Scrap value is usually about $3K/bus. That amount of money would keep one remaining PAT bus running for about a day or so.

The buses to be replaced are the 14-year-old 2600/2700-series Novabuses, and maybe some of the earliest 5000-series low-floors. The lifespan of a bus is 12 years, and the 5000s were new in 1999.

I just hope they can recover the bike racks on the scrapped buses and install them on the much newer 5400s, which will be around for many years to come.


quizbot
Participant
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Temporary fix for the cuts…

Rendell says he has found money to avert transit cuts

Thursday, December 02, 2010

By Jon Schmitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Gov. Ed Rendell today announced he has found $45 million to enable the Port Authority to avert record-breaking service cuts.

The governor met privately with members of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission this morning to ask them to approve reprogramming the money.

After the meeting, Mr. Rendell said the money is coming from an economic development fund that receives $25 million a year in federal grants.

Three projects for which the money had been allocated did not move forward, he said.

“We’re not asking for dollars to be taken from highways to be paid into mass transit,” Mr. Rendell said. SPC members in July had approved a nonbinding resolution opposing a shift of highway money to transit.

Port Authority has authorized a 35 percent service reduction on March 13, eliminating 47 routes, scaling back others and laying off more than 400 employees because of a funding deficit, mostly because of a state funding shortfall.

A planned fare increase for January is still likely.

“Obviously this is a one-year fix,” Mr. Rendell said. “It will give the Legislature and the new governor time” to address the statewide transportation funding crisis.

Port Authority CEO Steve Bland said if the SPC approves the funding it would enable the agency to continue operating its current service.

He said it did not appear to change plans for a January fare increase, but he would let the authority board address it.


dwillen
Participant
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Haha. “Oh wow, THERE is my $45,000,000.00.”


reddan
Keymaster
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Amazing what you find under the couch cushions, innit?


ejwme
Participant
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“We’re not asking for dollars to be taken from highways to be paid into mass transit,” Mr. Rendell said.

But, but… but that would be nice.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to watch 279N back up solid almost the entire way to 79 from the city. There were cops in the HOV lane pulling over scofflaws, but the HOV lane was mostly empty.

Thing is, 13K goes from up there, where almost all those drivers came from, to the city. So if there are enough drivers to stop traffic for ~20 miles of highway, why aren’t there enough riders to fill busses to keep them running? Just confusing. But I’m not that bright.


erok
Keymaster
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http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10336/1107573-53.stm

some gems in another article:

Mr. Corbett on Tuesday appointed a 27-member transportation committee as part of his transition team. No one from Port Authority was named, and only one committee member, Pasquale T. Deon Sr., chairman of Philadelphia’s SEPTA board, is from a public transit agency.

and

Mr. Rendell on previous occasions has gotten approval from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission to redirect federal highway money to the transit agency to avoid big service cuts, an action called “flexing.”

When the governor suggested that as a possible option this summer, the SPC board overwhelmingly approved a nonbinding resolution opposing it.


ejwme
Participant
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and how many people on his transportation team are walking or cycling advocates?

and how many have ties to the trucking, shipping, or motor vehicle industries?

found this posted on a rail blog:

TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE COMMITTEE

Co-Chair – Vahan Gureghian, CEO of Charter School Management, Inc.

Co-Chair – Brad Mallory, CEO of Michael Baker Corporation

Co-Chair – Pete Tartline

Tony Bartolomeo, President & CEO of Pennoni Associates

Brenda Bratina, Director of Toll Revenue Audit, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission;

Tom Caramanico, President of McCormick Taylor, Inc.

Randy Cheetham, Regional VP of CSX

Mark Compton, Director of Government Affairs, American Infrastructure

Charles Courtney, McNees, Wallace & Nurick

Walter D’Alessio, Northmarq Capital

Pasquale T. Deon,Sr., Chairman of SEPTA, Turnpike Commissioner

Paul Detwiler, New Enterprise Stone& Lime

Douglas Dick; John Durbin, President, Durbin Associates

Tom Ellis, Special Counsel, Duane Morris

Liz Ferry, Manager, Policy Development, Select Greater Philadelphia

Mike Fesen, Resident VP Public Affairs, Norfolk Southern Corporation

Annette Ganassi, VP of Walmar Enterprises

Steve Haddad, President & CEO of Bieber Transportation Group

Kevin Johnson, President of Traffic Planning and Design

Bob Kinsley, President of Kinsley Construction

Ted Leonard, Executive Director of Pennsylvania AAA

Ross Myers, President of American Infrastructure

Jim Roddey, Principal, McCrory & McDowell, LLC

Bob Shuster

Mark Stine, VP of Legislative Affairs,PA Automotive Association

Jeff Zell, CEO of Jeff Zell Consultants


Steven
Participant
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Thing is, 13K goes from up there, where almost all those drivers came from, to the city. So if there are enough drivers to stop traffic for ~20 miles of highway, why aren’t there enough riders to fill busses to keep them running?

Having more passengers on these long-distance routes doesn’t actually help keep them running. This is because the fare on most routes doesn’t cover the cost of running the service.

According to PAT’s 2009 TPD study, average loads on the 13K were already close to each bus’s seated capacity. And each trip cost $5.53 per passenger (largely due to the long distance of the route). Fares probably paid for less than half the cost of the trip, with the rest coming mostly from tax revenue. (With some shorter routes, fares cover PAT’s costs and it makes money on them, but not the 13K or most other suburban routes.)

If more people took the 13K, PAT would have to deploy more buses, so the $5.53 figure wouldn’t change very much. The more passengers, the more tax revenue it would require.

The idea is that spending this tax money is a reasonable way to combat congestion (and to a lesser extent, pollution). Transit subsidies produce shorter commute times for everyone.


edmonds59
Participant
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But if more people from the suburbs had to rely on public transportation, they would have to interact with other people with different backgrounds and beliefs, and it would be more difficult for people to maintain their rigid pre-determined world views, and nobody wants that.

I’m convinced that there is a direct correlation between the divided political discourse in this country, and the ability of individuals to sit for a few hours each day in their isolated capsules and guffaw in lonely agreement with whichever radio talking head they choose to agree with.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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None of the people on that infrastructure list tell me pro-transit, pro-bike, pro-pedestrian, just road building and railroads. The biggie will be whoever Gov. Corbett chooses as Secretary of Transportation.

The 13K is the poster child for the sort of service that should be scuttled. Even with a 57-seat bus that stands 18, you cannot even come close to recovering in fares what it costs to operate.

As to the proposed funding flex, don’t be too surprised if this gets voted down by the SPC. Even if it passes, it only gains us 3 months of status quo. We’re still looking at a very different world for transit come FY12. Chances are excellent that every cut from March goes in place by July 1, and more.


erok
Keymaster
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why is allegheny county’s transit future determined by a bunch of unelected people from other counties?

Mr. Rendell and Mr. Biehler said they tapped federal transportation money that had been set aside for economic development projects that either did not go forward or did not use their full allotment.

That included $20 million awarded for road improvements for a mall in Cranberry whose developers canceled the project;

$20 Million for a mall. that’s about half of what was needed to fill this gap. but that’s an ok use of resources.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10337/1107837-53.stm


Greasefoot
Participant
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Stu is correct the SPC may vote this down.

Keep your fingers crossed that the new governor elect doesn’t speaks out against this proposal. If he opposes this reallocation the 66-member commission most likely won’t approve it. The chairman of the SPC has already said he’ll vote no on the transfer. He thinks the money could be better spent on other things, such as building bridges that “could be used 24/7 for the next 100 years, not just to postpone this issue for three months.”


erok
Keymaster
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again: why is allegheny county’s transit future determined by a bunch of unelected people from other counties?


ejwme
Participant
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I’m also very confused about the actual role of the SPC. Their website says they do all kinds of things… But doesn’t clarify why they have the power to turn down money to be spent for the benefit of the citizens in the region.

And if 13K costs too much, that doesn’t mean it should be cut. It means it should increase fares and (to the extent possible) decrease costs so the two meet in a somewhat acceptable price range. This may not be possible under the current system, but that doesn’t mean that it’s permanently impossible and the entire concept should be scrapped.


erok
Keymaster
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I’m also very confused about the actual role of the SPC

i think that’s by design.


Mick
Participant
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@stu None of the people on that infrastructure list tell me pro-transit, pro-bike, pro-pedestrian, just road building and railroads

But…

There’s big money in railroads! And a long, strong history of of corruption. OLf course, they are represented.

Randy Cheetham, Regional VP of CSX

Mike Fesen, Resident VP Public Affairs, Norfolk Southern Corporation

Is Triple A still spending money campaigning against decent transportation? I’m guessing so. Does PA AA do the same thing?

Ted Leonard, Executive Director of Pennsylvania AAA

Mark Stine, VP of Legislative Affairs,PA Automotive Association

Basically,anyone who wants to squeeze a few more nickles out of the travelling public can get on there on there – presumably for buck or two in the right place.


Swalfoort
Participant
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Not confunsing by design. SPC is the regional forum for transportation decision making. Part of that role is the execution of the formal processes through which federal (and certain state) funds can be spent on projects in the region.


erok
Keymaster
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so, who are the officers/commissioners accountable to?


erok
Keymaster
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