Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nothing Set in Stone

First things first.  Don’t call it a bailout (that goes for you too PG).  That insinuates the Port Authority immediately screwed something up*.  The Port Authority didn’t say; “Hey, let’s throw away our state funding on hookers and blow!”  The state promised dedicated funding for public transportation.  Their plan was arguably a stupid idea and they had no plan B when it didn’t work.  Now they can’t balance the budget while providing a sustainable transit funding source.  The blame for this immediate crisis lies with the state.

Apparently, some on the committee are saying that this is just another band-aid.  I would agree.  No one thinks this is permanent.  However, I would also argue the Port Authority shouldn’t be pushed off the cliff to prove a point. 
Permanent funding absolutely needs to be established.  Forcing the Port Authority over the edge and using Western Pennsylvania’s transit users as pawns in the process is not the right way to bring about the needed change. 

The move is meant to buy time to allow steady funding to be established WITHOUT the massive cuts, increased wear and tear on roads, and increased traffic headaches that will occur as a result. 

Not helping the cause is the fact that there seem to be some clear highway advocates within the SPC, especially in areas that are not densely populated and do not have a big public transportation footprint. 

Chairman Charlie Camp seems to be a leader among them, stating: 

"We're tired of the mass transit funding issue coming at the cost of highways and bridges and being put on our table."

I believe that to be a short-sited and erroneous statement.  The money is coming from projects that were not started.  This money would not have been spent on improving our highways.  Additionally, if the cuts are allowed to go through, they will cause major increases in road usage, and therefore increases in wear and tear on our already tired roads and bridges.  Not spending the money to keep the Port Authority going is NOT going to help Western Pennsylvania's roads.

Bottom line, it looks like it’s going to be yet another nail biter in this already very nervous year for the Port Authority and their riders.

If you care about keeping service at least at status quo, then here are a couple of contacts:

To reach the General Comments address:  comments@spcregion.org

To reach the Transportation Planning Directordipietro@spcregion.org

*As I've stated before, the Port Authority has done plenty over the years to warrant anger towards their financial situation.  However, this particular situation has nothing to do with the current regime at the Port Authority.  It's also easy to blame the Unions.  It's true that their negotiated advances did a lot to push us towards this point.  However, the Unions have a legal contract in place and Steve Bland cannot just legally back out on that contract and make the sweeping changes that are called for in some circles.  

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