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Old 06-17-2011, 12:14 PM
 
Location: Mexican War Streets
1,314 posts, read 853,552 times
Reputation: 934
Quote:
Originally Posted by h_curtis View Post
No kidding. I feel like there is just no one home there. I mean enough is enough. Industries need to support themselves or at least get close to doing so. You can't promise the world to the heavy unionized industries that have us where they want us ALL the time. Look at the pensions we are stuck paying because of the way Brain thinks. It is way out of control and these are long term costs that cripples PAT's chances of survival. PAT is in deep and Brian seems to want to stay the course and just find money from somewhere else to keep it going. Sometimes things need to be broken up and restructured. Not sure what to do with the giant pensions that have been promised by the likes of a Brian.
First off, PAT isn't private industry and shouldn't be expected to support itself for the large number of reasons already mentioned.

PAT cannot do anything about it's long-term promised pensions.

The premise of this entire point of view is that costs are out of control, yet no one has demonstrated that as objectively true. Citing the yearly income on a single bus driver without any context, overtime, seniority, etc. does not meet your burden.
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Old 06-17-2011, 12:30 PM
 
353 posts, read 552,451 times
Reputation: 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lobick View Post
First off, PAT isn't private industry and shouldn't be expected to support itself for the large number of reasons already mentioned.
Why not? Prior to 1960's the almost all mass transit in the United States was privately owned and operated, so it must have been profitable.

What happened to change all of that was that the federal government gave favorable treatment to all of mass transits competitors... the car companies, the oil companies, federally funded highways. First as a means of moving the building boom forward, then later because of union votes and big business campaign funding.

We are in a situation now where the worm has turned, though, and traveling to work by car has become less convenient, for a variety of reasons, than taking a bus or tram. So I don't know why mass transit cannot be expected to be profitable... or even more, why the idea of private companies providing the service is often meant with either laughter or outright hostility.

Quote:
The premise of this entire point of view is that costs are out of control, yet no one has demonstrated that as objectively true. Citing the yearly income on a single bus driver without any context, overtime, seniority, etc. does not meet your burden.
Multiply that single bus driver, making 70k-80k+ by a factor of several hundred and that will define the problem for you.
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Old 06-17-2011, 12:35 PM
 
20,274 posts, read 18,215,329 times
Reputation: 2823
Quote:
Originally Posted by supersoulty View Post
Is there operating cost higher than what they are taking in? Yes. Then they are over-budget.
Actually, no. After the state cut its funding contribution, PAT made a new budget, which they were able to meet by a combination of cutting service and raising fares and using emergency funds. Of course those emergency funds will run out, at which point if the state hasn't restored its funding, PAT will have to further cut service and perhaps further raise fares.

Again, this is what people should expect. The state cut its operating funding contribution to PAT, so PAT had to cut its operating budget, so PAT had to cut service and increase fares. The problem is that if those state budget cuts are made permanent, the service cuts will be so high it will do great economic harm to the region.

Quote:
Whatever aid the state said they were getting under the previous regime should be treated as... well... aid... not viewed as safety blanket that will always be there.
But again, the inevitable result is that if the state funding cuts are made permanent, then PAT will have to make even more dramatic cuts in service, which will cause great economic harm to the region.

Again, this is what we should expect: less funding means less service.

Quote:
Is the retraction of the aid sudden. Yes, it is, but sudden how?
How sudden it is really isn't relevant. For the record, we've known for years the planned tolling of I-80 was in trouble, and it has been officially dead since April of 2010. So now it is well over a year, and there is as yet no solution.

The issue isn't the suddenness, it is the fact that less funding means less service, and that will cripple the region economically.

Quote:
They should have been on top of these problems a decade ago.
I agree a lot of mistakes have been made at all levels for many years. I also think in recent years, PAT's Board and management have actually done a pretty good job. But under state law they don't have unlimited powers, so there is only so much they could do.

But none of that has much to do with the current crisis. Again, we need to properly identify the causes in order to identify good solutions.

Quote:
The Commonwealth is now facing a major financial crisis for the next decade, brought on, in no small part, because of bond issues that were put out by Ed Rendell to buoy the public transit systems, state wide.
That's not really what is going on. What is going on is we have a huge state transportation system, including not just transit but many, many miles of state roads and bridges. That state transportation system gets more expensive to maintain and operate every year as basic costs increase (and we are also deferring a lot of maintenance, which ultimately increases costs). We also have a growing and shifting population, and a growing and shifting economy, and to sustain that growth we need to be expanding that transportation system in smart ways.

All that takes money. But instead we have frozen state transportation revenues in nominal terms, which means they are actually shrinking in real (inflation-adjusted) terms. So not only do we not have enough money to expand the system, we don't have enough money to maintain and operate the system we do have, and that gap is getting worse each year as the costs grow and the revenues decrease in real terms.

We knew all this was a problem years ago. We came up with a partial solution with Act 44, but we didn't provide enough revenue, and some of the revenue we did provide was disallowed by the feds (the I-80 toll).

And so now we are trying to figure out a new solution. But Corbett and his crew want that solution not to involve new revenues. But that is impossible. So we are screwed unless those political conditions change.

Quote:
I'll admit, I was unaware of the benefits restructuring. Good. Again, though, that is something they should have gotten done a decade ago, and frankly, they never should have promised such outrageous benefits in the first place as those were, once more, the product of short-sightedness, especially with the pension plans.
I agree with all of that, but what's the solution? Allocating blame to historical figures isn't going to prevent our region from being crushed economically by a mass contraction of transit services.

Note I'm not saying it is impossible to solve this problem: to deal with the legacy benefit costs, you could have a forced renegotiation of those benefits. But right now, state law doesn't allow that. So the first step has to be a change in those state laws. And until that happens, there is no solution to the current crisis down that path.

Quote:
but the statement that rural areas pick on the urban areas is rendered ridiculous by a quickly look at the numbers. It's just not possible.
I edited to finish my thought, which is that it IS possible if enough people in the large metros voluntarily vote against their own interests, which is precisely what happened in 2010.

Quote:
if you want to find the people who are responsible for the war against Public Transit, look within this county to places like Monroeville, Plum, and McCandless... not at Jefferson County.
I think it is both, but I believe we are on the same page here. People in the Pittsburgh suburbs need to realize that whether or not they personally use public transit, the economic health of the whole region depends on it. So if they let the state gut local public transit, they are shooting themselves in the face.

Last edited by BrianTH; 06-17-2011 at 01:07 PM..
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Old 06-17-2011, 12:47 PM
 
Location: Mexican War Streets
1,314 posts, read 853,552 times
Reputation: 934
Quote:
Originally Posted by supersoulty View Post
So I don't know why mass transit cannot be expected to be profitable... or even more, why the idea of private companies providing the service is often meant with either laughter or outright hostility.

Multiply that single bus driver, making 70k-80k+ by a factor of several hundred and that will define the problem for you.
The main point of your post has been repeatedly discussed on this thread and others. The fact is, with very discreet number of exceptions with far different fact patterns, there is no non-subsidized public transit making a profit anywhere in the developed world. Feel free to explain why Pittsburgh is a global outlier. I eagerly await your response. If you can show me a model that works, I'm all for it. Previously, I've asked Curtis to do so as well with no response. That is why you get the reaction that you do. You are arguing for a fantasy solution.

The line about driver salary is exactly wrong and shows why proponents of your argument are fact challenged. What you need to demonstrate is that on a per mile driven or operated basis, system-wide, personnel costs are extravagant or out of line.

I don't expect this to have an effect but let's conduct a thought experiment. As a pure hypothetical, say all of the current bus driver together make $2 million per year. An individual with the ability to bend space and time is hired to replace every single bus driver in the system by himself, providing identical service as to that provided by the current bus drivers. PAT pays him $1 million per year. By your definition, a bus driver making $1 million per year is proof of waste, fraud and abuse and out of control personnel spending, but clearly that wouldn't be the case simply because he's making $1 million. Context to their salary is important. For the record, I'm not saying that some of the salaries paid may not be too extravagant, but nobody has proven to me that the overall personnel costs are out of line.
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Old 06-17-2011, 12:48 PM
 
20,274 posts, read 18,215,329 times
Reputation: 2823
Quote:
Originally Posted by robrobrob View Post
The other way to look at it is if expenses were less, than a reduction if state funding wouldn't matter as much. It is frustrating that you are unwilling to acknowledge that decreasing current expenses is another way to balance the budget, a way that many people are in favor of.
You are grossly misrepresenting my views.

I'm all for PAT doing whatever it can to improve its operating efficiency. The thing is, I'm in favor of PAT doing that whether or not the state cuts its budget. That is because we aren't offering enough transit service as it is, and even if the state wasn't cutting its budget, improving its operating efficiency would allow it to offer more service.

The problem, though, is there is not some magic button sitting in a PAT office somewhere, and all they have to do is push it and their operating efficiency will instantly increase. In fact if such a button existed, they would have pushed it a long time ago.

Again, I'm not saying it is impossible for PAT to improve its operating efficiency over the long run. The current PAT management has in fact already achieved significant gains in that area, and the TDP is a pretty good plan for doing more, although fully implementing it will take additional capital expenditures.

But there is no way for PAT to simply absorb a mass cut in its state funding with that mechanism. A button that will work that quickly, to that large of an effect, does not exist, and one of the reasons it doesn't exist is that state law effectively prohibits any possible button like that.

So in a nutshell, a lot of people are running around insisting that a magic button must exist. But it doesn't. So, if made permanent, these state funding cuts will lead to massive service cuts. People need to accept that reality.

Quote:
Out of curiousity, since you from Michigan, are you by chance the son of a UAW member? Just trying to figure out how you became so pro-union.
Ironically, my dad was management in a car company (albeit in a tech department, which is non-unionized).

But again, you are grossly misrepresenting my views--and you shouldn't accept the gross misrepresentations of other posters either.

My major concern is for people to understand that regardless of what you feel about the union, PAT has no ability to force them to accept a new contract prior to its expiration, and no ability to renegotiate legacy benefits at all. It isn't a matter of a lack of will--they do not have that power under state law.

I also think it is important to recognize that the union did make concessions in the last negotiation, for the stated reason that doing so is part of trying to get more such concessions in the future. But honestly, that is all completely beside the point, because right now, there is absolutely nothing PAT can do to force the union to accept any labor cost cuts.

Again, there is no magic button. And it is important for people to understand that.
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Old 06-17-2011, 01:02 PM
 
Location: Crafton, PA
1,041 posts, read 1,002,141 times
Reputation: 521
If were were to privatize transit, how do we make sure full service is offered to all neighborhoods? What incentive is there for companies to provide transit to the Homewoods and Larimers of the city if they can get triple the fare from places like Wexford and Mt Lebanon? Why wouldn't they just skip over these poorer areas entirely?

The rural/suburban vs urban argument seems faulty at best. If those outside of urban areas don't want tax dollars to fund urban transit, can we as city residents opt out of funding non-urban, state-wide transportation projects? After all, people in northern PA were able to reject the tolling of I-80. Why should we subsidize them?
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Old 06-17-2011, 01:05 PM
 
20,274 posts, read 18,215,329 times
Reputation: 2823
Quote:
Originally Posted by supersoulty View Post
Why not? Prior to 1960's the almost all mass transit in the United States was privately owned and operated, so it must have been profitable.
Nope. What happened is that real estate developers, and sometimes energy producers, subsidized transit services as a way of increasing demand for their other projects.

But you are right that what happened next is that we started building free roads to new developments, and maintaining an artificially low price for gasoline. That killed the business model in question, and public transit authorities had to be created to fill the gap. But viewed in isolation, very few transit services could maintain an operating profit even before that happened.

Quote:
We are in a situation now where the worm has turned, though, and traveling to work by car has become less convenient, for a variety of reasons, than taking a bus or tram. So I don't know why mass transit cannot be expected to be profitable... or even more, why the idea of private companies providing the service is often meant with either laughter or outright hostility.
So first of all, mostly they were never profitable to begin with, as I discussed above. About the closest you could come to that model would be to have transit services get funded through a land-value tax along/near their routes--which is actually a pretty good idea.

Second, the worm may have started to turn, but that is going to be a very long process. We still have free roads all over the place. We still have artificially low gas prices. We have lots and lots of legacy real estate developments oriented on that model, with all sorts of land-use regulations supporting those developments and preventing alternatives. Meanwhile, providing the transit services that will support a large shift to alternative development patterns will take a very large influx of capital, and a lot of time. And so on.

I actually fully expect that in, say, 30 years we will see a lot higher operating efficiencies, and therefore lower subsidy rates, for most transit authorities, including PAT. But there is a lot of stuff that has to happen in those 30 years first.
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Old 06-17-2011, 01:19 PM
 
20,274 posts, read 18,215,329 times
Reputation: 2823
Quote:
Originally Posted by trlstreet View Post
If those outside of urban areas don't want tax dollars to fund urban transit, can we as city residents opt out of funding non-urban, state-wide transportation projects? After all, people in northern PA were able to reject the tolling of I-80. Why should we subsidize them?
Indeed, and to make this very clear, on a net basis the overall system of transportation funding in the state is taking a huge amount of wealth out of Allegheny County and spreading it around other places. The state's funding for PAT is one of the small ways in which we get some of that money back--not all of it by any means, just some. So letting the state get away with cutting PAT's funding amounts to increasing the amount of wealth transferred out of the County by the state.

Meanwhile, if the County could go its own way entirely, that would be great for us. But that is why it is going to be so hard to achieve anything like that--we are the goose that is laying the golden eggs (although there are a few other geese in the state as well).

That said, what is going on right now is really quite a departure. For a long time all this was understood--the big urban counties paid for roads and bridges elsewhere, but at least got transit funding, and although it was kind of a raw deal for the big urban counties anyway, it wasn't unworkable. What is happening is that some people have decided to get very, very greedy: screw balance, they are going to completely loot the urban counties.

This is unlikely to be economically sustainable because the whole state economy will eventually be dragged down with the large urban counties, but that doesn't seem to faze these people: maybe they are ideologues, maybe they are ignorant, maybe they have an escape hatch (a place in the Carolinas, perhaps) . . . who knows? The bottomline is that this is an unprecedented attempt to loot the urban counties for short-term gain, long-term crushing loss, and we can only hope these efforts don't last long.
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Old 06-17-2011, 01:34 PM
 
4,690 posts, read 1,897,826 times
Reputation: 1571
Quote:
Originally Posted by supersoulty View Post
2/3 of the states population live in either the Pittsburgh, or Philadelphia metro areas
But, depending on how you define rural, at least 27 state senate districts are entirely or predominately rural or exurban, which gives the rural vote and its interests a clear majority (of 50 seats) in the upper chamber of the legislature. Just as with the federal senate, the rural vote is disproportionately represented in the structure of PA politics. This fact has real consequences in many ways, including the topic under consideration in this thread.
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Old 06-17-2011, 01:46 PM
 
Location: O'Hara Twp.
3,349 posts, read 2,944,913 times
Reputation: 1019
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianTH View Post
My major concern is for people to understand that regardless of what you feel about the union, PAT has no ability to force them to accept a new contract prior to its expiration, and no ability to renegotiate legacy benefits at all. It isn't a matter of a lack of will--they do not have that power under state law.
With continued state funding appearing to be less and less certain, don't you think that the union should be open to taking a big hit on wages and benefits when they begin negotiating the next contract. By big hit I mean significant contribution towards health care and an cuts in pay.
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