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Old 06-17-2011, 06:02 AM
 
20,274 posts, read 17,807,567 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SuburbanPioneer View Post
You just might be right!
Quote:
In May, the company averaged 123 riders per day on its Marshall-to-Downtown route, about one-sixth of the Port Authority average daily ridership of 764 for the same month a year ago, according to figures released by the authority. On the Franklin Park route, Lenzner's daily average was 20 riders, one-sixteenth of the average 325 riders per day that the Port Authority had in May 2010.
So far this experiment is going very poorly for those who think for-profit services can replace PAT, because systematically cutting transit ridership to a small fraction of its current total would be a disaster for the region.
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Old 06-17-2011, 07:31 AM
 
Location: O'Hara Twp.
3,300 posts, read 2,822,487 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianTH View Post
So far this experiment is going very poorly for those who think for-profit services can replace PAT, because systematically cutting transit ridership to a small fraction of its current total would be a disaster for the region.
Interesting that two people read on article and come away thinking two different things. Not surprising that both people came awy thinking that the article supports their position.
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Old 06-17-2011, 08:52 AM
 
20,274 posts, read 17,807,567 times
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Originally Posted by robrobrob View Post
Not surprising that both people came awy thinking that the article supports their position.
Maybe not surprising from a psychological perspective, but that doesn't mean both views are equally well-supported by the available evidence.

I also think it is worth being clear on what the issue is. If all transit services had to operate at a profit without subsidies, there would in fact still be some transit services. But the amount of service they would provide would be much, much smaller. And so far, this experiment is supporting that conclusion.

Of course some people may think it would be fine if transit services were only a small fraction of what they are today. But when you consider how many people are using transit in key areas like Downtown, and how congested the relevant roads are already, it isn't surprising that many who have seriously considered the issue have concluded that a huge contraction in transit services would create a great deal of economic harm to the region.

So hopefully we don't repeat this experiment on that sort of scale.
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Old 06-17-2011, 10:46 AM
 
353 posts, read 544,827 times
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Very few people who have commented on this so far seem to be focusing on the big question, which is "why is the Allegheny PAT so horribly over budget?" I'm am absolutely, 100 percent, in favor of mass transit. I don't want to see any service cuts, or price hikes. Personally, I'm an urbanist, and not a fan of sprawl and car culture. That being said, the same old angle of "blame the Republicans" is highly unwarranted in this case. How many times over the last decade have local officials attempted to get the Transit Union workers to accept cuts to their outrageous salaries and benefits packages? At least three times since I moved here, with no success. I've spoken with high level people in the, and they all have said exactly the same thing; the most expensive component on any bus is the driver, get them to accept a pay cut, say by cutting the high 80k's salaries that they make now down to a more reasonable 60k, and you would cut the operating costs of the entire system by almost 20 percent. The union won't even entertain the idea, though, and when it comes up they threaten to go on strike and cripple the city. Two years ago, they were asked to accept a pay freeze, not even a cut, and they balked at that, demanding a $5,000 raise, or they would strike. Onorato met them at a $2,500... a bus driver makes almost as much as the mayor, and they always demand more, but I guess it is understandable, seeing as it is a highly skilled position, right? If we are going to lower costs enough to make them manageable, we have to break the union, plain and simple.

Someone also remarked that the rural areas of the state have too much political power... 2/3 of the states population live in either the Pittsburgh, or Philadelphia metro areas; add Harrisburg, Erie, Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Allentown, Lancaster, York, Altoona, and Reading... there is about 90 percent of the state's population. I'm not certain what definition of "rural" is being used, but let me assure you that they don't have that much political power, no matter how you cut it. Do they complain about the cities alot, sure... rural people tend to do that, but the don't muster that much political might, and most of what they do get, in terms of cash, comes from highway funding. Even if we do reduce the definition of "urban" to just the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh regions, look at the 2010 map of Pat Toomey's 51 percent win in the Senate race. He took 70 percent of the vote in several of the rural counties, and won all but 6 or 7 of the states counties, but still only got 51 percent. Have some perspective.
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Old 06-17-2011, 11:12 AM
 
20,274 posts, read 17,807,567 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by supersoulty View Post
Very few people who have commented on this so far seem to be focusing on the big question, which is "why is the Allegheny PAT so horribly over budget?"
Because that premise is wrong.

The state budgeted a certain amount of operations funding for PAT. PAT budgeted its operations accordingly. The state then failed to deliver the amount of operations funding it had budgeted, and now Corbett and his crew want to make those state funding cuts permanent.

So with the state cutting its operations funding for PAT, PAT had to cut its operations budget, which means it had to cut service. Ironically, this is what you would hope to see from a well-run transit authority. If you could reduce that authority's funding but it could still maintain the same service levels with less funding, that means it had a lot of waste in its original budget. But if the authority is operating as efficiently as it can already, funding cuts necessarily mean service cuts.

Note that a few cost-related things, like rising diesel prices, have also negatively impacted PAT's budget. But they could have absorbed those costs without such dramatic service cuts if the state had delivered its promised funding.

Quote:
How many times over the last decade have local officials attempted to get the Transit Union workers to accept cuts to their outrageous salaries and benefits packages? At least three times since I moved here, with no success.
That is also factually inaccurate. In the last round of negotiations, the union agreed to change the benefits program, thereby significantly cutting PAT's future benefit costs. As I have noted before, there is likely room for further cuts, but failing to give them credit for the cuts they have made so far isn't a good way of incentivizing them to make more cuts.

Quote:
If we are going to lower costs enough to make them manageable, we have to break the union, plain and simple.
Again, I'd agree still more could be done, but the fact is the current compensation package is no longer out of line with the standard across the industry. What is actually a huge, ongoing problem is PAT's legacy benefit costs, but "breaking the union" won't solve that problem, because state law protects those existing benefits. And so if you want to do something about those legacy costs, you need to get the state to change the relevant laws first.

Quote:
I'm not certain what definition of "rural" is being used, but let me assure you that they don't have that much political power, no matter how you cut it.
Some of your figures are off, but it is true that people living in large metros make up a majority in the state. The problem is that some people in the large metros are supporting state-level politicians who have an anti-urban/pro-rural agenda. If they stopped doing that, and voted their self interest, all of us in the large metros would be better off. And ultimately so would the state as a whole, because the large metros are where most of the future prosperity of the state will come from.

Last edited by BrianTH; 06-17-2011 at 11:21 AM..
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Old 06-17-2011, 11:34 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh
11,013 posts, read 7,088,859 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianTH View Post
Again, I'd agree still more could be done, but the fact is the current compensation package is no longer out of line with the standard across the industry.
Did it ever occurs to you that if the so-called standard across an industry doesn't work here, it means nothing to Pittsburgh? Things don't magically fix themselves because YOU feel the industry standard in other parts of the country is what we are paying PAT employees here. It doesn't work that way. Is there anyone home in there? Goodness, it is like talking to a brick wall. No logic ever gets in!

You cannot keep subsidizing one thing for another and another and another. If it is broken it needs to be fixed. It really is simple. Salaries are too high, fares aren't high enough and things just need to be streamlined. I don't care if NYC or Baltimore or even Cleveland can do what we are trying to do with costs. WE have to do what is right for Pittsburgh and an industry standard means nothing here.

What do you want them to do, create a new tax? I think we have had about enough of that! The system doesn't work. You HAVE to become leaner. Stop living in fantasy land. I mean seriously, I realize you feel everything needs subsidized, but there are many people that feel things should be able to sustain themselves and not rob from others over and over again. I know a bus drive that makes over $80K. Sure it is great for him, but it really isn't affordable. Things are broken. New taxes are a bad idea. Fix the problems and stop searching for other industries to pick up the slack.
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Old 06-17-2011, 11:45 AM
 
20,274 posts, read 17,807,567 times
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I believe in properly identifying the problem so that we can figure out the best way to fix it. Like a doctor, if you don't properly identify the causes of the symptoms, it is often going to be hard to come up with an effective treatment.

That is why I think it is important to understand what has actually been happening with PAT's finances recently, and what exactly led to the current financial crisis. If you instead ignore the facts, or worse, spread disinformation, it isn't likely to lead to good solutions.

Edit: Oh, and no rational person would treat merely keeping transportation taxes in the state at the same level adjusted for inflation as increasing taxes. And yet that is precisely where we find ourselves due to the maniacal, Norquistian opposition to "new taxes", defined as any measure that would increase revenues, even in just nominal terms.
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Old 06-17-2011, 11:53 AM
 
353 posts, read 544,827 times
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Is there operating cost higher than what they are taking in? Yes. Then they are over-budget. 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. Is the retraction of the aid sudden. Yes, it is, but sudden how? Has PAT not known for years that it has been in financial trouble? It has, rather than acting quickly, it moved only when it absolutely had to and, just like the auto companies, did little to change it's ways when the writing was clearly on the wall, and simply assumed that the higher authorities wouldn't let them fail. They should have been on top of these problems a decade ago. 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.  People eagerly voted for the "free money" rather than thinking of the consequences down the road, and the transit authorities sat around, stared at their navels and contemplated how wonderful the world is.

A bit of hyperbole? Sure, but just a bit.

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. Cities like Pittsburgh have been in a tight financial spot for decades... the municipal bond crisis of the 1970's ought to have been a warning to most cities that they had to find ways to cut costs, especially with employees benefits, but it was just business as usual. And this still doesn't address the issue of the ridiculous salaries. As you stated, we are now closer to "industry standard. The problem I have with that, and just to show I'm not picking on PAT here, is that the industry standard in is horribly out of step with reality across much of the country, but especially in a number of the old industrial, union dominated cities like Pittsburgh. Yeah, pensions are a looming threat... and just think of what it will be like when that hits. That is why we need to do all we can to cut costs now. If that means cutting salaries, then so be it. Even with a major salary cut, most people still won't be making nearly as much as one of these bus drivers.

You got cut off there on the last point, so I will just assume you were going to tell me I'm wrong again. Okay... half of the population live in those two metros (I was thinking of all of greater Philadelphia when writing that, I forgot to discount the part not in PA in my head). Still, take all those metro areas I mentioned and you have about 90 percent of the state's population. Granted, some of those metro areas are broadly defined (northern Butler county is clearly not urban), 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. They don't hold enough weight. The more accurate statement would be that the suburbs have an inordinate level of power against both the inner-cities and the rural areas, but that is true everywhere in America. It does shed more light on what the problem is here... 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.
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Old 06-17-2011, 11:57 AM
 
Location: Mexican War Streets
1,290 posts, read 819,500 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by h_curtis View Post
Did it ever occurs to you that if the so-called standard across an industry doesn't work here, it means nothing to Pittsburgh?
Why would that be? Just curiuos as to the rationale.
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Old 06-17-2011, 11:58 AM
 
Location: O'Hara Twp.
3,300 posts, read 2,822,487 times
Reputation: 999
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianTH View Post
I believe in properly identifying the problem so that we can figure out the best way to fix it. Like a doctor, if you don't properly identify the causes of the symptoms, it is often going to be hard to come up with an effective treatment.

That is why I think it is important to understand what has actually been happening with PAT's finances recently, and what exactly led to the current financial crisis. If you instead ignore the facts, or worse, spread disinformation, it isn't likely to lead to good solutions.

Edit: Oh, and no rational person would treat merely keeping transportation taxes in the state at the same level adjusted for inflation as increasing taxes. And yet that is precisely where we find ourselves due to the maniacal, Norquistian opposition to "new taxes", defined as any measure that would increase revenues, even in just nominal terms.

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.

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.
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