Thursday, April 03, 2003

Transit.... digital dust

Ground Zero Feelers from Pat Clark

At the most recent core group meeting of Ground Zero, we spent a good bit of time discussing the pending assassination of regional public transit. It was generally agreed that no local issue since the first proposed 5th/Forbes development has so incensed so many of our friends, peers and partner organizations. We discussed the possibilities of two initiatives; an action-oriented public forum to gather together concerned citizens to focus on the issues of transit and energize folks toward initiatives; and a coordinated effort to get folks to begin to regularly appear at SPC monthly meetings to pressure them with our concerns for public transit, and to hold them accountable for the current sorry state of operational mass transit funding.

Lemme know if you all think these would be effective iniatives with which we could partner w/ fellow members of the Mon Fayette crew. We're pissed off & want to focus the leaders & public on just what James said - all these issues are connected & it's a matter of prime importance to the region our the lives of those who live here.

James McCue wrote in part

So silence is not an option.

Bill Fry sent this

Transit Resolution being presented to City Council

WHEREAS, in 2002, the Port Authority ended its fiscal year with its first operating budget deficit in 19 years as a result of a continued freeze in operating assistance and a substantial reduction in PTAF funds; and

WHEREAS, in response to these financial difficulties, the Port Authority implemented administrative hiring and wage freezes, entered into a responsible labor contract consisting of wage and salary freezes, health care cost containment and significant maintenance work rule changes, laid off eighty-five (85) employees, eliminated thirty-three (33) administrative positions, and took action for further administrative economies including reductions in travel, training and marketing expenses; and

WHEREAS, the Port Authority also implemented back-to-back fare increases in 2001 and 2003 and, in 2002, reduced bus and rail service levels causing average weekday ridership to decrease from 265,000 to 250,000, adding further financial strains to Port Authority operations; and

WHEREAS, in order to address these reductions, Allegheny County Council, in their 2003 Budget, provided for an increase of $2,558,505 in operating and capital funds for the Port Authority in an effort to provide monies that would ensure that existing services are maintained at their current level; and

WHEREAS, within the 2003-2004 Budget, the allocation provided to the Port Authority of Allegheny County through the Commonwealths General Fund Mass Transportation Assistance Budget is at the lowest level since the 1994-1995 Fiscal Year and reduces the operating subsidy by another six (6) percent to $63.7 million; and

WHEREAS, such reductions in the Port Authoritys operating subsidy will further compound the authoritys financial difficulties resulting in additional fare increases, a reduction or elimination of weekend and holiday service, peak hour service reductions, elimination of special event shuttles and additional employee layoffs; and

WHEREAS, such changes in service would have a significant impact on senior citizens, persons with disabilities, students, low-income and other transit-dependent citizens. Such changes would affect access to jobs, training and education, healthcare, grocery stores, shopping and other vital destinations. Such changes would decrease the quality of life for the residents of Allegheny County and surrounding areas that rely upon the transit system for their day-to-day activities.

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Council of the City of Pittsburgh, in agreement with the Council of Allegheny County, beseeches Governor Ed Rendell and members of the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives to work cooperatively and proactively to secure additional revenues for the operation of the Port Authority of Allegheny County in an effort to adequately address transportation issues within this region.

Passed in Council Tuesday, April 1, 2003


Mark's Reaction on April 3, 2003

Hi Pat and others,

Public transit matters. Sure, let's jump to action in that sector. But my advice is for the application of leverage in methods that would yeild system-wide changes.

The hinge to life makes it important to aggitate for a do-over of PAT (an authority) and SPC (also appointed) as ELECTED boards. The institutions that are failing us should be NUKED as we can't vote out the individual members.

The cancer here is one-party domination without accountability. Cronies cripple. I dare say that getting a win on one issue or another matters little. Case in point: the UV Loop. Sure, the UV Loop is a nice, worthy service. But if PAT ends all service from 7 pm on Friday to 7 am on Monday, no more UV Loop.

Pittsburghers now need to fight to uproot the real problems, not just bat at the leaves on the tree of misery.

Case in point 2: The Fifth & Forbes mess was pushed by the URA (another appointed body). The URA controlls $Ms in its "development fund" that should be liquidated.

If we could rid our public landscape of all appointed boards, ranging from Local Development Corporations, URA, Stadium & Exibition, Water, Parking, Turnpike, PAT, -- and so on -- we'd really begin "civic engagement."

Elections matter. Voting makes us unlike other "regimes."

Regime = a political system. A form or manner of government or rule.

Footnote: Funny to read the response from Greenfield resident, Kate St. John: "Excellent! You have my vote!" Sadly, I wish this was really the case.

State Senator Jim Ferlo may have written:

I received your email regarding PAT budget cuts (last year and current budget). As you may be aware I voted no on Rendell budget #1 and specifically outlined the harmfull PAT budget cuts on the floor of the Senate. I will support any organizing and advocacy effort to win this fight, I will be in Harrisburg this week but will ask staff to attend the Apr 2nd mtg. I will draft amendments to the state budget to restore last year's/this year's funding for PAT and will participate in the April 15th event.

I am concerned about strength in numbers and would suggest that the April 15th ( or some agreed upon date) date take on a state-wide tone with broader participation including smaller transit agencies, if possible. Can we get public transit buses to dead head and circle the Capitol? Can we get the Transit Union to be more visible? I will work on my end to further this strategy. What about a holding a CAR-IN where we get twenty or thirty cars together on Rte 28 or 279 to dramatize the effect of more cars on these road-ways during morning and evening commutes if we don't have public transit- I'll volunteer to be one of the drivers!!

Thanks. jim ferlo

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