Thursday, November 25, 2004

Dec 16 -- the looming cuts come to light

Port Authority cuts looming: "Dec. 16 is the 'drop dead date' by which the state must provide more money or the Port Authority of Allegheny County will be forced to carry out plans to raise fares and eliminate substantial trolley, bus and paratransit service."

Come to the rescue. Save our transit. Help is on the way. Ouch.

I hate to see good people barking up the wrong tree.

Months ago it would have been prudent to bark about operations AND the capital budget too.

PA Rep. John Maher, R-Upper St. Clair, largely blamed Rendell for not moving several bills that would have solved long-term funding woes.

Board member Jim Dodaro of White Oak pointed out that the Republican-controlled House and Senate could have passed any one of them and "put the pressure on" Rendell to either sign or veto them. Maher said he was not in a position to force the issue.

Nevertheless, Maher claimed Rendell could still solve the mass transit funding crisis "with a stroke of his fountain pen" by endorsing a proposal to "flex" federal highway funds by transferring $133 million from a windfall that will occur next year from state gasoline taxes.

"This is no longer about a political game but about finding a solution," he said, calling on Rendell to "keep the wheels turning."

So, Maher is not effective as one who crafts bills. The role of those in the house and senate is to advance bills. The role of the Gov is to either sign or veto bills. Maher's marching orders should not come from anyone but Maher and his fellow legislatures.

Then the age-old question surfaces again. How much of this die on the vine mentality is due to the abrasive mayor and legacy thinking (see below).

Jonathan Robison told the authority board to continue operating until its money runs out.

"No more service cuts! No more fare hikes! Even at the risk of a shutdown," he said.

"Balanced budgets are nice, but you must not balance the budget on the backs of the handicapped, people with marginal jobs and transit-dependent people," Robison said. "Moreover, the service cuts and fare increases would be a betrayal of your most loyal friends. Don't throw us off the bus."

The 2-year-old ad hoc group, which operates under the umbrella of the Thomas Merton Center, held a noon rally yesterday in front of the City-County Building, Downtown. Save Our Transit leaders vowed to continue applying pressure on Republican legislators.

"It's unbelievable the way we're being jerked around by the elected leaders of this state. It's a disgrace," said group organizer Stephen Donahue.

My approach was different. These guys are now issuing threats. But, the threat that they didn't issue was about the tunnels under the river to extend the light rail to the North Side's stadiums. And, my hopes were dashed when they choose to be quit on that more important issue. People in Harrisuburg to Hawaii need to know that the federal money should NOT be spent on that boondogle.

1 comment:

Mark Rauterkus said...

Letter to Joe Grata (PG transportation writer):

BTW, I loved the garden story a few weeks ago. I've injected some of that
talk into my political platform for Pittsburgh. We need to be more organic
and face our food and gardens as an area of civic pride and responsibility.

But, as per the looming PAT cuts, I posted my remarks at a blog:

The Save Our Transit folks didn't want to skunk out the light-rail extension
to the North Shore stadiums. They should have gone with me and a few others
(County Exec Dan Onorato is in this minority) that think that CAPITAL
program is nuts.

I asked for some others to join me in a national campaign. They took their
instructions to keep their rants off of the capital budget to heart, sadly.

+ The light rail extension to the lower north shore is a bad idea.

+ The mon valley toll road link to Bates Street should not be built.

+ We need to kick start heavy rail talk pronto.
Train from McKeesport to Sewickley.
Train from Pennsylvanian (downtown/strip) to Natrona. (Rt. 28)
Train from Oakland to Butler. (Rt 8)