Saturday, February 24, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
Milwaukee WI - The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel offers up a story that is all too common across America these days. It deals with the political fighting over public transit.
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is in opposition to a trolley proposal for the city and he's being attacked by other city politicians. The reason? Walker isn't rushing out to spend tax money on an unneeded transit project.
While I'm not fully up on all the dirt in this fight, I know enough of what is happening to see that Walker has a better understanding of how transit needs to be run than the politicians that are in favor of building a project that will siphon off money to run the bus system.
Considering the fact that Milwaukee is having a lot of problems with its bus operation, adding a fiscal black hole to the deal would only make things worse.
The politicians that support the trolley proposal need to take off their rose colored glasses. Milwaukee will not have massive development, cleaner air or less traffic congestion. Walker understands this point. He also understands that a trolley would ultimately hurt the bus system, county-wide.
Walker's detractors point out that he favored a fare hike and route cuts as well as opposed a transit sales tax. Let's look at a few key points.
First, Milwaukee's fare is $1.75 after the fare hike. That is rather mid-range for public transit in terms of fares. In addition, the fare hike only effected passes and strip tickets, not the base fare.
Second, as I have been preaching for decades, you can't run buses with few riders. If people don't ride a route, you can't hang on to it because 1 or 2 people do ride. Public transit is expensive to operate and you need to maintain some manner of ridership in decent numbers. Most systems use 8 riders per trip as a minimum and I'm sure, Milwaukee had some routes that couldn't meet that very generous number.
Finally, I am not 100% sure of the details behind the proposed transit sales tax but I am sure of this. It wouldn't have brought in the amount of cash that proponents claimed it would. These taxes never do and most likely, various advocacy groups for the poor were fighting it as it would spread the pain to everyone rather than to key groups.
The simple fact of the matter is this, Scott Walker understands the concept of public transit enough to know that a trolley line would hurt the bus system and the operation can't afford it, even if the transit sales tax was in place.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Until politicians and transit systems stop advocating such taxes to fund transit, it's only going to get worse. Stop wetting your finger to see which way the political wind is blowing and coming up with whacked out plans that will ultimately fail in the long term.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Pittsburgh PA - The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) is trying to find excuses to continue renting expensive office space while it's old administration building that it owns, sits vacant. The Pittsburgh Tribune Review gives us the story of PAT's attempt to find excuses to keep renting the expensive office space.
The big point is missed however and that is that PAT should not have moved in the first place. Why isn't the name of former Executive Director Paul Skoutelas, the man who devised new ways for PAT to waste money, mentioned by anyone? He was responsible for the move that is continuing to waste precious operating money that is needed for transit service.
The simple fact of the matter is here is this. PAT's administration doesn't want to go back to slumming it in the old administration building that was built in 1973. They will find any and every excuse they can to continue to rent expensive office space in the high rent district of Downtown Pittsburgh.
While PAT is hardly alone in the transit industry with the "Taj Mahal" mentality for the main offices at public expense, they simply can't afford it. Other systems have built what have literally been called palaces for their main operations. What these idiot administrators fail to realize is that they are a public agency, not a private corporation. The money to pay for these expensive administration offices comes from the taxpayer, not from profits from the product they offer.
About the only way PAT will move back to their old building is if they are literally under court order to do so or if their precious funding is tied to moving back. That is very unlikely to happen as the politicians don't have the backbone to force PAT's hand. The politicians are all bark and little bite and PAT will continue to rent expensive office space that it can't afford.
Let's look at a quick fact. PAT could apply for a Federal or State non-transportation grant to remove the asbestos and do the repairs that it claims are the reasons they can't move back. PAT won't apply for such a grant. To do so would mean they could no longer rent the expensive and luxurious office space in Downtown.
PAT gets another Lance for finding excuses to continue to waste money.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Passaic & Bergen County NJ - The NorthJersey.com news site reports on yet another politician that is out to build a legacy for himself.
New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell (D) wants a light rail line that can't even meet the lax requirements of the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA). To get around this, he's managed to get various earmarks in Federal appropriations to fund his legacy line. To date, he's picked the pockets of all Americans to the tune of $19 million and he's not through picking our pockets yet.
Pascrell spouts off the usual pro-rail rhetoric of massive development, clearing road congestion and clean air to push an expensive light rail line that may carry 750 to 1,000 riders daily. Please note, these projected figures are just that, projected and are usually way on the high side so realistically, your probably talking around 400 to 500 riders a day.
Given the fact that this light rail line can't even meet the very lax FTA requirements for Federal transportation funding, a big Lance goes out to New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell (D) for continuing to waste taxpayer money on a light rail line for political legacy purposes.
Pittsburgh PA - The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) has saved $1 million dollars on it's $435 million dollar North Shore Connector project.
From reading Joe "Softball" Grata's article, you'd think PAT saved the day and made this unneeded project a cost effective necessity. While any cost savings on this unneeded project is welcome, $1 million is a drop in the bucket.
They'll spend more than they just saved on the federally mandated artwork that does absolutely nothing besides give a wad of cash to an untalented so-called artist. I've seen toddlers make better looking art than some of the garbage that is passed off as art for these mandated requirements.
When all is said and done, the North Shore Connector project will go over budget by far more than the measly savings they lucked into at the start of the digging. That's not a prediction, it's a fact, especially when we're talking about PAT.