Friday, April 20, 2007
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Harrisburg PA - Pennsylvania State Republicans pretty much told the various transit systems in the state that they need to look towards their city and county to provide them the additional funding they claim they need to continue operating. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on this important stance by the State GOP regarding the public transit crisis in Pennsylvania.
While I tend to lean towards agreeing with House Republican Leader Sam Smith in terms of the philosophy of what he states, what I actually see here is hypocrisy and passing the buck. The buck I see being passed is from the tax and spend State Legislature to the local municipal level of government. The hypocrisy I see is that these same politicians have no problem porking out and earmarking tax money for their pet projects that benefit far fewer than public transit does.
Representative Smith correctly states that transit systems in the state already receive $900 million each year in state funding. He also correctly states that it is time the city and county start ponying up more. In Pittsburgh, for example, the City of Pittsburgh and the surrounding suburbs provide absolutely no funding assistance and Allegheny County provides a small amount of funding but even at that, they are trying to get out of providing that funding.
Out of the $900 million already provided by the state, a far from insignificant part of that funding is squandered by the transit systems in paying to operate various unneeded transit projects that they just had to build and didn't need as well as what seems to be the transit industry goal of finding new ways to waste money. The remainder is used to pay the workers, keep service on the streets and various other operational activities.
While I strongly oppose Governor Rendell's "Big Oil" windfall tax he is proposing to help fund transit systems as it will do nothing but punish Pennsylvania residents and the transit systems in the long term, it shouldn't be used by the State Legislature as a way to pass the buck in the transit funding crisis. The State Legislature needs to come up with a new funding structure as well as a funding mechanism that works. By attempting to blame the Rendell plan, no matter how ill-conceived it is, and using that to avoid doing what needs to be done, the politicians of Pennsylvania are only helping to destroy an important part of the State's infrastructure.
The Port Authority of Allegheny County is cleaning up it's act and eliminating waste as well as scaling back operations. SEPTA, is more efficient than PAT is but they are saddled by having a large rail network (pre-dating SEPTA) which is sucking down money. Neither the city or county in either area can fully fund the deficits and Rep. Smith knows this but I do agree that both the county and municipal governments need to start contributing more to running transit in their jurisdiction.
We won't likely see the State (or even local) politicians curtail their spendthrift ways on pork projects nor are we likely to see enough of an increase in local level funding to cover the deficits incurred by rising fuel and health care costs.
This poor attempt to pass the buck by Rep. Smith is simply a ploy being used by both political parties in Pennsylvania to avoid dealing with fixing the problem of a lack of a proper funding mechanism for public transit. I will give Smith credit for this, at least he isn't giving us political lip service about the situation like the Democrats routinely do.
The State Legislature needs to understand that public transit is an important part of the economic infrastructure of the State. It helps bring people to the jobs that haven't been chased out of the State by the business unfreindly environment in Pennsylvania. Public transit also is an important tool for emergencies, especially in the post 9/11 environment, to get people out of an area.
Even though Pennsylvania State Representative Sam Smith (R) pulled no punches and made the situation clear without the political spin, he earns a Lance for trying to pass the problem of public transit off onto someone else to deal with. It is the lack of a proper funding mechanism which the State Legislature refuses to allow that has helped spur this problem and it's been going on for 40 plus years. Deal with it already and quit trying pawn the problem off onto someone else.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Myrtle Beach SC - One of the many places you wouldn't expect to find a streetcar is in Myrtle Beach but pro-rail backers are hoping to change that.
The Sun News reports on plans that were presented to the city recently to showcase a $6.6 to $10.4 million dollar "test line" that is approximately a quarter of a mile long. The test line proposal wouldn't do much of anything except sit in the open and wouldn't connect any two things together.
This news report brings up an important new tactic in the pro-rail movement. A test line is the newest method in the pro-rail playbook for getting rail into a city that can't justify having rail. They convince a city to build a small test line at the local taxpayers expense that really doesn't connect anything. Once built, the city is forced to try to extend it so their investment isn't just pure waste. Now that they have something built, they can more easily justify to the Federal and State government the need to get funding to extend it so it will be useful.
In the past, the method was to get a city to build a "starter" line that actually was somewhat useful but the desperation within the pro-rail movement is sinking in now because funding is getting harder to get. This has resulted in the new push for rinky-dink test lines just to get a rail toe-hold in place so it will be easier to get the Feds to cough up taxpayer's money to extend the line.
The news report is filled with the typical code words of the pro-rail crowd such as "the vision" and the "cool factor" as well as "development and rising property values". Of course, the Holy See of the streetcar movement, Portland Oregon, just had to be mentioned also as the streetcar success story. Myrtle Beach is hardly Portland Oregon, no matter how far you try to stretch the comparison.
There is no word as of yet if the struggling local bus system will be stuck running the line if it is built. Most likely it would be as that would be the only way the city could get the Federal money to extend the test line to the point it could actually be useful.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Pittsburgh PA - On the heels of a 15% route cut with promises of many more cuts to follow, and associated fare hikes, Allegheny County and City of Pittsburgh officials are now pushing to add more rail to the cash strapped Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT).
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Pittsburgh is now pushing for a rail link between Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland. City Mayor, Luke Ravenstahl (D) and County Executive Dan Onorato (D) are fully in favor of this of. State Senator Jim Ferlo (D) who is on the URA board is spearheading the effort.
Let's stop for a minute. These Dummyrats know full well the system can't afford what it has already and most likely won't be able to afford the scaled back system. What's their response? They are all in favor of further stressing the finances by adding expensive toys to the mix at a time PAT just can't afford it and neither can the City or County.
Now, let's rewind the clock a bit. Pittsburgh had it's chance to have a rail link to Oakland in the early 90's. Political fighting by the Democrats in charge at the time prevented the "Spine Line" from happening. Now that PAT is in a major fiscal crisis and is cutting service, these political clowns are proposing this again but are leaning towards streetcars.
While Pittsburgh needs a Downtown to Oakland transit link which could easily support a rail link as these two destinations are the 2nd and 3rd biggest transit generators in Pennsylvania, the bottom line is that PAT can't afford it. Period.
Those readers unfamiliar with Pittsburgh need to know this. The Pittsburgh region is rapidly losing population. The city is in dire financial straits as is Allegheny County. The city has been controlled by Democrats for over a century as the brain dead population here just can't bring themselves to vote for anything else but an incumbent Democrat (regardless of how poor a job they're doing). The transit system has been mis-managed for years and it's caught up to them.
With all of the above, the politicians here just have to find a new way to spend taxpayer money. So now, the push is on to build more rail so they can further destroy the transit system which can't afford what it has now and have an excuse to stick their hands in the taxpayer's wallet again.
These stupid Democrats just can't understand the concept that while you may get grants to build the rail line, it takes money to operate it and rail is inherently expensive to operate. Where are they going to get the money to run this when the system can't afford to run with what they get already? Where are they going to get the money to match grants for this new toy when they can't afford to run the City and County and vital services (police, fire) are being trimmed back.
This is just another example of stupid politicians that can't think past a legacy for themselves. They refuse to even consider the long term implications of their actions as they're too busy looking through rose colored glasses so they can ignore the problems.
State Senator Jim Ferlo, you earned a Lance. City of Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, you earned a Lance. Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, you get 2 Lances as you of all people know the financial situation of PAT yet support this ill-conceived and poorly timed plan.