support transit now: tell'em what you want
I've talked to a lot of folks who're all flavors of pissed off about the Port Authority's fare & service changes. Let me try to lay this out again:
If you care about transit, attend a hearing (starting today) or leave feedback on the Port Authority website on how the Port Authority should cope with less money. Do you think they should sustain the 28X at the cost of other service but with less frequency? Do you think your neighborhood's cut express bus is more important than their surviving regular route? Could a slight routing change on a surviving route make up for the loss of another? Do you prefer a simplified flat zone structure for one cost or do you relish the free downtown service? Wouldn't mind longer headways mid-day for more route options at rush hour? Let the Port Authority know soon.
But why...? Because it has to get worse before it gets better. The Port Authority's budget needs to shrink through service cuts & fare increases this year.
There is a long term budget crisis that no one can patch over: the Port Authority's costs have been going up and their funding has been going down.
The state's mechanism to consistently fund transit has atrophied. While the state has recognized that this is a crisis, they propose fixing things with new taxes which will require a great deal of political alignment and thus only in concert with needed and visible reforms. They lay out reforms including: more local (Allegheny County) funding, improved service planning (a structured process & eventual improved fare collection data to support a sane planning process), and less overall service per capita than Allegheny County has historically had. Furthermore, the costs of fuel, labor, pensions, and health care have been growing rapidly to leave the Port Authority short $80million this coming fiscal year.
Rather than try to lobby for status quo sustainment as it has in the past, the Port Authority is attempting to reform their processes & level of service to come to gain long term support for proper stable funding. There is always a chance that emergency funding could show up to prop up the old system, however that would again serve to stave off the inevitable and undermine any lasting progress.
We need to be very clear with our county & state government: investing in public transit is important and we want strong leadership to push for the right reforms (in process, in benefits, in contracts) along with providing the right level of investment and funding sources. The current Port Authority changes are their sincere stab at building a credible system that attracts support.
The Port Authority needs help on prioritizing how to allocate its budget of service.
The quantity of service the Port Authority provides to Allegheny County is out of line which what it can afford and what is the best use of that service. If you look at the numbers we get more service per person (2.2hrs) than Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, Oakland, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Jose, St Louis, and even Philadelphia. If that doesn't sound quite right to you, maybe the quantity of our service isn't utilized as effectively as it could be.
What the Port Authority has tried to do is come up with a consistent process for evaluation service with the limited data from their current farebox system and inputs from the public. This is at the basis of their proposal, but from what I can tell it is a starting point proposal, not the final plan. The public feedback from the hearings, from the website, and from your phone calls will be the basis for all changes to the proposal.
With all that said, the starting point of the PAAC proposal is not apocalyptic; core weeknight and weekend service is preserved. Anecdotally 80% of the kvetching is about a single route (28X). Core routes like the 61C and 54C (which win City Paper awards) are barely touched. A 25% service cut that eliminates over 50% of the weekday routes means that specialized low service routes are being eliminated in favor of the consistent all day routes. The flat fare proposal can eliminate much of the confusion and embarrassment that our system causes new users. These are painful changes that can easier come in bad times than in good.
Anyway, that's my silver lining. Get your head in the problem space and send your creative ideas and complaints to the right places: