Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Steve Bland Not So Reluctant

On June 14, I blogged that Steve Bland CEO of Port Authority, was "reluctant to raise the $2 base fare for Zone 1 because that would hurt its lowest-income customers and affect routes that are the most cost-effective." Instead, he threatened to raise suburban bus fares upwards of $7 one-way.

Who protested? The lowest-income customers who are busy putting food on their table? Or the downtown workers from the suburbs who can afford an increase the most? The results are pretty clear. Both zone 1 and zone 2 fares are going to raise by a whopping $0.25. In case you're not keeping track at home, that's a 12.5% increase in fare for the lowest-income customers who were already paying their way. The customers out in the suburbs will only see a 9% increase.

Not that the suburbanites are getting off easy in this highly probable round of cuts.

Among the 50-plus communities that would be left with no service are East McKeesport, Franklin Park, Glassport, Hampton, Indiana Township, Liberty, Marshall, North Versailles, Pennsbury Village, Port Vue, South Park and Wall, and the city neighborhoods of Banksville and Spring Garden. Service to the Edgewood Towne Centre and Robinson Town Centre shopping complexes would be abolished, the agency said.

But honestly, why does the Port Authority continue to subsidize suburban living when city dwellers are over-paying their fare share (and then some)? This is yet another case of poor judgment for the Port Authority. If the Port Authority unveiled a plan to charge the actual cost for each bus route (since they now have that data), people would be unhappy but they would understand the logic. Instead, we have unfair, illogical bus fare increases and radical service cuts insuring that everyone is unhappy.

Obviously, Port Authority wants us all to be angry and yell at our state legislators to restore funding for public transportation (which you should). But if Steve Bland is just playing a massive chess game with the state legislature, I'm afraid he's going to lose, and the lowest-income customers will be the biggest losers. So go contact your state legislators, and while you're at it, give Port Authority a piece of your mind.


East Busway Blogger said...

I understand the point of your article. However, I'm on PAT's side, for this at least. They have to provide transit within the county, not just Pittsburgh.

Political cowardice has much more to do with this situation than the Port Authority's bad decision making.

Could PAT's service adjustments been handled better? Absolutely, but let's not get off point here. This whole situation is happening because Harrisburg would rather create a situation that deprives citizens of basic transportation than piss off any potential voter.

Steven Bone said...

I really don't understand any of the logic here.

First, PAT is subsidized by the state lottery, county drink tax, various federal taxes, state sales taxes, county property tax, advertising, AND local universities. The above handouts are not based on ridership - one rider all year or a billion patrons PAT's take is the same. This dollar amount is roughly $227 million.

Meanwhile, a mere $75 M is provided by the passengers in the form of fares.

Therefore TWO-THIRDS of the monies collected for providing bus service is ALREADY subsidized. By people that mostly don't even ride or can't ride the bus. The folks in Zone 1 ARE NOT even paying their own costs yet alone subsidizing everyone else.

I also don't understand how people can complain about Harrisburg. Why should the state EVER pay a red cent for a completely regional thing in the first place?

illyrias said...

Mr Bone, I'm arguing for equity.
Random (popular) zone 1 bus route (61B) costs $1.95 per person to run.

Random zone 2 bus route (58 Versailles Express) costs $6.20 per person to run. The average for the express buses is $5.07 per person.

Yet, zone 1 person will be paying $2.25 (or more than the cost to run the bus) and zone 2 person will be paying $3.00 or less than half the cost to run the bus.

That's favoritism to zone 2 riders.
You're welcome to scour the bus route evaluations to find a zone 2 ride that comes even close to $3.00 per ride.

bus route evaluations

Regarding your state finances question? That's a matter of opinion. But I'll make a deal. We can cut state funding for public transit when we cut state funding for roads. And I promise you the state pays a whole lot more for roads than it does for public transit. Believe it or not, there are people out there who believe that increased public transportation means less expenses for road construction. But they probably also believe in that climate change hoax.

@Eastbusway blogger, I agree with your statement on the cowardice of legislators in Harrisburg, but I think it's totally bogus to make pawns of the "lowest-income customers" as Steve Bland is doing.