Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Pretty good radio show on Pittsburgh's Transit Mess
The following opinion is my own and may not be shared by other contributors to this blog.
Part one of a surprisingly good two part broadcast about the current state of public transit in Pittsburgh. Of course, it's far from perfect-this should be a ten part series at least. Sadly, any story that goes beyond telling some sob stories and asking for more money passes as good journalism.
There are however glaring omissions and misrepresentations. The PG transportation writer says "Transit agencies in every city require government subsidies". Not exactly true. Outside, the US, several transit companies, like Hong Kong's MTR run systems with no direct government subsidies. MTR breaks even at the fare box and makes money developing real estate around it's stations, generating huge profits. (You can buy the stock)
Of course, the fact that transit once did make money-or come close to making money is proven by the historic origins of Pittsburgh's own system in private streetcar lines.
Kudos for at least mentioning that benefit costs from the retired workforce are now almost equal to those working, a situation rarely duplicated by any other transit agency.
Then the PG writer makes the claim that "only two things can be done about this"--Increase funding or cut service. Sorry, but any bankrupt company can tell you that the third thing that could be done is to look into cutting the pensions, increasing the retirement age or making other changes in benefit levels. (Don't get me wrong-this is an ugly situation and some of the people behind these false promises should likely be in jail)
Are we really saying we are willing to eliminate almost all service, just so we can pay pensions? This is pretty much what is happening, although few will say it plainly.
They also fail to make connections between transit and land use. Transit will only pay off and be vital if we adopt land use to transit. They don't go into all the ways we subsidise cars like all the URA parking garages.
They also make no effort to look at the route structure. MTR's system makes money because that is what it was designed to do from the start. Nobody there builds a line to serve a football stadium that sits empty most of the time.