Over at Nullspace, Chris Briem has been quietly alerting us to all-time peak employment in Pittsburgh for a while now. It’s a pretty striking fact that I don’t think has impacted the political debate over issues like jobs, transportation and state metro policy nearly as much as it should.
Politicians would ideally be asking themselves what Pittsburgh might be doing right to have all-time peak employment, and what the state could be doing to complement growth in the Pittsburgh MSA and make it possible for even more people and businesses to locate there.
But that is not what is happening at all. Instead, we’re staring down this insane situation:
Transit riders and employers in the Pittsburgh region said Tuesday that they’re clinging to hope that Port Authority of Allegheny County will come up with a last-minute deal to avert historic service cuts planned for Sept. 2 [...]
Fitzgerald has said officials could avoid some or all service reductions if the union and management agree to a combined $25 million in concessions and if the state provides a bailout of up to $35 million.
Gov. Tom Corbett has said the state will help only if Port Authority reduces its expenses.
“Obviously, Sept. 2 is a drop-dead date, so we’re moving with urgency,” Fitzgerald said, referring to the date when 35-percent service cuts would take effect — eliminating 46 routes and scaling all others back. Up to 500 Port Authority workers could lose their jobs.
And what would be the effect of 35% service cuts, eliminating 46 routes and laying off 500 Port Authority workers?
A Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission study released in June estimates that Port Authority’s daily ridership will plummet by 40,000, or 19 percent, should the cuts occur. The scenario likely would put an extra 23,400 vehicles daily on area roads — half of them Downtown, where parking availability is estimated at just 3,800 spaces a day, the study said.
Kevin O’Connell, spokesman for the Eat ‘N Park chain, which has 22 restaurants in Port Authority’s service area, said 230 of its employees in the area depend on public transportation — about 10 percent of its work force. He said almost half of restaurant’ sales are on weekends — when transit cuts would be most severe.
That’s going to add a ton of traffic congestion downtown that just doesn’t have to be there. That congestion is not just going to be a waste of people’s time and a drag on productivity. It’s actually going to limit how many more daytime workers the city can add downtown, and how much more commercial and residential development there can be.
The correct answer from state government is: “Of course we won’t let the transit cuts happen! Pittsburgh is PA’s second largest economy, and obviously that means these route cancellations would be an economic disaster for the whole state. Here is even more money to further build out the transit network, so Pittsburgh can do even more of what it’s already doing right.”
(Thanks: Tom Fontaine)