I thought this was a really obvious point, but apparently PGH Mayor Luke Ravenstahl disagrees, so we have to go over it.
If the Doomsday transit cuts at the Allegheny Port Authority were to go through, that would deal a pretty serious blow to the Pittsburgh metro economy. People would have a harder time getting around, there’d be more traffic congestion, and the traffic congestion would put a check on how much more downtown office and housing development could realistically get built. If you take all the people who now ride mass transit to work and turn them into solo-drivers, you get a lot more street traffic. It becomes harder for the transportation network to serve the downtown offices, restaurants and bars, sports games and cultural institutions. All the lost time and foregone development represents a real loss of money for the regional economy.
If you’re the government, and you have a choice between allocating $3 million toward making it easier to get around vs. $3 million toward subsidizing arts, culture and sports institutions, I think it’s really a no-brainer to focus on making it easy to get around. Cultural institutions can always try to make up the money from charitable donations, ticket sales, etc. Transit, however, is a public service.* Only the government is providing the funding for that. It’s more important for the government to fund all its core responsibilities before spending money on the nice-to-haves.
I’ll give Councilman Bill Peduto the last word on this since I thought he had a solid statement:
“Public transportation is the single most important issue facing our region. Our new economy relies on a transportable workforce. The ed-med economy of Oakland, located in my council district, is Pennsylvania’s third largest daily economic generator (behind downtown Philadelphia and downtown Pittsburgh) and requires thousands of workers to take public transportation 24hours per day.”
“County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has crafted a creative plan that has garnered support from ATU 85, the corporate community, the Port Authority and state leaders. The transit union deserves tremendous credit for stepping forward with $60 million in concessions, to protect not only their fellow employees, but this entire region. Additionally, the state has committed an additional $35 million and the County pledged $1.5 million. The goal to use $3 million in RAD funds, just 3% of the plan’s funding, will protect the region’s most significant asset. At the same time, County Executive Fitzgerald has pledged that no cultural organization will see a reduction in funding as a result.”
“I am disappointed in Mayor Ravenstahl for undermining the hard work that has been done to create this plan. We have known about looming cuts that would devastate the region for the past several years. Rather than working cooperatively with the state, county, and transit union to develop a sustainable plan to save this critical economic and social asset, Mayor Ravenstahl simply attacks the plan. County Executive Fitzgerald’s plan is built on teamwork – everyone giving a little, so our region can gain a lot. I am hopeful that Mayor Ravenstahl will move from the sidelines and join the team. “
*Yes, you can do transit with private bus companies and such. Whatever you think of the merits of that idea, in the near-term it’s not within the range of political possibilities.