(This guest op-ed comes to us from Helen Gerhardt, in her capacity as concerned Pennsylvania citizen Helen Gerhardt, not as the Community Organizer for Pittsburghers for Public Transit. It does not reflect the official positions of that organization.)
We public transit funding advocates are hearing that House Majority Leader Mike Turzai may call a vote on transportation funding early next week. We are also hearing what we hope are just hair-raising rumors that a lot of PA House Democrats want to pound the stake of utter legislative failure into Governor Corbett’s election hopes by voting NO.
We hear that the Democrats want to prove that Republican domination of Harrisburg results in nothing but pain for the whole state. We hear that the Democrats are looking toward a brighter day, when a new D Governor ushers in a platform of voter-centered, data-driven transportation policies to rally around – and take primary credit for – way over then, in 2015, after next year’s elections.
This is way too long for too many of their constituents to wait.
We ask any such Democratic legislators if they are willing to watch their constituents destroy their cars – and sometimes their lives – on roads that are potholing into semi-circular scraps. Or not crossing once-mighty spans of bridges that are crumbling down. Or not boarding the buses and trains that that carry them to jobs, food, healthcare – all the necessities of life.
Maybe what we are hearing is simply a temporary eclipse of the sun of legislative sanity, but it seems crucial that all of us voters must remind ALL of our legislators of this most basic common sense, even the Democrats that we thought to be the staunchest allies of public transit, that:
- Public transit means fewer cars on the road, which means less wear and tear on existing infrastructure and less need for new capacity; this results in lower costs to taxpayers.
- Public transit connects people to employment centers and business districts, which is vital to keeping our entire state’s economic system strong.
- In this way, a robust public transit system enables a healthy urban tax base, which supports the entire state budget, including roads and bridges for suburban and rural regions.
Yes, we know we can’t accept the House Hess amendments that would short-change all modes of transportation, with the biggest hit to public transit. Yes, we know that even Senate Bill 1, as originally passed by the PA Senate 45-5, is not exactly a banquet for public transit – it was the minimum baseline to keep SEPTA and Port Authority operational. But, we must rally around that baseline, or watch far too many living human beings take the stake.