Thursday, November 18, 2004

The wheels on the bus...

The Allegheny Institute says the Port Authority's costs are too high, and it has some suggestions for operating a more efficient transit system:
In order to minimize budget shortfalls and, thus, the need for further taxpayer subsidies, the Port Authority must raise the number of bus passenger trips per hour of service. That can be done by cutting out many of the daytime, evening, and weekend routes that carry few passengers per hour of operation. And contrary to the authority's claims, it does not require totally eliminating evening and weekend service. It does mean running fewer buses at non-peak hours in order to boost the number of riders per bus hour of operation to create more cost efficiency.

The authority also should look at allowing private firms to carry passengers on smaller, more efficient vehicles to provide service to areas and at times the Port Authority cannot operate efficiently with its highly paid drivers and large buses. Threats of eliminating evening or weekend service are scare tactics and indicate an unwillingness to manage in a way that makes the system more efficient.

In addition, the authority needs to ask for concessions from its drivers and other employees to bring wage rates more in line with other systems. It is simply not appropriate for Port Authority employees to be paid more than most of their fellow drivers across the country and ask taxpayers to pay more to underwrite their favored position.
The bottom line is that the Port Authority and SEPTA in Philadelphia can't keep coming back to the Legislature every year, hat in hand. The state has too many rural and suburban legislators who won't keep voting for increased funds for something that largely benefits urban residents. The status quo simply won't do.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Port Authority could solve the entire problem of its abysmal failure to provide public transit cost effectively:

Allow jitneys.

Jitneys, as anyone who has been to the third world (or New York) will tell you, are a very efficient, private, market-based solution to the Stalinist blackhole of the Port Authority. They're unique, mostly neighborhood-based transportation lines operated by small businessmen. Allowing jitneys would spark minority investment in poor communities, create employment and provide a real-world solution to the bloated bureaucracy of the Port Authority.

So, PA, why not give jitneys a chance?

8:36 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Well, that raises a whole other issue, which is that the state has essentially given a monopoly to one cab company, which has the right to veto anyone else who tries to get a license.

10:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jitneys run constantly into black neighborhoods. A lot of them aren't safe and aren't insured and aren't terribly reliable. Nor are they prepared to carry 30 people at peak times. Jitneys are not an alternative to a citywide mass transit system, and are not necessarily viable for a lot of people with physical limitations. Your ride to and from work shouldn't depend on whether Bill is recovered from the flu and able to drive today.

5:17 AM

Blogger Mark Rauterkus said...

Legalize jitneys. Good idea. Its part of the pending Platform for Pgh. I'll talk too with the cab company owner as well, Jamie C. Does anyone have any pointers for background info on that 'monopoly?'

The PAT situation could be resolved, IMNSHO, with PAT Board Member elections as in "retention votes." How many PAT board members do you know? How accountable is that? Make an appointment. Then the appointee on year one needs a 65% vote to retain the position. After each year of service on the board, an extra 5% is needed to continue board service.

11:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poppycock. We need a Stalinist bus system, with drivers to spare, to handle the days when Joe has the flu? Come on. The private marketplace deals with illnesses everyday, not with an arch, bureaucratic sickness policy, but with flexibility.

Jitneys perform well in every North American city in which they operate. The problem for the bus/taxi monopoly is that they threaten to deliver more services more cheaply. Apparently, no one wants to see that if you can suck off the taxpayer's tit, what is politely called a "revenue stream" by inefficient, bloated bureaucracies.

I would rather voluntarily surrender a fare to a jitney hack than donate another dollop to the bloated bus mafia.

6:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There ARE jitneys in Pittsburgh. They just don't operate in your neighborhood.

And since jitneys operate successfully in other cities, tell me where they're a replacement for an adequately-funded public transit system. Jitneys are to mass transit what this blog is to the New York Times. Get serious.

4:11 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Yeah. The New York Times has a better class of readers.

7:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're a shit, Potts.

12:12 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

My ability to censor myself could be better at times, I'll give you that.

9:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No shit there are jitneys in this city. I might be the only guy on this blog who actually has friends who drive jitneys in the Hill and Homestead. Thanks for the uninformed comment.

The reality, however, is that current law and transportation policy prohibits jitneys from striking out from their very small enclaves. They can't compete directly against the major bus lines, by law, so they can't set up regular stops downtown, the airport or the suburban shopping malls -- all lucrative markets.

They are impeded by the needs of a bloated bureaucracy that contends the public bus line can't compete against private forces. OK. So don't compete for the lucrative markets and get out of the way when private companies seek to transport people in the underserved niches.

If you don't like that proposal, then by all means try to convince lawmakers in Harrisburg that we really need a bloated bus bureaucracy in Pittsburgh that's drowning in red ink.

Who said public transportation was a right? We've given the governmental Ralph Cramdens of Pittsburgh enough time to make it work. They can't do it. So let's simply sweep them into the dust pan and get rid of them, their inefficient union contracts, their loafing mechanincs and their brain dead management.

Oh, yeah, and I'm actually the only one here who has most likely been inside the repair works of the Port Authority. I've seen the way workers post "lookouts" so they can sleep away the day. I've heard the jokes about how long it really takes to fix or paint a bus. And much of this is under private management!

End the subsidies. Look for the markets to address the needs of Pittsburgh, because the bureaucrats haven't done it.

10:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, jitneys! Uninsured crackheads driving people all over town. I'm sure they'll do quite a business on those airport runs.

4:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not just suggesting jitneys. Allow private bus, taxi and jitney companies to compete for services. The Port Authority can run the light rail section.

Why do I get the feeling that private bus lines, properly constructed and competing for customers, will drive down prices, stabilize labor rates and provide a greater variety of services?

Oh, that's right. Pittsburgh-style government has all the answers, which is why the bus bureaucracy is $30 million in the red and the city is insolvent and dependent on handouts from Harrisburg.

Of course. Crazy me.

8:49 PM


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