For years, cheerleaders for InsolvenCity and environs have had an easy way to disseminate their many "most livable" and "turned the corner" press releases throughout the country -- they could simply hand them to the hundreds of thousands of people who were leaving the region, who could carry them to spots deemed more livable by people other than magazine writers and public relations hacks.
This morning, however, Allegheny County's decline and failures could not be ignored. A few years after County Executive Dan Onorato claimed to have saved the county's mass transit system (at the cost of a job-killing drink tax), many of PAT's buses stopped running over the weekend.
These buses were not stopped consequent to a prudent pruning of unneeded routes. Some of the terminated routes had been popular, featuring full loads of riders traveling to work, to school, to appointments, or to stores. Others had constituted the sole service to entire communities. These engines of livelihood and mobility were still this morning because this region is running out of the fumes on which it has been running for decades.
Decades of failure and inadequacy -- among voters, PAT directors and managers, elected officials, union leaders, and others -- were crystalized during a futile burst of last-minute wrangling and haranguing. The current strategy is to preserve service for the City of Pittsburgh, but focusing on the rotting core seems an unsustainable trajectory.
This morning, Allegheny County has admitted, by action, that it can no longer manage to operate buses full of residents bound for work. The broad harm is composed of countless individual tragedies -- the teenager locked into the stifling confines of a dying town, the senior citizen unable to reach her physician, the secretary forced to recalculate whether work is worthwhile. It is time for the region's cheerleaders to take a break long enough to look at the scoreboard, and past time for the region to field leaders rather than cheerleaders.
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