Friday, March 18, 2011

Pressures Continue To Build As Meltdowns Become Apparent Where Rubber Meets Road

The fallout from recent meltdowns could affect not only the relevant industry but also the public.

We refer, of course, to the deteriorating conditions at Allegheny County's Port Authority transit operation.

After a long period of unstable operations, the first signal of extraordinary pressure buildup was a recent outburst from PAT chief executive officer Steve Bland, who called Allegheny County Council President Jim Burn "stupid" (technically, Bland called Burn's proposal "stupid," but the term was radioactive enough to reach Burn's person). Confirming trouble at PAT's core is a current charge by PAT management that union drivers are attempting to sabotage operations. (Readings from union statements and member conduct indicate that PAT workers are, inexplicably, ignoring the crisis.)

This dangerous cycle -- management and labor dysfunction that appears to be both cause and consequence of long-term problems -- appears to be creating an acute meltdown just as conditions are inclining the traveling public (and its employers) to rely increasingly on PAT.

Thank goodness Tom Corbett, Dan Onorato and Port Authority directors are positioned to protect the public interest.

Infinonytune: Under Pressure, Annie Lennox and David Bowie


MH said...

Just out of curiosity, is Jim Burn stupid? I have my own opinions about Port Authority management, but I don't know about Burn.

I'd thought the PA was behaving prudently (for once) in making smaller cuts to spread the pain. Everybody else (elected) seems to want to have them play chicken with Corbett and the legislature. How they expect to win that when Rendell wouldn’t give them anything but a new excuse (“blame Congress”), I don’t know.

Of course, I never understood why we had to subsidize people riding in from Cranberry. They pay 4% less taxes and have better schools. If they can’t spring for $10 a day to travel, they’re just too whiny.

Infinonymous said...

Jim Burn is not stupid.

Port Authority transit and local government have been mismanaged for decades, by substandard PAT boards and elected officials.

Many people (most of them not shirkers or whiners, many of them struggling for livelihoods) rely on mass transit in Allegheny County.

If mass transit didn't exist, everyone (including those driving their own vehicles) would need to create it.

Infinonymous said...

Were Jim Burn stupid, a PAT official calling him stupid would nonetheless be stupid.

MH said...

Thanks. One hates to assume based on only knowing he was elected.

I do understand that the PAT is badly managed, but it seems to be getting better. I do also understand that it is needed as I am a rider, even if I am a rider who has other options. I still don't understand why PAT should subsidize rides to people living outside of the county when it can't provide enough service for people in the county.

Anonymous said...

The union is not ignoring the crisis, they're trying to prevent one.

If Dan Onorato and Steve Bland had ever seriously, proactively worked with the union instead of against them, then maybe they could have squeezed the necessary funding from the legislature.

Instead, the lobbying efforts have been at best uneffective, at worst, have cancelled each other out.

Tragically, because we've had a county exec, drink tax notwithstanding, who's outrageously, ambivalent about the need for our county to have a strong transit system, and a transit CEO who seems similarly ambivalent about the needs of the transit-riding public (sorry, I'm from Troy Hill and have not gotten over Bland's suggestion that my neighbors and I buy better shoes)-- we (Allegheny County) have basically given the state legislature an excuse to not deal with the funding issue.

MH said...

The crisis already happened. Unless there was a way to both have no cuts to transit and no tax increases (and there wasn't), Onorato and the union were incapable of working together. My impression is that Onorato had the more accurate perception of the political environment, but outside of those directly involved, I don't think it matters whose fault it is.

The effort now should be to draw a line that can be defended. That is, given that nobody can increases taxes for transit and win an election, what can be funded with the available money. More money isn’t going to come until there is another state election, and even then it will only come if there is a huge demand from the voters.

Infinonymous said...

If there has been an adequate participant -- among state government, the union, local government, PAT directors -- as PAT has veered toward its ditch, we have missed it.

Anonymous said...

(same as anon 12:37)

Whether or not the crisis has happened, is happening or will happen is kind of relative to whether or not your route has been cut yet.

That's why the voters havent demanded it, it's been a slow death.

And by the way, it's questionable whether a unified demand from Allegheny County voters could ever have made this happen.

Because of the make-up of this state legislature, what has been needed in the last ten years that they've failed to enact a permanent funding stream, is some sophisticated political work between urban and rural reps and senators.

The rural (mostly R) reps are never going to fund urban mass transit without some kind of political trade.

This is why it would have been helpful in the last 6 years for our local elected leaders to work together (and with their workers and community members) to facilitate a solution in Harrisburg.

I know what the union's been asking for, and it's been dedicated funding. Not sure about Bland and Onorato. (Or Ravenstahl or any other leaders) If they has asked, they haven't made a convincing argument and THEY have failed us.

MH said...

If there has been an adequate participant -- among state government, the union, local government, PAT directors -- as PAT has veered toward its ditch, we have missed it.

That's a tunnel, not a ditch. You can tell because it takes less money to dig a ditch.

Infinonymous said...

A tunnel enables one to continue along the journey's road. A ditch, on the other hand, can signal the end of the road for the journey.

MH said...

The Chinese word for "ditch" is created by combining the characters for “public works” and “we only put salt on street where committee members live.”