Around the public policy horn

Around the public policy horn

Ah, if only more government officials told it like Jennie Granger did last week, public policy would be far better served.

Granger is the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s deputy secretary for multimodal transportation. And PennDOT’s bottom line for new efforts to expand Amtrak train service between Pittsburgh, Altoona and Harrisburg is elementary:

“It really comes down to the cost-effectiveness of it,” she told those gathered for a public hearing before state legislators. And such expanded service clearly is not. Thus, any such efforts appear to be dead on arrival. And that’s good news.

As the Trib’s Joe Napsha reminds:

“The cost of capital improvements alone appears to be too high, let alone what it would cost to acquire rights of way and cover maintenance costs plus additional fees which would be required to pay Norfolk Southern to access the rail lines.

“It would cost at least $1.2 billion to add service on existing lines,” Napsha recounts the bill of particulars. “Adding a third track for passenger trains would cost $3.7 billion.”

Which should prompt this response:

Not on this planet.

Indeed, there are far more efficacious ways to provide such service and with users picking up the cost to boot. It’s called the bus.

Or as the Allegheny Institute’s executive director, Frank Gamrat, told Napsha:

“Taxpayers should not have to prop up a service that is dwindling in importance” in the 21st century.

As the investigation continues into the organization that failed to pull off this year’s Three Rivers Regatta, the base question remains why public officials were caught flat-footed.

After all, LionHeart Event Group owed government entities for services rendered for past regattas.

And while some public officials say the blame rests solely with LionHeart – including allegations of “falsified” records – surely the company’s outstanding debts should have raised red flags.

Sound public policy demands meticulous oversight, not floating arrearages.

Sound public policy also demands having one’s ducks in a row. But that’s not the case in Seattle, where another mass transit boondoggle continues to unfold.

In a nutshell, Seattle bought new streetcars for a route extension that won’t fit on existing routes. That means tens of millions of dollars will have to be spent to make them fit.

Never mind that buses would have been more efficient, both for their cost but also operationally.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).