The County’s first Special Committee on Public Transportation convened a few minutes after 5 PM on Tuesday and before adjourning a few minutes before 6 PM raised questions regarding Act 44, the current labor agreement for the PAT union, and some of the differences between PAT and the much larger SEPTA system in Philadelphia and much of the southeast region of the state.
One of the six Council members in attendance asked about legacy costs at SEPTA; another asked about how funding under Act 44 has affected SEPTA; a PAT staff member offered to research the matter further.
A quick look back at the 2006 Task Force appointed by Governor Rendell points out the differences, and our research has highlighted those differences in publications since the time of the Task Force’s report. To wit:
- SEPTA had "starting bus driver and mechanic rates below U.S. transit industry average" while PAT had "operator wage rats historically higher than industry and statewide average; highest in the U.S. when accounting for cost of living"
- SEPTA demonstrated a "limited pursuit of Federal New Starts program and other expansion projects evident from investment of only one (1) percent of capital dollars for expansion; PAT was characterized as having "aggressive pursuit of new starts and other expansion projects despite significant operating deficits for existing services and shortfall in local subsidies".
- At the time SEPTA "contracts out 2 fixed route bus services in outer suburbs" while PAT "collective bargaining agreements are silent on contracting out fixed route services".
What was evident five years ago as the Task Force toured the state must come back around and be front and center in Council’s chambers.