One week ago legislation would have altered the makeup of the Port Authority (PAT) board from one with nine members all appointed by the Chief Executive of Allegheny County to one with eleven members where the Chief Executive would have had one appointment with various other officials from the state, County, and City of Pittsburgh having appointments. That bill has been amended and a new version has passed the Senate and is on its way to the House.
So what’s the same?
- There will still be 11 board members
- State officials would make five appointments (the Governor and the leaders of each chamber will each get one appointment)
- All appointees must have a background in finance, economic development, transportation, or mass transportation
- Community organizations will provide names for four prospective appointees
- Members can serve no more than three consecutive terms
- PENNDOT will conduct a study on privatization and consolidation and report to the state on their findings
And what’s different?
- Only the Governor’s appointee does not have to be an Allegheny County resident
- The County Executive would have four appointees, but two must come from the list of recommendations as proposed by community organizations and those two must be confirmed by County Council
- The Mayor of Pittsburgh would not have an appointment as was proposed in the earlier version of the bill
- The at-large members of County Council will not have appointments as originally proposed. The County Council caucus of the opposite party affiliation of the Executive will make two appointments from the same list provided by the community organizations
What seemed to be a clear and straightforward agenda at the Port Authority (PAT) board’s March 25th meeting turned into a much longer and drawn-out affair after the transit union made a last-ditch concession proposal in order to avert the 15 percent service cut necessitated by a revenue shortfall.
In a repeat of this past weekend’s playoff game, the Port Authority (PAT) does not know if it will have enough drivers volunteer to operate shuttles for the championship game on Sunday. The transit union denies there was any orchestrated plan to cause the shortage of drivers, but noted "a lot of people would rather sit at home and watch the game than volunteer to work an extra shift."
True, and a lot of other people might like to make a living driving a bus or a shuttle without interference from the County’s one-stop-transit-shop. Just two years ago the transit union opposed a plan to permit Lenzner Coach Lines from operating a shuttle between Station Square, Downtown, and the North Side. The head of the union said that "a Lenzner shuttle would take jobs away from his union brethren and leave riders paying more than they would on a PAT bus".
Could there be a better case for removing PAT’s mass transit monopoly? PAT management cannot assign people to drive shuttles and must depend on volunteers. And no other company or regional bus agency can step up and offer service because they are not permitted to do so in Allegheny County. Efficient transit service is subject to the whims of the transit union. If they want to drive they will, if they don’t want someone else to drive, they will stop them.
What a disgrace that the unions have driven PAT into a financial and gross inefficiency ditch and are still holding the Authority up to ridicule.
Here’s an idea for the County Executive. Rather than trying to stand in the way of court ordered re-assessments, appoint some PAT board members who will take a harder line with the unions and then go to Harrisburg and ask for the legislative remedies the Allegheny Institute has been advocating for years. Eliminate the right of transit workers to strike, remove the PAT monopoly, and order the outsourcing of service.