Friday, January 28, 2011

My speech to the PAT Board, 1-28-2011

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Board, and Mr. Bland. Thank you for allowing me to speak. My name is Stuart Strickland, I am a regular rider speaking mainly for myself. Some of you may know me by my Twitter handle, @bus15237.

In the book Watership Down, by Richard Adams, one of the main characters is a rabbit named Fiver. He can see the future in vivid detail, but his dire warnings go unheeded because his visions are so unbelievable. Then exactly what he said would happen does happen, and the rest of the rabbits wonder why they didn't pay more attention to him sooner.

How do you do, everyone, my name is Fiver, and I'm here to tell you the world is ending. Port Authority gets roughly 60% of its operating revenue from the state, the state is looking at a $4 billion deficit, and the new state leadership has a track record of opposing transit funding. It is entirely possible that they may not fund transit at all. In my opinion, they want Port Authority to fail so they can replace it with private companies. They want the unions busted, and they want their private-company friends to make a profit off of whatever is left. If 60% of our funding is cut, 60% of our system is cut. Not 15%. Not 35%. 60%.

Port Authority needs to figure out how to get funding from sources other than Harrisburg, and that means county, municipal, corporate and personal sources.

My next comment is directed to the media. I want to thank the staff and management of Pittsburgh's TV and radio stations, and one particular newspaper, for giving Port Authority so much attention over the years, but keeping the public so misinformed about how transit is funded, and how the money is spent. At least 75%, probably more like 90%, of the people I talk with, have their facts wrong, and they got their misunderstanding from you.

I ride this system almost daily, and I think it works very well. I also think it should be expanded, not shrunken, so that when, not if, gasoline goes to $4 or $5 a gallon, we will still be able to move. Please, members of the Board, let's see if we can rise above the tide of political and media foolishness, and try to find a sensible, fair and equitable solution for funding transit. I have several ideas in mind which might be workable, if we can get a sensible, fair and equitable set of people to talk with me about them. Thank you again for your time.

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