Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To the PAT Board, 2012-02-29

February 29 @5:27pm speech to the PAT Board and CEO Steve Bland

Honorable members of the Board, and Mr. Bland, good afternoon, I am Stuart Strickland, from McCandless Township, a regular rider of the O12 McKnight Flyer, 12 McKnight and soon to be cut 2 Mount Royal bus routes. I already lost my Perry Highway routes in the 2011 service cuts and so walk most of a mile each way to get a bus every day.

As every properly informed person in the room knows, PAT didn’t cause this problem, state government did, through its persistent refusal to accept that public transportation does require tax subsidy to run properly. As every properly informed politician knows, spending money on public transit actually earns money for the state in allowing the wheels of commerce to turn efficiently in the denser urban areas that generate most of the state’s revenues. But the misinformed and willfully ignorant are in power at the moment, so here we are.

What can PAT do? The short answer is to convince 50,000 people in Pittsburgh – who do not now use public transit – to drop $990 or $1,430 as I just did to buy an annual bus pass. Selling 50,000 passes would raise the $60 million PAT needs to avoid the cuts. That would do it, that would fix the problem, plain and simple, without any help from government.

This points out the real problem. In the last 30 years or so, 50,000 Pittsburgh families have abandoned transit, choosing instead to spend five times what an annual pass costs, to have a car instead of using a bus system. How do you reverse 30 years of that in two months? You don’t do it by threatening to cut service. But to emphasize, it is not getting 50,000 current riders to drop upwards of a grand on an annual pass, but 50,000 who are not paying fare now. It would also help greatly to reinstate the six-month pass, charging for five-and-a-half months, even three months for two-and-three-quarters, bringing the out-of-pocket cost down to that of an average muffler or brake job. And that’s who you have to sell it to, not riders, but people trying to keep two or three or four cars on the road, and going broke doing so.

In the short run, PAT can and should conduct more than a PR campaign, it needs an anti-BS campaign. There is so much misinformation out there that no rational conversation can take place without first undoing the misinformation, person by person, company by company. Selling thousand-dollar items on a potentially shrinking system requires a leap of faith. I took it, but I was already paying fare. Now to get 50,000 people to do likewise.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak.

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