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Public Transit is going to hell
by stephen donahue Friday, Jan. 05, 2007 at 5:24 PM

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato is mandating massive service cuts and fare hikes. Right wing state legislators say that this is only the beginning.

On June 25, 2007 the Port Authority of Allegheny County will begin running only 89 of its present 213 weekday bus routes. Weekend service will likewise be decimated. By that same date 400 Port Authority workers will be eliminated. All this will happen at the insistence of Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and his Port Authority director Steve Bland.

This is something new but not unexpected by some transit activists. For the past several years the main target of transit activists had been the Pennsylvania Legislature. Until several months ago Port Authority management and Democratic law makers had been saying that public transit needed a, “dedicated, reliable, growing and predictable funding stream.” Now public transit riders are being told by the same bureaucrats and politicians that regardless of state funding major service cuts and fare hikes will be forced on them, like it or not!

These cynical bastards are saying that the system must be gutted in order to save it. Thus any who fight this will be painted as misguided fools. These same so called leaders have resorted to telling lies about the extent of the cuts. There will be after June 24, 2007 rather large parts of Allegheny County with no public transit service at all. Pittsburgh city residents will pretty much be confined to the city limits as service outside the city will be greatly curtailed.

What is really going on? Dan Onorato and Steve Bland are kissing up to the right wing and libertarian branch in Harrisburg. State Senators Jim Ferlo, Sean Logan and Jay Costa have all hopped on this neo-liberal band wagon. Other local state lawmakers like Mike Turzie and Jane Orie have always been there. Also supporting these service cuts is the very powerful Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Dr. Jared Cohon the president of Carnegie Mellon University. And so it has now been decided that no matter what public transit riders think about it there will be radical cuts in service as a precondition to any state funding.

A great enemy of public transit and of urban areas in general, Rep. Rick Geist of Altoona has praised both Onorato and Bland saying that they are sending the right “smoke signals.” For the ass holes in Harrisburg of both parties these major cuts in service however are just a “first step.” They want more cuts and major labor concessions.

The real goal of the legislature and their boot licks here in Allegheny County is the wholesale demise of public transit. They want it dead. Right wing billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife summed it up nicely not long ago when his rag The Tribune Review editorialized for the complete demolition of the Port Authority and its union workforce to be replaced with privatized non-union service. This is what will indeed happen unless the public makes a concerted effort to stop it.

The public transit rider’s group Save Our Transit which has for several years been fighting for increased state funding for public transit will hold a march and rally on January 22. 2007. They will gather at 8:30 AM at Mellon Square, 6th Avenue at William Penn Place for a rally and then march to the Hilton Hotel on Liberty Avenue at Gateway Center for the 10 AM required public hearing on the big service cuts. Many bus and trolley riders are needed for this event. For more information contact Save our Transit chair Amanda Zeiders at 412-361-3022 or at zeidersamanda@gmail.com

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