PA Gov. Tom “Corporate” Forms Transportation Funding Advisory Commission

HARRISBURG, Pa., April 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Governor Tom Corbett announced today that he has signed an executive order creating a Transportation Funding Advisory Commission to develop innovative solutions to Pennsylvania’s mounting transportation funding challenges.

“We need a comprehensive, strategic blueprint for how we pay for years of underinvestment in our roads, bridges, and mass transit systems, and I have directed PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch to lead the commission to explore our financial options,” Corbett said.

“Pennsylvanians expect and deserve to have a transportation system that improves not just their safety, but their overall quality of life. The time has come to put a financial plan in place that not only addresses our transportation needs but also takes into account our nation’s energy objectives and realities.”
The governor tasked the group to make its recommendations by Aug. 1. The panel’s first meeting will be on April 25. Named to the commission were:

  • Patrick Henderson – Commonwealth Energy Executive
  • Michael Krancer – acting Secretary, Department of Environmental Protection
  • Alan Walker – Secretary, Department of Community & Economic Development
  • Charles Zogby – Commonwealth Budget Secretary
  • Janet Anderson – Northwest Regional Planning and Development Commission
  • Richard Barcaskey – Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania  
  • John Brenner – Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities
  • Tom Caramanico – McCormick Taylor Inc.
  • J. Randolph Cheetham – CSX Transportation
  • James Decker – Stroud Township
  • Joe DeMott – McKean County commissioner
  • Richard Farr – Pennsylvania Public Transit Association/York County Transportation Authority
  • Mike Fesen – Norfolk Southern Corp.
  • Michael Flanagan – Clinton County Economic Partnership
  • Elam Herr – Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors
  • Dale High – High Industries, Inc.
  • Kevin Johnson – SEPTA
  • Robert Kinsley – Kinsley Construction Co.
  • Robert Latham – Associated Pennsylvania Constructors
  • Frederick LaVancher – Tioga County  
  • Tom Lawson – Borton-Lawson Architecture & Engineering
  • Ted Leonard – Pennsylvania AAA Federation
  • Brad Mallory – Michael Baker Corp.
  • Ron Marino – Citigroup Infrastructure
  • Hugh Mose – Centre Area Transportation Authority
  • Ross Myers – American Infrastructure
  • Tim Reddinger – Clarion County commissioner  
  • Carol Rein – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch
  • Jim Runk – Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association
  • Robert Shaffer – Aviation Advisory Committee/Dubois Airport
  • Craig Shuey – Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
  • Jeff Stover – SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority
  • Rob Wonderling – Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
  • Dennis Yablonsky – Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce
  • Jeff Zell – Zell Engineers, Inc.

“I am grateful to all the commission members for contributing their time, knowledge and insight to helping Pennsylvania move toward a new decade of transportation improvements,” said Schoch. “I am committed to delivering a sound and effective blueprint for funding our state’s transportation investments that benefits our economy and our residents.” The commission’s materials can be found at or at the PennDOT website,, under the TFAC button. The commission also has established an email address,, to accept public comments.

The commission’s first meeting will be at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 25 in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Office Building, 4th and Market streets, Harrisburg. Overflow seating will be in the second-floor auditorium.
Media contacts:
Rich Kirkpatrick, PennDOT; 717-783-8800
Kelli Roberts, Governor’s Office; 717-783-1116
SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor

Get on the Bus: Transit Union Looks to Ally with Riders

More than 100 transit activists met in Washington, D.C. in mid-March for the Amalgamated Transit Union’s “boot camp,” learning how to build coalitions between transit workers and transit riders.

Responding to the near-universal threat of budget cuts and privatization, transit workers and transit riders are learning how to work together, like these Toronto activists did. Photo: ATU Local 113.

Responding to the near-universal threat of budget cuts and privatization of transit systems, International President Larry Hanley wrote, “We want to create a very ambitious plan that stretches people’s imaginations. We have the best story in town. We just have to stop just saying it to each other, and say it to those outside our circle.”

Hanley, elected last fall, has called transit “the greenest job you’re going to find” and has long advocated alliances with the riding public to improve service, save jobs, and ensure a future for public transit.

More than 3,000 transit workers have been laid off in the current recession.

This was the ATU’s second gathering of the sort since October. The international is giving incentives to locals who begin working with the community by matching the political action funds that locals devote to this work.

An anti-privatization struggle in Toronto last fall was held up as a successful model. A budget crisis was happening in the midst of a mayoral race. Three of the four candidates were proposing some version of privatization of the transit system. The ATU local launched a Public Transit Coalition campaign that involved 12,000 individual members and diverse organizations such as the Chinese Canadian National Council, Federation of Metro Tenants, Canadian Federation of Students, and Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

The coalition put on an internet and media campaign that included an 18-minute film with an anti-privatization message, shown on the buses. Because advertising is allowed on the buses, management could not object to the union’s access to riders. Those who watched the video on the ATU website and answered a few questions were eligible for a prize, a monthly transit pass. By the end of the mayoral race, privatization was off the table and none of the candidates were speaking for it.

Atlanta Begins to Organize

Atlanta was represented at the D.C. meeting by the ATU local president and members of the Clayton County Transit Riders Union, Atlanta Public Sector Alliance, and Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment.

Atlanta’s transit system (MARTA) is trapped in a downward spiral of service cuts and fare increases. Because of state legislators’ racism toward Atlanta, MARTA is the largest transit system in the country that receives no operating help from the state.

Last year MARTA made the deepest cuts in its history, eliminating 40 bus routes, increasing wait times for trains, and closing bathrooms in 29 stations. The workforce was cut by 14 percent, with 300 laid off.

In particular, disabled riders have had big problems with the system, including accessibility to buses and trains, broken-down equipment such as elevators not working, poor communication, and no accountability. Because of poor planning on management’s part, operators are given unrealistic schedules, resulting in late pick-ups and operator stress.

Bringing the lessons of the D.C. meeting home, Atlanta transit activists strategized at the April meeting of Concerned Transit Riders for Equal Access. The meeting was made up of disability rights activists, ATU members, the Atlanta Public Sector Alliance, and a teacher representing Metro Atlantans for Public Schools.

Riders and workers began engaging each other. Both sides targeted the problems caused by MARTA management that result in poor service and low morale. “They are trying to make us do more work with less people,” said ATU executive board member Mark Fitzgerald. “Insurance costs are doubled. People’s job security is threatened,” said shop steward David Roseboro, adding that MARTA Mobility—which provides service to the disabled—has the highest turnover of any department.

The Atlanta Public Sector Alliance outlined how global economic problems are driving cuts at the local level. The alliance advocates a “human rights” approach to building a movement, holding government institutions accountable for protecting and fulfilling basic human rights—such as mobility—and promoting reallocation of resources and progressive taxation to address the crisis. As the Toronto Public Transit Coalition puts it, “All governments have a responsibility to fund public transit adequately to ensure a high level of service and affordable fares.”

A committee of riders and workers will widen their reach by flyering in MARTA workplaces, on buses, and at retirement apartments where many disability rights activists live. These public sector workers are intent on using the potential to build power by uniting with the people they serve.

Paul McLennan is a retired bus mechanic and member of ATU Local 732.

Dear Supporter,
Thank you for visiting Pittsburghers for Public Transit’s site!  We’re excited that you want to join us in the fight to protect and expand Pittsburgh’s public transit system. Here’s how you can help!
 ·         Come to a PPT meeting!  They are open to all and anyone with an opinion or idea is welcome to voice it.  We make all decisions democratically, with each attendee having a voice and a vote.  Our next meeting will be sent to our announcements e-mail list which you can join by e-mailing SAVEPGHTRANSIT@GMAIL.COM
·         Volunteer!  We will regularly need help distributing leaflets for events, passing out copies of our “Pittsburgh Needs Transit!”  (put a link to the webpage with the paper on it: newsletter at bus stops, and all kinds of other duties.  If we’re going to build a successful movement to protect and expand public transit, we’ll need all hands on deck.  If you have any special skills, talents, or resources that you think can help push our movement forward, please let us know! 
·         Donate to PPT!  We have no budget, no paid staffers, no corporate backers.  We published 20,000 copies of our newsletter for only 900 dollars, all of which came from members and supporters of PPT.  Once we run out, we’ll need to publish more, and in the future we may want to produce posters, banners, apparel, or anything else we’ll need in the course of this fight.  Help us make these things a reality!  You can donate to PPT by writing a check to “Thomas Merton Center”, with “Economic Justice – Transit” in the memo line.  You can mail your donations to “Thomas Merton Center, Attn: Economic Justice Committee, 5129 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15224.” Any amount helps!  We currently have 141 people on our mailing list; if everyone on it gave just 10 dollars we would have more than enough to publish another round of newsletters!
·         Spread the word!  Talk about PPT and the struggle for transit with your coworkers, classmates, neighbors, and the people waiting for the bus with you.  Point them in the direction of our website and Facebook page, invite them to a meeting or action, or give them a newsletter.  Word of mouth is a powerful tool, especially when organizing around an issue as important and impactful as protecting and expanding public transit. 
·         Stay up to date with PPT by regularly checking and by joining our Facebook group.
As you know, PPT, along with our brothers and sisters in the Amalgamated Transit Union’s Local 85, organized a hugely successful and well-attended march through Squirrel Hill on March 19th.  More than 500 people marched, chanted, and stood in unison against the cuts bearing down on our transit system.  The event was really a sight to behold, and garnered a great deal of media attention from all of the major local news outlets, independent media, and the city’s student press.
Despite our success, the cuts still happened.   Tens of thousands of people and dozens of neighborhoods have lost their transit service entirely; for the rest of us, the system has been thrown into chaos and unpredictability, which will settle into a reduced level of service.   Hundreds of hard-working Port Authority workers have lost their livelihoods in an economy that is producing few if any good, family-sustaining jobs.   Unless we organize and fight back on an even greater scale, this reality will persist indefinitely, despite the Port Authority’s claims that the cuts are only ‘temporary.’

Make no mistake, more cuts are coming unless they are doggedly resisted.  All levels of government are in fiscal crisis and cuts to services like transit are the order of the day for the politicians and the corporate interests that control them.   We need to be clear that the hard-working and dedicated workers who make the Port Authority run and provide the heartbeat for our city are not the cause of the transit crisis, but that the real cause is a boggling misallocation of resources in our government and throughout society generally. 
We need to be in the streets asking: “Why are we spending more than a trillion dollars a year on the military budget rather than funding transit nationally?  Why are Marcellus Shale drillers who ruin our environment not being taxed so we could fund transit statewide?  Why do huge, money-making ‘non-profits’ like UPMC not pay a dime in local taxes when we could be funding transit in Pittsburgh?”  We need to be asking those questions (and loudly!), in our streets, on the news, in our workplaces, classrooms, neighborhoods, churches, unions, buses, and subways.  

The fact that a small but dedicated organization was able to organize a big demonstration and major media event with no budget and maybe two dozen volunteers shows the potential for the working people, youth, students, elderly, disabled, and all who care about public transit in Allegheny County to launch a major movement to not only stop future cuts to public transit but to expand it.  That is PPT’s mission and reason for existence.   The inspiring struggle of workers in Wisconsin and ordinary people in Egypt against injustice in their regions give us optimism that the same methods can be applied in this battle with success, and that a dedicated and massive movement can achieve our aims. 

All of us at PPT hope you’re able to get involved, and we warmly invite you to do so.  We firmly believe that the best way forward in this fight is through mass action that will pressure the authorities into accepting and carrying out our just demands.  Together, we can win this fight. 

Thank you,

Pittsburghers for Public Transit

ALERT! County Council Meeting on Transit 3/30, 4pm Rally!

To All Activists:

On Wednesday 3/30/2011 (tomorrow) Jim Burn President of Allegheny County Council will be holding a special session of Council at 5:00 pm. We need everyone who can make it in such short notice to come to Grant street in front of the County Courthouse Tomorrow AT 4:00 PM to show we are not defeated and we will not go away! This fight has only just begun. We are United and we will not accept defeat!

In Solidarity,

Any Questions call
Bryon Shane 412-999-9208
Mike Harms 421-715-5212

The Union Makes Pittsburgh Transit Better

by Jonah McAllister-Erickson

The Amalgamated Transit Union is a crucial part of the solution Pittsburgh transportation crisis. It is because of the ATU — not in spite of it — that Pittsburgh has a safe and reliable mass transit system. It is because of the union that the women and men who clean, drive, and repair our buses are able to take pride in their work. Studies have shown that unionized workers are more able to get unsafe working conditions corrected, and that employer compliance with health and safety rules is much better when there are union safety representatives.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, driving a bus is one of the most hazardous jobs in the U.S. resulting in the most non-fatal injuries of any occupation. Before the formation of the ATU, trolley conductors worked year round exposed to the elements. Transit unions have been at the forefront of making mass transit safer, for both riders and drivers.

Unions are also vital to the health of the local economy. Workers who are in unions generally have more buying power than those who aren’t. Non-union bus drivers working for private companies often make less than $9 an hour, less than $19,000. The union enables transit workers to earn a decent wage, and results in a stable workforce committed to their jobs. On top of this, Pittsburgh’s bus drivers are able to have access to healthcare, something that would be five times less likely without a union.

The importance of union membership goes far beyond dollars and cents. Being a member of a union is about demanding dignity and respect at work. Unions also protect workers from employer retaliation when they speak out on issues. Study after study has shown that workers represented by unions are more likely to be aware of their rights, and therefore to insist on fair pay, safe working conditions, family medical leave, and workplaces free of discrimination. ATU Local 85 has been an important force in fighting for equality for transit riders and transit workers of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. It has played a vital role in helping to make our community a good place to live.

Because of their union, ATU members are not afraid to criticize policies of the Port Authority or government with which they disagree. Right now they are fighting for something they strongly believe in – good transit service for the people of Allegheny County. They are fighting for us, and we should all join them in this fight.
Jonah McAllister-Erickson is a library worker and bus rider.

What the Port Authority Faces: Budget Crises

by Alicia Wlliamson

photo by Dawn Jackman-Biery

Port Authority Transit’s budget comes from a variety of sources at the city, county, state, and federal levels and its levels of funding is inconsistent. PAT has direct control over some financial cost variables like fares, employment and route efficiency, but are operating expenses that they cannot control, such as fuel prices and the rising costs of healthcare. So every time there is a serious budget deficit, PAT responds by increasing fares, cutting service, and laying off workers. All of these measures undermine the mission of public transit.

Serious budget deficits happen not because of fiscal carelessness, overpaid workers, or fares that are too low, but because PAT’s government funders have failed to provide a dedicated reliable source of fund for our transit system. Allegheny County adopted the drink and car rental taxes in 2008 to fund transit, but instead of improving PAT’s funding, the county just used these new taxes as an excuse to cut its previous revenue stream to PAT. The Pennsylvania state legislature has failed for 20 years to find a dedicated source of revenue for transportation. The funding comes from a mix sources, none of which have increased over the years and many of which have gone down. In the past decade, PAT’s subsidies have increased by less than .5 percent (far below with the average rate of inflation) and are actually expected to decrease in this economic climate, since much of the money comes from from sales taxes.

The state’s effort to fund transportation by putting tolls on Interstate 80 when the federal government ruled that this violated federal law. The I-80 tolling plan was expected to provide more than one-third of PAT’s operating budget. The financial support PAT received from the federal government is determined in part by ridership, so every time PAT cuts service, they also cut their federal funding. The only way to stop the Transit Death Spiral in Allegheny County is to pressure our the county, state and federal governments to make transit a serious priority, and designate an adequate and secure source of funding that we can rely on.

Alicia Williamson is a graduate student at Pitt and a bus rider.

Keep Pittsburgh Green, and Make It Greener

by Alicia Williamson

photo by Dawn Jackman-Biery

Pittsburgh is trying to establish itself as a “green city,” leading the way in innovative environmentally-friendly jobs, technologies, and policies. Cuts to public transit would be a major step in the wrong direction.

The Federal Transportation Administration and Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 study of mass transit and climate change finds that public transit helps the environment by “providing a low emissions alternative to driving, facilitating compact land use, and minimizing the carbon footprint of transit operations and construction.” The city’s industrial past left Pittsburgh with one of the worst air qualities in the country. For each passenger-mile traveled, public transit produces 95 percent less carbon monoxide, 92 percent fewer volatile organic compounds, and about half as much carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides as atypical car.

Other than riding a bicycle everywhere you go, switching to public transportation is the most effective way that you can reduce your carbon footprint. Riding transit instead of driving reduces your energy use much more than retrofitting your home, buying Energy Star appliances, or driving a hybrid car. Mass transit also minimizes our gas consumption and reliance upon foreign oil, saving 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline a year in the U.S. Buses that are full, according to PAT, are six times more fuel efficient than cars, and for every 10,000 commuters who switch from solo vehicles to public transit, 2.7 million gallons of fuel are saved.
Port Authority can lead the way in green initiatives that benefit our environment and community health by improving our air quality and reducing run-off pollution to our water supply. But it needs to be funded to do so. Increased investment in transit would allow Port Authority to expand its fleet of hybrid buses and experiment further with biodiesel. Public transportation infrastructure and innovation are keys to the sustainable development and general well-being of our region.

Alicia Williamson is a grad student at Pitt and a bus rider.

Elizabeth Miller’s Story

Elizabeth is a Port Authority bus driver facing layoff.

“I have been working for Port Authority for almost 2 years I received my furlough paperwork in January telling me that my last day of work would be March 26. I am a single mother of two girls ages 14 and 10. I have been working hard with many other people and the union to save our jobs I have been attending rallies, meetings, and going out personally and to collect signatures on petitions to stop the cuts that Steven Bland of the Port Authority is putting in place.”

“This could affect thousands of people, and myself personally, I could lose my home, my car and maybe even have to file bankruptcy. Mine will be just one of many sad stories if we do not stand together strong as citizens and union members. These cuts will severely hurt the elderly, the handicapped and the students of Allegheny County, so we ask for your help and support to stop the transit cut.”

Dan Horgan’s Story

Dan lives in Bloomfield and works at the airport. It takes him two buses to get to work.
It’s pretty convenient to use public transportation to get to work, especially financially. Some people can’t afford to drive all the time and gas prices are going up.

“What I’ve always understood about public transit is that it was a way to help people travel, get to work, get where they need to go, and that it’s green, it cuts down on emissions. But every time they cut service, I see buses breaking down more often. I can’t really rely on the service. I’m about to lose my job because I don’t know which bus is going to get me to work on time. You don’t know if its going to break down if they keep cutting jobs in the maintenance department.”

“It happens to me at least once a week. By car it takes about 28 minutes. If the buses are on time, it takes a little less than an hour. But I have to leave home almost three hours early because I don’t know what bus is going to be late, or which bus is going to break down. I don’t blame the drivers, I blame management.”

Connie Muldrow’s Story

Connie Muldrow, age 68, lives in senior citizen housing in the Hill District. The Hill District lost most of its transit service last September.

“We the elderly of the Hill District need public transportation. From Sugar Top down to Bedford Avenue and Center Avenue, transportation is needed very urgently. We have three high rises up on Bedford Avenue where we’re pinned in.”

“We need to go to Giant Eagle and our doctor appointments. It’s hard to make appointments on time when we have to walk 10 blocks to catch a bus to get us downtown and another bus to get us to our appointments.”

“When we go shopping and get off the bus at Webster, we have to walk home 8 or 10 blocks carrying groceries. These hills up here are too big for us older people to walk. I cannot carry too many bags up these hills, and you know this neighborhood is nothing but hills.”

“The Port Authority has not heard our voices, so now our bodies are crying out. Arthritis, sugar, cataracts. Most of the people who need these buses and shuttles are elderly people. We are asking for something, not too much, just some kind of transportation up here.”