We are the 99%

December 23, 2010

Transit Workers Oppose Stringing-out Funds Over 18 Months


Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette

A letter by Patrick McMahon, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, was hand-delivered to Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato on Tuesday, opposing Port Authority plans to "string-out" $45,000,000 in supplemental funding (by Gov. Ed Rendell) over the next eighteen months. The letter notes that these funds were intended to give the legislature six months -- not 18 -- to find a way prevent transit cuts next year and that stretching it out for triple that length of time will necessarily involve expedited cuts in services and routes.

According to the Post-Gazette article today, the union also believes that sunshine laws may have been violated:
Port Authority officials denied an allegation by a union spokesman that the board decided during a private conference call to cut service by 15 percent in March and close the Harmar bus garage.

AFL-CIO spokesman Marty Marks said such a call appeared to violate the state's open meetings law. "It's not fair to take the public out of the process," he said.

Full text of McMahon's letter after the break.


December 20, 2010

Mr. Dan Onorato
County Executive
101 County Court House
436 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Dear Mr. Onorato:

Thank you for your efforts in helping to win approval from the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission for Governor Rendell’s proposal to shift $45,000,000 of transportation funds to the Allegheny County Port Authority from projects that finished under budget or are not going forward. Your leadership, helped to prevent massive cuts in transit services to thousands of riders who depend on bus and rail service to get to work, school, medical appointments and other essential needs and
services.

However, for the record, we strongly disagree with any plan that seeks to distribute that money over an eighteen month period requiring more cuts in transit routes and services. The Governor’s intention was to prevent cuts in transit services in 2011, giving the new governor and legislature six months to act on a transit funding formula that fairly and adequately provides for public transit at current levels.

Cutting transit at this time is bad for many reasons:

● Transit cuts kill jobs and that is the last thing this fledgling recovery needs. Many low wage workers in particular, will be unable to get to work without bus and rail service, adding to unemployment and personal hardship.

● Our riders, workers and local tax payers have sacrificed enough. In recent years workers have conceded changes in work rules and pension benefits saving the Port Authority more than $96 million. Transit riders are paying higher fares with yet another fare increase scheduled for January. Local tax payers are doing their fair share, adding $25 million annually to the pot with new taxes dedicated to public transit.

● Suggesting the legislature has an additional year to solve the problem takes the heat off of them and postpones the urgency of living-up to their responsibility.

● SEPTA, the transit agency serving the Philadelphia region, will be facing a funding crisis this budget cycle. The Governor’s emergency funding for the Port Authority, if used as intended, will bring our transit funding crisis to a head the same time as Philadelphia’s, significantly increasing pressure on the legislature to act responsibly and timely.

● With gasoline costing more than $3.00 per gallon and every indication prices will continue to rise, it is ill-advised to cut transit at a time when ridership is likely to increase in response to rising fuel costs.

We respectfully disagree with your assertion the incoming legislature needs eighteen months to solve transit funding inequities. More than three-quarters of legislators are returning to serve another term. These issues are not new to them and our new governor has been a statewide elected official for eight years, surely enough time to have become well-acquainted with high-profile, critical state issues affecting
millions of our citizens.

We believe our fight is now. We call on you to lead the effort to get the legislature to act now and provide the state’s fair share of public transit funding. Do not impose further pain on transit riders and commuters by misusing the funding the Governor has delivered. We urge you and our region’s elected leaders to join us in the fight to make this right. Pennsylvanian is counting on you.

Sincerely,

Patrick McMahon,
President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85,
The union that drives 200,000 workers to their jobs every day.

cc: Port Authority Board Members
Allegheny County Council Members
Pittsburgh City Council Members
Allegheny County State Legislators and Senators
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

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