Saturday, January 27, 2007

Transit disconnect

I said earlier that I feel the Port Authority hearings on their proposed route cuts border on meaningless. The chance to vent at the PAT board, which by the way is a voluntary board appointed locally, does not do much to sway or even prompt a debate in Harrisburg.

PAT's CEO Steve Bland knows this full well I am pretty sure. If not he has learned it the hard way of late. On Friday he was on record as saying he felt stranded in the political wilderness. There is a real question there about why there has been little public debate among elected officials to match the emotional debate the public is having over the future of PAT. The problem is that the answer is rather obvious.

Now these are my own calculations, completely unofficial and you will not find them elsewhere. But I went through and figured out which state legislative districts represented public transit commuters. While the results should have been obvious it even more extreme than you may think and explains a lot. Here are some factoids of note about the 203 state legislative districts:

  1. 112 (or 55%) have commuters where less than 1% use public transit. I am NOT missing a zero in there. One point zero percent or less.. typically much less.
  2. 157 (77%) represent districts where less than 5% of commuters use public transit of any kind.
  3. 172 (85%) represent districts where less than 10% of all commuters use public transit.

Here is my list of the top twenty districts ranked by the prevalence of commuting by public transit. I was going to do the bottom 20 as well, but it just didn't make sense to rank. The bottom twenty all have percentages 0f 0.1% or less. So here is my unofficial calculation of the unofficial transit caucus in Harrisburg. If these are not the people fighting for public transit, don't expect any of the other 183 legislators to care much more:

House      County   Incumbent    Public Transit
District Percentage
 190   Philadelphia Blackwell    33.5%
186 Philadelphia James 33.1%
197 Philadelphia Williams 31.5%
195 Philadelphia Oliver 31.4%
24 Allegheny Preston 28.9%
191 Philadelphia Waters 27.7%
181 Philadelphia Thomas 26.9%
19 Allegheny Wheatley 26.6%
201 Philadelphia Myers 25.2%
188 Philadelphia Roebuck 24.5%
180 Philadelphia Cruz 23.7%
179 Philadelphia Payton 22.%9
192 Philadelphia Bishop 22.6%
198 Philadelphia Youngblood 19.5%
23 Allegheny Frankel 18.3%
184 Philadelphia Keller 17.9%
203 Philadelphia Evans 16.8%
185 Philadelphia Donatucci 15.4%
36 Allegheny Readshaw 15.3%
21 Allegheny Bennington 15.2%

and it drops off pretty quickly after that. 'nuff said.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Chris, for posting the long and short of it. It's very hard for exurban and rural Pennsylvania to consider a functioning public transit system in their self interest.

That means finding support becomes a matter of log-rolling, that is, "What can we give them in return for supporting public transit?" Log-rolling is the kind of nasty business that turns the weak of will into libertarians.

Saturday, January 27, 2007 2:26:00 PM  
Blogger EdHeath said...

When the whole business started (early in the month) I emailed my state legislators, Jim Ferlo and Lisa Bennington. Bennington got back to me right away with a tepid response about right-sizing Port Authority. Ferlo’s office waited 22 days before sending me an email. It started by praising Dan Onorato for his “leadership and willingness” … “to wrestle back control of what for years has been a poorly managed Port Authority Transit” and blames us for not appreciating Onorato. Ferlo then rails at all aspects of PAT, from its management to the North Shore Connector to PennDOT’s report that PAT has the highest wages in the country when adjusted for cost of living. Don’t we already have the highest fares in the country as well, unadjusted? Anyway, Ferlo supports public transit in principle and is sponsoring a bill to let us pay for it at the county level. So the only state legislators in our area, who I can talk to anyway, are willing to cut us loose. Let’s screw the poor and let everyone else drive the SUV’s into town. I mean, are the democrats back in control in Harrisburg? Aren’t they suppose to care about the poor? How about global warming and the environment? And what happened to Ferlo, wasn't he supposed to be this big populit? I guess he's gotten sucked into the machine politics (it used to be about the people, man).

Saturday, January 27, 2007 6:17:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I'm not offering any great insight when I say that Onorato's gubernatorial ambitions are keeping him quiet on this. He's not going to want to have to defend to rural and suburban voters in the middle of the state that millions of dollars in state funds were rolled out so people in Pittsburgh could ride the bus.

On the other hand, perhaps the Port Authority would have a little more credibility right now if it did not have a history of pushing through costly and unnecessary projects like the North Shore Connector. And maybe it should have gone through with some of the cuts it threatened us with last time--which would have been painful but were not as drastic as these.

I'm not saying a perfectly run Port Authority would gain more support among rural and suburban legistlators outside Allegheny County. But the Port Authority is making it too easy for them.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 1:56:00 PM  
Blogger O said...

Nice way to to quantitize something a lot of us had gut feelings about.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 6:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Chris, what about state senate districts? Where is Ferlo's district on that list i wonder. And Fontana, Pippy, Costa and Orie.

Monday, January 29, 2007 9:57:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I dont have that now. It's a bit of work to get data for the legislative districts. I could probably do it.. but the state senate districts are all so much bigger that they stretch out from the city more in all cases.. so I am sure the comparable percentages are pretty low even for the districts that include some urban core sections.

Monday, January 29, 2007 3:05:00 PM  
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