Friday, July 04, 2008

transit roundup

Just for fun it's interesting to look at recent past prognostications on the impact of rising oil prices. From 2006 is this piece in Reuters: "NYC the place to be if oil hits $100/bbl ? study". $100 being as far a runup in price as could be conceived of at the time. Where do you go at $140 and rising?

News in AP and Trib on aging river infrastructure here in Pittsburgh. This is really a big story, bigger than the coverage it gets. They mention some numbers for the amount of rail or truck transport it would take to move just some of the coal or coke that currently goes via barge. The thing is, talk to folks who work in the rail industry and there just isn't capacity to dump that much new demand into the system. The US rail system in general, but especially through some of the chokepoints near here, is arguably past what is sustainable as it is. As for trucks which may be the most costly option of the three becasue of fuel prices? So see the first paragraph above.

Speaking of prognostications. News is that the Port Authority has a new web site to inform the public on the status of labor negotiations. It has a 'rumor of the day' section which could be fun. The first 'rumor' was that service would stop when the current contracts end on July 1st. Funny thing is I heard nobody talking about such a rumor so it's unclear the purpose of that. and read the story for the timing: the site went up Wednesday the 2nd and the first rumor it quashed was already in the past? Curious.

But no joking. I will put good money that there will be a strike at the Port Authority. All the talk I hear leads me to believe that the powers that be actually want there to be a strike. I will not be surprised if there is a plan in place early on to use substitute workers in the event of a strike in order to break the union which is really the goal.

How will it all turn out is beyond anything I can predict. If the strike is limited to just the port authority drivers then they may be in for tough going and the plan may work. If there is any sympathy labor actions in the region then I dunno how it will turn out. It may be the biggest test for organized labor in the region in decades. Think of it as a local version of the PATCO air traffic controllers strike in 1981, something that had a major impact on labor-management relations for decades.

In the end I hope all parties realize that the true cost benefit analysis of transit service is not all measured in the Port Authority's budget anywhere.


Blogger EdHeath said...

I remember the ’92 strike pretty well. I worked downtown then, and I drove a carpool to stadium parking everyday. I work now in Oakland, and I was driving everyday to park on one of the few un-permitted residential blocks. I have been experimenting with riding a bike to work just recently, and finding it a positive experience. My wife and step daughter would be negatively affected by a transit strike, though.

All across the country transit agencies are finding that while rider-ship is up, increasing their revenue, the price of diesel is rising even faster, and the increased expense is outstripping revenue. Transit agencies are talking about cutting routes and paring back on the frequency of buses on the remaining routes. I guess doing so would stretch their subsidies from the government (federal, state and local), but it is a bad climate to ask for more subsidies.

Pittsburghers think that slashing bus and trolley driver benefits here will be a magic bullet, would solve PAT’s problems. Pittsburgh riders are in for a nasty surprise, where even if PAT is wildly successful (whether there is a strike or not) in reducing the bus and trolley driver costs, the fuel costs are waiting to trip us all up.

Friday, July 04, 2008 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

I had the same instinct that there may be a strike when news came some weeks ago that "There's not a whole lot goin' on right now" from both sides. In fact, at first I thought they may be *telling us* there's going to be a strike.

Thing is, though I don't understand labor negotiations that well, I can't see why the union wouldn't be screaming bloody outrage already if they know they'll be forced to strike in the near future.

So it could be, management wants the union to know they are fully prepared for a strike. "Watch us plan ahead." I guess that could dissuade union leaders from believing a strike could be effective.

Saturday, July 05, 2008 4:29:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

You are right in that the news does not reflect all that is going on behind the scenes.. But think about it. If the goal of preparations was to influence the ATU against striking they would be posturing a lot more than they are and letting everyone know what those plans are. If the goal is to actually push the ATU into striking and really have substitutes in place to take their place, you would keep the union in the dark as much as possible until it’s too late.

Sunday, July 06, 2008 7:34:00 AM  

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