As you’ve probably heard by now, unless some last minute funding appears, PAT will be making huge cuts (again). PAT outlines the situation here on their blog.
But here’s another facet of the funding problem, it’s not just public transportation that is struggling, but all transportation funding, meaning loss of money for road repairs, construction and upkeep (think, bridge repair, pothole filling, etc). The Roundabout, a blog from the Post Gazette covers some of the reaction to that news here. And here, the Walkabout makes the economical case for funding public transportation.
These are major cuts, and thinking about PAT not operating a lot of these routes is strange. ACCESS, the largest system of its kind in the country will also see major cuts and fare increases. The “Death Spiral” of public transportation is talked about frequently: prices go up, ridership goes down, forcing fares to go up and cuts to be made, and it continues the cycle over and over again.
Has PAT been in a death spiral for a while now? Probably, but I’ve been able to think happy thoughts and deal with changes. The former Governor came in at the last moment and found funding, keeping these current cuts at bay, but come June 1, the new fiscal year starts, plunging the system into crisis once more. And let us not forget, the loss of public transportation affects everyone, Parkways will be more congested, parking even more scarce.
This all comes at a very strange time as well. Gov. Corbett has promised to look at transportation funding soon (maybe February), and if there is some money that can be found (unless it’s going to tax breaks for Marcellus Shale drillers of course), the whole situation can be avoided. Additionally, we are on the verge of the North Shore Connector opening (funded by Capital money, which can’t go to operational).
While I know it can’t happen, nor do I understand why, if PAT could operate on a deficit, I think they may have some time to get back on their feet. I think that funding is in place to offer free rides to the North Shore (just to the first station I think), and I think that that will begin to open people’s eyes to transit, riding the bus has for me.
I started riding the bus because I hated dealing with the Parkway East. But now, I always consider transit when I am leaving the house, or going someplace after work. If I can do it via transit, I do. And I think that more and more people are getting into that mindset, at least slowly. And it will be a shame to see the Busways and T tracks go dark and unused with the death of PAT.