Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Oakland's transit talk recap

Rapid busways were part of the transportation discussion at a forum in Oakland. I attended part of the presentation before heading to another candidates' night.

Common ground was found in a number of elements in the early presentations, but a number of missing points were also noted.

Frankly, I don't want to hear about color coordination among the buses and the signs. Striking logos, eye candy paint jobs and other designer elements was talked about and sounded much like lipstick on a pig.

Too often, we've seen those in power in Pittsburgh try in vain to re-brand, re-market, re-position, re-hoodwink. Don't bat a the leaves on the tree of misery! Let's get serious and dig at the roots of the problems.

A bus sheleter that is built like a little gazebo is no big deal. Nobody cares beyond the pencil pushers at PAT who are in front of an audience showing off their cluelessness.

A classic moment came right at the outset of the presentation from PAT's top planning official. He began his presentation with a question. He asked, "What was happening with light rail in 1978?" He was trying to make the point that light rail was not an industry then. Light rail, in 1978, was nothing but a concept on the drawing board. In the recent decades a new mode of transportation sprung into civilization.

He is right if you IGNORE what was shouted out from the back of the room -- STREETCARS.

Lightrail of the past was called "streetcars."

Duhh. PAT's top leaders are in denial of a number of serious matters.

We had light rail in the past, called streetcars, then PAT ripped it out.

We had heavy rail in the past PAT ripped it out.

We had more than a dozen includes in the past, until PAT ripped it out.

Now we have a busway extension to Carnegie. Now we'll be getting a glass enclosed subway stop in Gateway Center.

PAT has done a lot of damage to our city's and our region's transportation infrastructure. When you take the long view of that authority, it is horrid.

So, what are we doing now? Putting Mr. Roddey in charge of a NEW authority set up by the Governor to find a dedicated funding stream for transportation. Roddey used to be on PAT's board. This is NOT a good signal.

I have other notes on the event and will attempt to post them soom.

Missing topics: Out and back routes. Hub and spoke talk. Re-looking at routes that refrain buses from making so many turns on corners within the downtown streets.

PAT needs an overhaul. It isn't about the money. It is about the oversight and the leadership. There is no accountability within the system. Those in charge -- like county council, county executive, state reps -- are to blame.

As a state senator, I'll be able to ask and insist upon frank answers to tough questions. The others are giving this authority -- and the other authorities -- a 'free pass.' I'll drive home the points of being fiscally frugal -- with both the capital and operations budget. I'll demand customer service viewpoints and priorities -- that service all the citizens.

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