In an effort to find a solution to the state’s public transportation funding crisis, the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association (PPTA) invited Gov. Edward G. Rendell to resolve the issues at the annual Government Affairs Conference held in February. The PPTA hoped to address the problems stated in the governor’s budget address, in which he proposed the largest hike in state subsidies for public transportation in years, according to a PPTA press release.
Michael Imbrogno, chairman of the board of directors of the PPTA and chief executive officer of the Area Transportation Authority of North Central Pennsylvania, said part of the crisis deals with not having enough money to continue operating as before. “[Before] we were providing a level of transportation services at prices that our consumers were willing to pay. [Transportation] was safe and reliable, and although there were still needs for service expansion, we had risen to [a level that] had established revenue from its users, and we were maintaining our systems in a state of good repair,” he said.
Now transportation fares have risen, service cuts and eliminations have occurred, layoffs have affected administration and deferred maintenance has resulted in deficits that are growing at an alarming rate, Imbrogno said. “The governor, I think, recognizes the state of the industry and the importance of public transportation in the commonwealth, but the downside of what he said to us [in the conference] was that he wouldn’t do anything until the federal government had made a decision on how they were handling reauthorization. We look at our need as being more immediate than that,” he said.
In short, the PPTA’s conference resulted in a double-edged sword, and the only way the association would be happy was if the governor promoted action to his expressed concerns, said Imbrogno. “we’d like to see the governor throw the whole public transit the whole transportation bill in total, including the highways, etc. on the table, with the legislature spearheading the effort as the No. 1 priority. We think that’s the only answer at this point because, again, many of our systems every day are running more at a deficit that will have to be dealt with at some point in time,” he said. Jaclyn Roco