Management & Operations

Dedicated state funding is critical need

Posted on April 1, 2005 by Paul Skoutelas

Pennsylvania is home to two of the nation’s largest transit agencies — the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in Philadelphia and the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh — as well as more than 50 smaller public transportation providers in cities such as Harrisburg, Lancaster, Erie and Scranton. Like many other transit systems across the country, these agencies have been challenged with increasing costs in such areas as fuel, healthcare and pensions. In Pennsylvania, the lack of a truly predictable, dedicated and growing source of revenue for public transportation has made the annual challenge of balancing operating budgets particularly difficult and has required agencies to seek innovative ways to increase revenues and decrease costs. Winning over elected officials
For example, over the past eight years, the Port Authority has achieved more than $187 million in operating savings as a result of wage, salary and hiring freezes; the elimination of 141 jobs, including 57 administrative positions; decreased workers’ compensation costs and personal injury and damage claims; reduced inventory levels; and significant reductions in general administrative expenses, including travel and marketing. During much of this same time period, the average annual growth of the agency’s operating costs has been 1.9% — well below the rate of inflation. The Port Authority’s ability to contain its costs has been recognized in two independent audits, which have enabled the agency to secure and gain the confidence of elected officials. Historically, the state has played the largest role in funding the operations of transit agencies. The General Assembly, as part of its annual budget process, sets the levels of direct operating assistance and distributes those funds by formula. In 1991, it also established the Public Transportation Assistance Fund (PTAF), which provides the second highest source of operating assistance for transit agencies. Unfortunately, both General Operating Assistance and PTAF funding have not been able to keep pace with the inherent costs of providing public transportation in Pennsylvania. In addition, the overall downturn in the economy since 9/11 contributed to the Port Authority, SEPTA and other transit agencies having to raise fares and reduce service levels — with predictably negative results. Ridership fell, mobility was reduced and customers had to worry about the future of their transit services. A gubernatorial intervention
Showing an understanding of the problem and awareness of the serious ramifications of not properly funding transit, Gov. Edward Rendell in late February announced a plan to “flex” federal highway funds to state transit agencies through December 2006, including $68 million in the current fiscal year for the Port Authority and SEPTA. Showing their support for public transportation, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission both approved the transfer of these funds. This action forestalled fare and service changes at both agencies. It was welcome news for thousands of transit supporters, many of whom recently gathered in Harrisburg to lobby for increased funding. Clearly, public transportation has the support of the governor and many members of the General Assembly. In fact, over the past year, more and more discussion has been taking place on how to get dedicated funding for public transportation. At no other time has Pennsylvania ever been closer to the passage of such legislation. The discussion that has been percolating for years is growing in intensity, and with it so is a promising future for public transportation in one of the nation’s most transit-dependent states.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

JTA's Ford wins prestigious COMTO award

The Thomas G. Neusom Founders Award is the highest honor bestowed by COMTO. Ford accepted the award at the 46th National Meeting and Training Conference in Detroit.

NJ Transit weighing disciplinary actions for no-show train engineers

It's unclear how many of the cancellations stemmed from engineers exercising a contract provision that allows them to take two days to report for work when schedule changes are made.

National Express Transit acquires Cook DuPage Transportation

Established in 1975 and based in Chicago, CDT operates 275 paratransit vehicles providing more than 80,000 trips per month to PACE users in the Chicago Metropolitan area.

MTA chief weighs food ban on subway after track fire snarls service

A garbage fire crippled subway service along four lines for more than two hours during the peak of Monday’s morning rush hour.

BYD commits to hiring from communities facing significant barriers to employment

In addition to targeting veterans and returning citizens, will also target populations that have historically been excluded from the manufacturing industry, such as women and African-Americans.

See More News

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close