Thursday, November 02, 2006

meeting notes from Oct. 4 meeting w/ Jim Roddey

Here's my notes covering key points from this evening's session with Jim Roddey.

Roddey Comments:
- I'm optimistic, but looking at the lay of the land, there is much cause to not be optimistic on this subject
- To say this large issue will be solved in November is optimistic at best; the Senate isn't even scheduled to be in session
- Only way this is conceivably going to happen is through great pressure, particularly on the Senate
- Resolution would likely be in January, in a climate with about 65 new elected representatives, many of whom ran on a "no new taxes" platform
- Port Authority and SEPTA aren't that bad, they're very efficient, but public perception is that empty buses and other anecdotal evidence says they're inefficient
- Very impressive committee membership on Governor Rendell's Transportation Funding & Reform Commission
- We don't just have to solve the issue of public transit, they threw in the issue of roads & bridges, too - they may as well have included global warming and cancer
- There are some issues surrounding the hiring practices and efficiency of the Turnpike Commission
- Flex funding was tough for Western PA; we take in much more funding that we provide proportionally to the population for public transit services
- General consensus is that there will be no flex funding this time around
- Commission is divided on whether the best way to get this done is through crisis or through solution. A crisis may be the only way to get the legislature to act
- The $500 million tunnel under the river does not help our cause with the public.
- The job would be a lot easier with the legislature if this tunnel did not happen; however, this may be the last time we get a chance for this kind of capital funding
- The highway issue is much easier to solve than the transit issue. The solution for that will likely be in the gas tax - there's broad support to solve this issue
- Many of the highway solutions in the legislature are tied to new road construction and that's going to compound the problem
- Selling / leasing the turnpike would bring anywhere from $25 to $30 billion dollars - but the key would be to have the discipline to put that revenue into a transit trust
- Selling the turnpike would eliminate the Turnpike Commission. That and a one-time $30 billion check are very compelling
- It's very likely that American companies would take an active interest in competing for the Turnpike lease
- We need to look at tolling. Texas has created a toll corridor where no new roads can be built that are not toll roads. This is a common process in Europe
- The process of exporing a public / private partnership to examine privatizing the Turnpike could in and of itself create a more efficient system as a result
- We're going to recommend that for less than $8 million per year that we expand paratransit service from about 42 counties to all counties in the state
- One of the reasons we can do this is because the disabilities community is such a model effort and the legislature hears from that community
- Legacy costs for transit employees in the Port Authority system are a significant burden to the system's obligations and costs
- I think we need an audit of our transit operation and I think we have the funding to do that. That audit would focus on a multi-county, regional perspective
- Boards and key decision makers in transit funding just don't use public transit. That didn't used to be the case - leaders, board members of Port Authority rode buses
- I don't see any way we're not going to see an increase in fares
- We're going to see a recommendation for more local funding for transit, including from Allegheny County
- In Pennsylvania, unlike most other major metropolitan areas, the City of Pittsburgh does not provide funding to support the Allegheny County local contribution
- If I-80 is tolled, there's the technology through EZ Pass to allow local exceptions for short trips
- The gas tax puts substantial funds toward the state police; several affluent municipalities benefit from the exclusive coverage of state police without cost to themselves
- Three month stop-gap solution in November session would bring the issue to a head at the beginning of the legislative session
- The public testimony largely restated the problem but offered almost no solutions. Some MPO heads offered strong testimony
- Being able to bid out some transit services will be very helpful in cost savings, as it was in Colorado


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