Occupy Pittsburgh Demands Affordable and Reliable Public Transportation

PENNSYLVANIA—(ENEWSPF)—January 18, 2012. Today the Port Authority of Allegheny County announced a new set of service changes that if implemented would result in a 35 percent service reduction. Nearly half of the county’s current routes could be eliminated, stranding 45,000 riders and eliminating 600 transit jobs.

Transportation across Pennsylvania is underfunded.  This includes our roads and bridges as well as our public transit systems.  Governor Tom Corbett’s own Transportation Funding Advisory Commission acknowledged this and recommended that transit spending be increased.  Corbett can do this by lifting the cap on the franchise tax for wholesale gasoline (as recommended by his panel), by demanding that corporations engaged in commerce in Pennsylvania and pay their fair share and stop using tax loopholes, or by demanding that corporations pay for the resources they extract through mining. 

Each year Pennsylvania loses $500 million to corporations like Exxon-Mobil that utilize tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share while their trucks use our roads and people commute to their offices via public transit.  Recently we lost $10 million in transfer tax revenue when the out of state buyers of the US Steel Building exploited a tax loophole to avoid making the payment.  Corporate lobbyists wrote the law that allowed our region’s largest employer, UPMC, to avoid paying taxes on its $406 million in profits. Members of our legislature and the governor have failed to pass any legislation that would tax Marcellus Shale revenue.  To date, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that does not tax mineral extraction.  It has been estimated that a Marcellus extraction tax on par with rates other states charge would generate about $300 million annually.  Pennsylvania’s problems funding all forms of transit can’t be solved in a system that favors the interest of corporations and the 1% over the remaining 99%.

The Port Authority’s budget woes include dramatically increased legacy costs, specifically regarding its pension funds and retiree healthcare.   We have been trained to blame workers and public sector unions for these problems, but in truth underfunded pension plans are a direct result of our government’s failure to regulate banks like BNY Mellon and prevent reckless investments that profit the 1%.   It is no wonder that healthcare costs are out of control when our region is dominated by not for profit monopolies. Now, they’re leaving the 99% to bear even more of the costs of this crisis by eliminating jobs, cutting service, and raising fares.

The elimination of routes currently served by Port Authority buses and trains will have a negative impact on our region affecting people from all walks of life and every corner of our county.  The 99% live in our cities and suburbs; they are our seniors, our young, and all ages in between; and they depend on quality public transit.  Transit must be accessible and funded for all and by all.

Occupy Pittsburgh will be working to promote public education and awareness on this issue, for we believe that public transit is a human right! We will be organizing in communities, at bus stops, and on threatened bus routes to encourage participation in the public discussion period and the February 29 Port Authority public hearing at the David Lawrence Convention Center. Our occupation is about changing public policy discussions to bring the interests of the 99% to the table!