Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Harrisburg Public Transportation Rally

The news reports are flying in concerning yesterday's union-led rally at the state capital advocating more taxpayer money for public transportation. Each story has its tales of people who will "suffer", if you will, in the event of further transportation cutbacks. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on the teenage waitress and student who can not attend school if evening service is cut, as well as this janitor fellow:

Ken Thompson, a janitorial worker who lives in Ingram and works Downtown, said he's worried about the looming cuts.

"Some of us believe (state officials) have the money (for transit) and they're holding it back," Thompson said.

Think about this. "State officials have the money"??? Are the only people contributing to public transportation people who work for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Has this janitor ever heard of taxation? That "money" of which you speak, Ken, came from involuntary contributions by Pennsylvania citizens. Any money that "state officials" are holding back was taken from the rest of us.

The Daily Pennsylvanian, from the University of Pennsylvania, mentions an interesting fact about those in attendance:

"We had an eight-car train that was full. ... There were 30 buses from Philadelphia that were full and six buses from Pittsburgh," said Peter Javsicas, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions.
That's very impressive. If they really want to solve Pennsylvania's transportation problems, perhaps they ought to consider running their own bus routes.

I can sympathize with the people whose lives will be affected by service cuts and rate increases. But I also understand that public transportation should not be taken for granted. Two years ago, during the last scuffle over bus service in Pittsburgh, a co-worker of mine insisted that public transportation is "a basic human need" because "people need to get to work". The last part is true. If you have signed on with a particular employer in a particular workplace, you obviously need to get to your job in order to perform and to keep your job. But it is not a right. It is a privilege, and one that you have to pay for. In the interest of disclosure, I will admit: I get to ride the bus for free. My employer, a large non-profit institution, pays big bucks to the Port Authority of Allegheny County so that employees and other affiliates do not have to pay out of their pockets for bus rides. It's a good thing, too, since non-profits generally don't pay well. Most people consider it to be the biggest perk we have. But, again, I don't take this benefit for granted. The Port Authority and my employer could end the agreement when the current contract expires. When that happens, it may well be new job time for me.

Come what may, it will be my responsibility to get myself to work. I am not going to cry to the government to use other people' money for it.

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