Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wonk Wars: The Battle of the Port Authority

There is a disturbance in the Blurghosphere.

It's called No Commuter Left Behind, and simply by virtue of its name it's ripe for irony.

No Commuter Left Behind is brought to us by Ken Zapinski, who the blog states is senior vice president for transportation and infrastructure for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

The best pieces we have read on the ACCD have all been written by the Angry Drunk Bureaucrat (UPDATE: at least most of them).


Zapinski got the idea for blogging, apparently, through commenting on Null Space. Thus began the Wonk Wars of 2008.

"Selective" cost of living adjustment is not just unfair but about as biased as you get. What is the cost of living adjusted base fare for PAT. And by the logic at hand, PAT should be complaining about how high their cost of living adjusted cost of diesel is which is much higher than elsewhere as well. That is a silly argument of course, or at least Mr. Exxon would not pay it much heed. But these simplistic benchmarking exercise are just as confusing.


Right after it came out the state folks who released that TFRC report told me they used the COLI adjustment, if you have some other report showing highest I have not seen it. But the COLI is clear that it is for professional households making migration decisions, which just does not apply in this case.


You really don't want try and argue the $700K housing in SF argument I am pretty sure. How many transit workers in San Francisco have had to buy $700K homes and pay mortgages for amounts that high. Most of them are in the inverse situation of having homes that have appreciated much more than local households here. So that big median value is a benefit to them, a benefit that most here have not had with our low housing appreciation.

Those have all the hallmarks of a commenter getting his or her face removed.

It was around then that our friend from the ACCD "agreed to disagree" with the gentleman from Null Space, wrote and published an op-ed in the Post-Gazette (than seemed to again use selective comparisons in lieu of broad data available from the National Transit Database), and launched his own blog.

So it's sort of the Allegheny Conference blog. But it's sort of not.

Thus far, No Commuter Left Behind has been attempting to make the case for steep labor concessions in the midst of our Port Authority's latest serious strike scare -- but has yet to suggest other ways of increasing operational efficiency throughout the organization. We've been going back and forth a bit in No Child's comments.

Mr. Briem has not yet elected to pursue.


  1. Thanks for highlighting the civic debate going on regarding the future of the Port Authority. It’s critical that people get involved, no matter what side of the issues they find themselves on. I wish the MSM were taking as active a role in exploring the crossroad that the Port Authority finds itself as it enters its third year of significant reform trying to fix problems that were left to fester for 20 years.

    The Connect ’09 process that the Port Authority is undertaking to redesign its bus and rail network is at least as important as the ongoing labor negotiation, and I’ve posted quite a bit about it.

    Finally, regarding your Wonk Wars point: Null Space doesn’t believe it is fair to take into account the differences in cost of living when comparing wages from different cities. I think his approach is off-base. Fact is, a $50,000 wage in Pittsburgh purchases a higher standard of living than a $50,000 wage in New York, or Boston, or San Francisco. We think that is a legitimate factor to take into account. As best as I can tell, he does not.

    Please keep up the good work of giving appropriate attention to the Port Authority issue.

  2. One troubling issue regarding the Port Authority is the huge amount of money they pay in rent for their headquarters. That issue is also something that I have never heard of in the Post-Gazette, Trib, etc. They pay an inordinate amount and have a palatial office. It's something I plan to research and write about on my blog.

  3. 5th & Forbes: Yeah, and look at the palace the Parking Authority just built itself! (Okay, that was a cheap shot. It doubles as a transportation hub, we understand. All the more reason the prospect of advertising upon it is more tempting).

    Ken: I'll say - I remember being impressed by that "Pittsburgh has too many bustops" meme, and it's crying out for a study on how much money can be saved or how much more often your bus will run if we got rid of X amount.

    And I'm also grooving on the proof-of-payment concept, but you'd have to get it RIGHT when you introduce it or you'll lose confidence is my thinking.