Bob Casey is Right: Let’s Tax Pennsylvania’s Drivers to Save SEPTA

Rural Pennsylvanians who hate Philly, repeat after me: SEPTA is not welfare. It’s economic development.

On the surface, the proposal Sen. Bob Casey made this week at 30th Street Station seems like it was designed in a lab to infuriate Philly-hating rural Pennsylvanians, to make Daryl Metcalfe hulk out in a rampage of sputtering anti-transit rage.

In fact, let’s break the proposal down into its component parts just to savor those effects a few seconds longer, shall we? Here’s the idea that Casey offered:

Congress should raise taxes.

Actually, it should raise gasoline taxes.

The kind that drivers pay.

During an era of record-high gas prices.

Why?

So we can spend more money on SEPTA.

Honestly, it sounds a little bit like a practical joke—uh, doesn’t Casey have to run for office statewide?—and if so, beautifully executed.

Except, no, it appears Casey was absolutely serious:

Casey, flanked by SEPTA general manager Joseph Casey and Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro, said transit agencies and local transportation planners need to know how much money to expect and when to expect it. “Careening from one short-term transportation bill to another has increased uncertainty for agencies like SEPTA,” Casey said. “Congress should begin work now on a long-term transportation bill that allows public agencies to plan into the future.”

“As transit agencies face shrinking contributions from states and municipalities, we need to provide consistent funding,” Casey said in a letter Monday to House and Senate leaders. “Failure to do so could result in cuts to routes that commuters depend upon and, ultimately, job losses.”

Darn straight.

It gets mentioned a lot around Philadelphia, but in the wake of last week’s SEPTA announcement that it has put together a doomsday plan to basically eviscerate regional rail and drastically cut back other services, it clearly needs to be said again and again, at the top of our lungs, until anti-urban ideologues in Harrisburg and D.C. get it into their heads, once and for all.

SEPTA is not welfare. It’s economic development.

SEPTA is not welfare. It’s economic development.

SEPTA is not welfare. It’s economic development.

Critics will point out that Pennsylvanians already spend more than 30 cents per gallon on state and federal gasoline taxes—more than double the tax in New Jersey, and good for 15th overall.

Me? I’d argue that adding one more cent per gallon would immediately raise $60 million per year—the state’s drivers consumed a bit more than 6 billion gallons of gasoline in 2009—which amounts to an additional $7.17 per year for each of Pennsylvania’s 8.37 million licensed drivers. They can afford it.

Critics will say, as rural Pennsylvanians always do, “Why should we help pay for what’s going on in Philly? The city’s a drag on the rest of the state.”

Me? I’d just point out, again, that southeastern Pennsylvania has 32 percent of the population and 40 percent of the state’s economic activity, while drawing just 27 percent of the state transportation dollars, which effectively means that we in the Philadelphia region are subsidizing transportation funding for the rest of the state.

And me, I’d point out that studies show cities which grow the number of miles covered by public transportation typically see an increase in the area’s gross domestic product. SEPTA helps drive the state’s economy, in other words; we can only imagine what would happen to that economy if SEPTA’s doomsday scenario were implemented.

So Bob Casey is right. Let’s tax the state’s drivers to pay for SEPTA. It’s not a joke at all.

 

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  • ErShava

    You are just trolling

    • Joel Mathis

      Nope.

  • jj

    Philadelphia should break away from PA – 51st state!

    • Brandon

      Phila County’s population is larger than 11 states and SE PA is larger than almost half the states.

    • PJ

      if philadelphia county wants to leave, the remaining 66 counties would say “good riddance”

      • Brandon

        …and then they would immediately have the smallest GDP in the entire United States.

        Pitt and Phila on the ends, Alabama in the middle.

      • gourd

        No they wouldn’t. the 5 surrounding ones would join.

        • PJ

          you’re either drunk or a lunatic if you think chester or bucks counties would
          hitch their wagon to a poverty-ridden anchor like an independent
          philadelphia

          • Brandon

            I have many friends who live in both of those counties (as well as Delco and Montco) and I can promise you that if they had to choose between being in a state with Philly or with Pennsyltucky, they would pick Philly in an instant.

            It’s because they are rational, intelligent, highly-educated human beings that realize the economic power of the state comes from having the fifth largest city in the country.

  • PJ

    SEPTA’s regional rail lines are SRO at rush hour. what does that mean? the demand for their service is immense. that gives SEPTA pricing power, i.e. the ability to raise fares. SEPTA should exercise this power

    in addition, SEPTA staff (most of whom only have HS diplomas) can make up to $100,000 (including overtime) and have gold plated pensions. SEPTA should bring its compensation policies into the 21st century and put its employees on 401k’s

    these two simple measures would solve SEPTA’s funding “problems” without needing more welfare from harrisburg

    • DTurner

      These are great solutions to deal with an operational budget deficit, but this is a capital budget issue. Any way you slice it, SEPTA is pathetically underfunded by the state and local governments.

      The authority’s annual capital budget is about $300 million, which is roughly 1/3 of that of its peer system up in Boston, MBTA, or NJTransit.

      PA has failed to invest in its infrastructure for decades now (for which both parties are to blame), particularly when it comes to rail assets, and we are soon going to be handed the bill for crumbling infrastructure which is sometimes over a century old.

      There’s no use in playing a partisan blame game when the ships is sinking.

      • PJ

        well, why not put a surcharge on RR tickets to pay for capital improvements? the trains are sold-out

        • DTurner

          SEPTA has done that to some extent (see the disparity between RR and City Transit fares), but the cost of the infrastructure improvements numbers in the low billions, so the band-aid approach which has been used in the past is not really sustainable.

          You can make a good argument about the unbelievably high costs of infrastructure in the US, but SEPTA itself has pulled off a near-feat by keeping its rail assets in working order for as long as it has. Unfortunately, you can only apply so many patches before you need to address the systemic issues.

  • Pete

    In the ‘Doomsday’ blog post it mentions ‘…a bill in June that contains $510 million for mass transit…’. How much of this is meant for SEPTA and how much of it is in addition to what they already get as it sounds like an emergency cash infusion? I only ask as the $60 mil you mention in a gas tax hike doesn’t sound like it would be enough. At what point do we hold SEPTA responsible for wasteful spending and run-away labor contracts?

    • PJ

      it’s easier for the mentally-challenged folk at SEPTA to use scare-tactics to beg for more welfare from harrisburg and non-SEPTA users

    • Brandon

      SEPTA has won many awards for being one of the most efficiently run systems in the country. What evidence do you have that they are spending wastefully?

      • PJ

        paying HS grads 100k/yr with gold plated pensions, for starters

        • Brandon

          The average SEPTA union employee makes about $50k. But $100k sounds better for your argument doesn’t it?

          • PJ

            SEPTA conductors, who have only HS diplomas, can make up to $120,000 per year, sport…stop begging for more $$ is you can pay these salaries

            http://articles.philly.com/2013-05-24/news/39478278_1_locomotive-engineers-septa-tom-dorricott

          • Brandon

            There is a big difference between “can make up to” and an average salary. SEPTA saves money by allowing conductors to work lots of overtime because it means they don’t have to provide benefits for another employee.

      • Pete

        I was hoping Joel would respond to the specific questions since its his article.

        Perhaps ‘wasteful spending’ was a bit of hyberpole, but way to focus on those two words as opposed to the rest of it.

        Specifically related to rider costs, SEPTA is one of the most expensive transit systems I’ve ever ridden. Yes, I’ve been on many around the world as I would much rather use public transportation and yet I feel like I’m reading that SEPTA is always struggling…they always seem to need more money and are devising ‘doomsday’ scenarios. At what point do we start to question it?

        • DTurner

          The problem has more to do with little to no local funding and minimal state funding than anything else. PA has never funded SEPTA to the necessary degree to expand or maintain service for the long-term. Politicians have been questioning SEPTA and other transit agencies for decades, incorrectly believing that they can blame transit authorities for inefficiencies instead of taking the blame for their constant failure to fund public infrastructure.

          In regards to high fares, SEPTA is required by its founding legislation to maintain a certain percentage of its funding from riders, meaning that

        • Brandon

          DTurner is right. SEPTA is always struggling because it receives little funding from local and state sources.

          I take issue that you claim that no one questions SEPTA’s financial management, when the vast majority of commentary associated with SEPTA perpetuates the myth that they spend wastefully and receive tons of funding.

          Also, is SEPTA really all that expensive? Express and local bus and subway rides are $2.25 cash or $1.80 for a token.

          In NYC it is $2.50 for local and $6 for express. Local is $2.75 if you don’t have a metrocard.

          In DC, the metro is $2.10 or more based on distance during peak hours and $1.70 or more during non-peak. There is a $1 surcharge if you use a paper ticket.

          • PJ

            SEPTA is not expensive enough. with RR trains SRO in the morning they can easily raise fares and not lose rides.

            apply a surcharge for capital costs

  • Adam Lang

    Bob Casey isn’t right. SEPTA funding (or any regional transit agency) isn’t really a federal issue. There is no reason why people in Idaho need to fund trains for residents of SEPA to get around.

    This is something residents of PA need to figure out and deal with.

    • DTurner

      Yes and no; following that line of logic, there’s no reason that we should fund roads, schools, and other services in Idaho because we do not live there. Unfortunately, we have already heavily invested in the idea that federal funds can be used to fund local services, including (or particularly) transportation. Take a quick look at both SEPTA’s operational and capital budgets and you will see that Bob Casey’s view is already firmly ingrained in our country’s transportation policy.

      I do agree though, SEPTA’s funding does need to have a greater emphasis on state and local funding (SEPTA has one of the lowest local funding contributions in the US).

      A regional infrastructure sales tax would go a long way in breaking SEPTA’s dependence on annual handouts from Harrisburg and would allow the region to exert more control over the authority by giving it greater power of the purse.

      • Adam Lang

        What you are in essence talking about is shuffling around money. If PA sends $10 million to Idaho for roads and then Idaho sends $10 million to PA for SEPTA, it seems we would have been better off paying for our own things to being with.

        • Brandon

          Not at all. What happens in Idaho is important to Pennsylvanians and vice versa, especially when it comes to nationally important infrastructure. By your logic, we’d be better off if we split up into 50 sovereign countries.

          • gourd

            care less about idaho. bunch of repubs out there that arent too bright.

        • gourd

          shut up lowlife

    • Brandon

      Your assertion is silly. Idaho gets more money in federal support than they pay in federal taxes. Having them pay for transit in the northeast would help balance that.

      http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/08/americas-fiscal-union

      • Adam Lang

        Right, so we send Money to Idaho for projects and then go back and tax them to fund some of our projects.

        Things actually might be better off in DC if they left more regional issues to the state and municipalities instead of taxing across the board and then having everyone fight over “their fare share”.

        • Brandon

          Large transportation projects benefit from the economies of scale achieved by the federal government.

          If we left everything to states we would not have an interstate highway system.

          • Adam Lang

            Brandon,

            1) No one said “everything”.

            2) What does “economies of scale” have to do with it? The feds aren’t building everyone’s interstate. They are sending money to states to do work.

        • DTurner

          The problem with that system for transportation however, is that we end up with good regional systems, but poor national networks. If you read about the early highway system (prior to the formation of the federal highway system) you can quickly see the problem, as major state roads did not align with their peers in other states, meaning that travel times were substantially reduced. While that might not be a concern for public transit on a city/regional level, it might be worth remembering that there are limits to a regional/state approach.

          • Adam Lang

            DTurner, nowhere did I say the feds shouldn’t do anything with transportation. I said regional issues.

            Is there a concern with SEPTA’s Regional Rail or Broad Street Line not properly connecting with Ohio?

          • Brandon

            Do you really think that an efficient transportation system in the nation’s fifth largest city does not benefit people that live in Ohio? We are one nation. The people of Ohio, Idaho, and central PA benefit from a strong transportation system in Phila.

          • Adam Lang

            Yes, I am sure people in Cleveland can’t wait for the day SEPTA reopens the City Branch.

          • Brandon

            I’m sure their not. That doesn’t mean they don’t benefit.

          • PJ

            no, it doesn’t. folks in columbus should not be forced to subsidize SEPTA riders

          • Brandon

            Again, folks in Columbus are NOT subsidizing SEPTA. Folks in Phila are subsidizing highways in Ohio already. You obviously know very little about the issue, yet you continue to spout misinformation.

          • PJ

            you yourself wrote ohioans should subsidize SEPTA. how are philadelphians subsidizing highways in ohio, when the highway trust fund is funded primarily through gasoline taxes?

          • Brandon

            I did not. I said that Ohians benefit from a strong transportation system in Southeast PA. Currently, Southeast PA sends out more taxes than they receive back. Ohio would benefit from the economic development that would occur if Southeast PA got their fair share of revenues.

            …and people in Southeast PA pay more federal gas tax than they benefit from. People in Columbus pay less. So, by extension, some of the dollars coming out of Southeast PA are being spent in Columbus, not vice versa. It really isn’t that difficult to understand.

          • PJ

            can we separate “SE PA” and philadelphia county? philadelphia welfare hustlers love to lump the two together. philadelphia is a huge net taker from the state

          • Brandon

            No we cannot. Again, your assertions are false. First of all, there would be no Phila suburbs without Philadelphia. Second of all, Phila is not a net taker. It is the single largest economic engine in the entire state.

            Philadelphia metro area makes up 40% of the state GDP and the largest employment center in the metro area is Center City, which is Philadelphia–in case you didn’t know.

            The second largest? University City, also in Philadelphia.

            Other economic engines: The Navy Yard and the Airport. Also, both in Philadelphia.

            So if you want to separate Phila County from the rest of SE PA then you also have to give up your jobs, your sports teams, and your airport.

          • PJ

            you can have the sports teams. more wasted taxpayers dollars, building jeffrey lurie a palace

          • PJ

            what percentage of state GDP comes from philadelphia county, not “metro Philadelphia”?

          • Brandon

            The government does not break down GDP statistics by county. But we do know the following:

            Center City has 129 jobs per acre. The suburbs have less than one per acre.

            Center City, University City, Temple, Navy Yard, and the airport provide large clusters of jobs that are well above the regional and state median wage.

            Philadelphia has more people commuting into it than any other county in SE PA, DE, or South Jersey.

          • PJ

            philadelphia also has more residents in poverty per acre, more homicides per acre, etc.

          • Brandon

            Those are non-sequitors and the social problems in Phila are caused mainly by suburbanization and sprawl. If we had not overbuilt our roads and highways allowing the richest to spill out into the countryside we would have less poverty and crime in the city–which are both going down in lots of city neighborhoods while poverty and crime are currently increasing in the suburbs.

            But again, that’s neither here nor there.

          • PJ

            or the result of great society programs that enabled the destruction of the traditional family. ask liberal patrick moynihan. but that’s neither here nor there

          • gourd

            not the city’s fault and your statement isn’t true. you’re referring to NY. Philly is a very safe city. go drown yourself

          • PJ

            if philadelphia is so safe why were there 400 homicides in 2012?

          • gourd

            or md.

          • gourd

            Metro Philadelphia- like all the GDP of PA

            Philadelphia itself- probably a good chunk

            Your question is stupid and irravelent.

          • gourd

            no it’s a giver. Philadelphia is the engine that runs the state.

          • PJ

            right, and the SDP is the harvard of penssylvania

          • DTurner

            Not true, PJ. Gasoline tax revenues have declined sharply over the last decade, the Highway Trust is now being funded via the general fund, i.e. our tax dollars.

          • PJ

            you are right, DT. but it is fair that proportionally speaking to assume that Pennsylvanians are subsidizing their roads, ohioans theirs, etc.

            i concede that smaller states are usually net recipients of federal funding, but have been focusing on SEPTA’s request for additional state spending

          • Brandon

            This comment doesn’t make sense. Smaller states are not net recipients. Less populated states are. Delaware, New Jersey, Massachusetts, etc. are small states but send way more money to the federal government than they get back. South Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, etc. are large states but sparsely populated and receive more money from the feds than they send.

          • gourd

            and gas tax needs to be uncapped in PA and raised to support mass transit.

          • PJ

            wrong. SEPTA needs to raise fares to fund mass transit

          • DTurner

            Again with the raising of fares… this works in some strange classical liberal lalaland where goods and services are neatly separated and have little interaction. The world does not function like that. Instead, we live in a world where externalities are plentiful, especially when it comes to transit. You may not use public transit, but you obtain a direct benefit from transit in terms of reduced congestion and (if you are a business owner) a greater pool of potential employees, who might not otherwise be available.

            Conversely, I as a transit user obtain some benefit from roads, which reduce congestion on transit and provide a network for trade of goods.

            Given this reality, it does not make sense to charge a single subset of the population for the public benefit, but to charge them all. I agree, though, that we do need to have fares (and tolls) which charge users at least some fee for usage, I just think that it is unfeasible and illogical to charge them for the entire cost of the service. Put simply, $25 to travel from Doylestown to Center City on the train is just as absurd as paying $25 in tolls to do so in a car; forcing direct users to pay the entire cost of infrastructure could do just that.

          • Brandon

            Furthermore, a study in Boston demonstrated that when 1% of drivers on area highways switch to public transit, travel times decreased by 18% for the rest of the drivers. So people that prefer driving should welcome increased spending on public transit, because it will only make their commute faster.

          • gourd

            yeah they should cause amtrak does. and amtrak is unsafe and unreliable. SEPTA is very safe and very efficient. SEPTA gets us to the airport which can get us to Colombus. Plus, Philly is way bigger and far better than colombus. or NY for that matter.

          • DTurner

            Adam, as I said at the end of my response, I simply believe that we need to be cautious about removing the federal government entirely from the equation, which is exactly what would happen if the federal government stopped funding these projects.

            Also, SEPTA’s development may have little bearing on Ohio, but Delaware, Maryland, DC, NJ, and NY are likely to be affected in some way.

    • PJ

      makes perfect sense. local problems should be solved locally

      • DTurner

        Agreed, which is why constituents in SE PA who have democrats in the General Assembly should push them to adopt one of the better aspects of the pre-summer recess republican transportation bill: a local sales tax for SEPTA.

        • PJ

          they impose a sales tax in Bucks Co. to waste more money on philadelphia and SEPTA and there won’t be any more democrats from Bucks, except for maybe bristol

          • DTurner

            There will also be no SEPTA lines and fewer tax-paying commuters. That is Buck County’s poor choice to make.

          • PJ

            if SEPTA can afford to pay conductors $120,000 per year to punch tickets then they don’t have a funding problem

            http://articles.philly.com/2013-05-24/news/39478278_1_locomotive-engineers-septa-tom-dorricott

          • Brandon

            It says RIGHT IN THE ARTICLE YOU LINKED TO that SEPTA has conductors work overtime to save money on employee benefits. The TOP rate for conductors is $26.75/hr–hardly a ton of money.

          • PJ

            pay them less in OT. they don’t like it, they can take their ticket punchin “skills” elsewhere

          • Brandon

            I’m starting to believe that you are a troll. Or you are a very old man with ingrained opinions that you are not willing to reconsider, even when presented with facts that are counter to your worldview.

            For the last time: Paying employees OT instead of providing an entirely new employee benefits SAVES MONEY. It is the fiscally conservative option.

          • PJ

            i have repeated offered a solution that does not require more state aid: surcharges on RR tickets. these trains are standing room only. yet you conveniently refuse to address this option, since it doesn’t fit with your big-government solution of higher taxes

          • Brandon

            Yes, fare increases should be explored. I never said they shouldn’t. But they need to be coupled with tolls on all regional highways that also capture some of the value that drivers get from the subsidies provided for roadways. They also are not enough to solve the problem on their own.

          • PJ

            i support tolling all highways using ez pass. we can agree on that. how the revenue should be spent, maybe not…

          • gourd

            yes. but you forget we have idiots that troll these websites and listen to Fox news and actually share the same city as us. I wish Council would allow the PPD to just shoot such dumb uninformed and ungreatful ppl

          • DTurner

            Great idea, but as I said the last time you brought up SEPTA wages, the operational and capital budget are two different beasts.

            In regards to the ticket surcharges, you will never cover the costs of infrastructure reconstruction with ticket surcharges (which are already very high). Not to mention that Economics 101 states that increased prices will lead to reduced demand, meaning that ticket revenues would drop.

          • PJ

            that depends on the elasticity of demand for septa’s services. the alternative to septa is driving. factor in the aggravation of sitting in traffic, the cost of gas, and parking at $25 per day, and i think there’s ample room for septa to raise fares without a net loss in revenue

          • DTurner

            That’s hard to say. I do think it would cause a major migration of commuters to inner suburbs to reduce transportation costs, leaving Bucks and Chester counties with underfunded public services.

          • PJ

            well, if that would be the case, taxes in those area would decrease as fewer school children need to be educated in those school distrcits…and now we’re getting way off topic

          • DTurner

            Not exactly, the counties would mostly likely face a significant financial crisis, as expected growth targets would not be reached and deficits widened.

            Also, transportation is a critical issue that affects many aspects of our lives, meaning a lot of issues are on the table. We can choose to ignore transportation’s importance, but that will only be to the benefit of our NE competitors, such as DC, NYC, & Boston.

          • PJ

            why is it that, whenever philadelphia has a problem, it’s a “critical issue” requiring non-philadelphians to foot the bill…the school district, septa, etc.?

          • DTurner

            SEPTA is not a “Philadelphia” issue. Coming from the western burbs, I can attest to the importance SEPTA even in the suburbs, especially when it comes to transporting commuters to Philadelphia and around the region. With 9 regional rail routes on the chopping block, this doomsday budget is frankly a bigger issue for the suburbs than the city. If outer counties like Bucks do not want to sign on to a funding mechanism, that’s fine, but they can expect to pay the consequences by attracting fewer commuters.

          • PJ

            you know septa is bluffing right, just like hite when he said he’d close the schools if he didn’t get 50mm? he never got the cash, but the schools opened

            btw in FY2012 septa received $581 million in subsidies from Pa.

            this is another scare tactic

          • DTurner

            Again, you need to realize that there is a distinction between the capital and operational budget. I am guessing that the $581 mil is probably an aggregation of the two (and is still considerably less than that of other agencies).

            I don’t really understand what you are trying to accomplish here. SEPTA’s infrastructure is clearly crumbling, there’s no denying that. How does trying to push the blame onto SEPTA solve anything? You may have a few “gotcha” moments, but you are going to have a Pyrrhic victory at best.

            Also, the schools opened, but with many fewer employees, schools, and services. SEPTA’s budget will keep it operational, but also a shell of its former self.

          • PJ

            first, if septa’s infrastructure is indeed crumbling, it is entirely rational to ask if septa is at fault. and the reality is, how much money does septa need.

            second, are the regional rails the most cost effective means to move people, as opposed to buses?

            lines that are clearly wastes of money, like the cynwyd line (and the broad-ridge spur), should be shut down immediately. for lines that are in high demand, like paoli, higher fares need to be a big piece of the solution

            once septa has taken serious steps to right-size, we can talk about additional state funding

          • DTurner

            I agree that we must undertake due diligence, but it seems insane to believe that fat trimming has not already occurred at SEPTA. (see the service reductions of the 1980s and 1990s). The authority is much leaner than it has been in the past (although I agree that the Cynwyd line could be probably be cut) and fares have been raised considerably and yet continues to receive relatively little funding from the state. Given this pattern, I have to wonder what if “right-sizing” is nothing more than bidding time to until the authority implodes upon itself. If you are interested in how much SEPTA requires for its capital budget, I urge you to visit their website, where they have their last few capital budgets posted. Reading them, you can get a sense of just how much needs to be repaired.

            On the bus issue, I have to ask if you know of many commuters who would be interested in taking the bus on clogged roads across the region.

            I guess we differ in our views of passenger rail in SE PA, I see them as an asset, you appear to see them as a burden. There is a definite demographic shift towards cities and “urban”/transit-accessible suburbs across the country; now is not the time for cutting back our rail infrastructure. As I mentioned before, other regions are more than happy to profit from our intransigence, heck, I’m sure that South Jersey will profit from it with the PATCO line.

          • Brandon

            Not necessarily, they still have local roads that are overbuilt as it is and will be even harder to maintain if the population dropped.

          • Adam Lang

            Except most commuter parking rates aren’t $25. It’s more like $15 and under. SEPTA’s fares for commuters are good at an individual price point, but not so much at a carpooling price point.

            The fare value drops off a lot more when we look at non-commuter usage since Philly really doesn’t have a traffic or parking problem outside of the commuting window, yet still has an extensive bus network.

          • Adam Lang

            Studies show that the salaries of transit workers aren’t really the issue. It tends to be the work rules that require over supplying of workers to perform a duty.

          • DTurner

            Agreed, my major gripe with SEPTA has to be the overabundance of conductors. Even with NPT I find it hard to imagine SEPTA being able to retrain these workers as engineers to operate smaller, more frequent trains, mainly due to overly onerous union requirements.

            Salaries are not the big issue here, the union work rules are. That could be said about most of the unions in the city though…

          • gourd

            other railroads need conductors. i’m sure you couldn’t do their job. Look, you could pay them 4 dollars an hour and you won’t save your way to the billions the authority needs to maintain bridges and signals and infrastructure. you can’t simply cut 200 here and 3000 there and somehow wind up with millions. SEPTA is insanely well run and as a civil engineer i can tell you they are.

          • gourd

            they’re the lowest paid conductors in the nation. they deserve way more from the public that thinks they just punch tickets. they work way longer hours than 9-5 and move the entire region.

          • PJ

            120,000 per year is not low paid, you turd

          • gourd

            irravelent. they’re called conductors and they have to memorize state and federal crossings, switches and signals and lines and it’s a rediculousluy hard job. you have no idea the amount of complexity involved in figuring out how long a train must wait from going from the reading side to the pennsy side because of electrical system differences or the max speed limit during hot days or when raining, or with one railcar not working it’s all very strict guidelines and unappreciative people like you should go ump in the schuylkill.

      • gourd

        uh, no. cause what if the locals are idiots who voted in corbett?

        • PJ

          look at the morons philadelphia keeps electing: john street, wilson goode, michael nutter, blondell reynolds brown, vince fumo, etc.

        • Adam Lang

          The solution to local political issues isn’t to run to the federal government.

          • Brandon

            What you don’t seem to understand is that efficient transportation is in our best interest as a nation. It is not simply a local issue. The greatest benefit would be seen locally, but it would benefit everyone.

          • Adam Lang

            You’re going to be hard -pressed to convince me that Congress is the best place to determine what is “efficient”.

            But if that is what you think, then we should just have all the states get rid of their income and property taxes, increase the federal income tax and have everything go through D.C.

    • gourd

      Yes there is you dolt. It’s economic development. I can’t get to idaho, not that i’d want to without transit to get me to my airport to fly to idaho.

  • gourd

    Damn right!

  • DTurner

    Joel, I’m sure you could do an entire article on this comments section alone!

  • thegreengrass

    This might be the highest number of comments I’ve ever seen on a blog. Nice work.

    It’s always fantastically hypocritically insulting to me that fiscal conservatives hate on public transit. I couldn’t get to my high paying job, spend my disposable income to see friends, have dinner, go to sporting events, if it weren’t for public transit.

    Because I hate being stuck in traffic. I hate it wasting my time. I’m not going to drive into a congested population center. I’m not going to drive through stadium traffic. I have a car, but I’m not a slave to it, and I never will be. I moved to my house specifically because it’s near public transit.

    In the end, conservatives’ hatred of poor minorities who use transit jeopardizes something they supposedly hold dear: the economy. All so they can get reelected by ignorant bigots. Fantastic.