On Wednesday, Fearless Leader took her "Pleading Poverty Tour" to Harrisburg, where she announced that the proposed FY 2005 Operating Budget will not feature any fare hikes or service cuts ... for now.
The Inquirer reported in last Thursday's editions that Fearless Leader won't make the same mistakes she made last year by proposing the now-infamous DRACONIAN SERVICE CUTS AND FARE HIKES at last year's operating budget hearings.
SEPTA will host public hearings next month to discuss options for closing the budget gap, "including steep fare increases and significant service reductions," the agency said in a statement. Without an infusion of state aid, riders can anticipate a second round of public hearings in the fall detailing specific cuts and fare increases, Moore said.
"We are not seeking a fare increase or service cuts, because to do either would destroy public transportation in our area," Moore said. Inquirer
But, she added, "I will raise fares or cut service" if the state fails to provide more money. Inquirer
This year's apparent tactics include blaming Harrisburg for not making public transportation a major priority. Harrisburg, in turn, is blaming Washington for not passing a renewal of the TEA-21 act, which was largely responsible for setting guidelines for new capital projects (those same guidelines, by the way, which effectively killed the "MetroRail" scheme SEPTA was trying to sneak through for $chuylkill Valley).
Meanwhile, Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) is offering some help, though it's more like healing a gunshot wound with a band-aid.
State funding for transit has remained relatively flat since 1997. In his fiscal year 2005 budget, Gov. Rendell did boost statewide transit funding in step with inflation, an increase that would amount to about $8 million for SEPTA.
The Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association, of which SEPTA is a member, has proposed an agenda that includes increasing transit's share of revenue from the state sales tax. Early this year, Rendell said an increase in the state gasoline tax - which would include changes in how the state pays for public transit - could not be expected until after the November election.
The hearings will take place next month. The budget proposal is available online.
Meanwhile, KYW NewsRadio reported that DVARP gave it's endorsement to SEPTA's plans.
Don Nigro, president of the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers, gives this approach thumbs up:
"It frees up riders to direct their energy and their anger towards Harrisburg rather than at SEPTA. SEPTA needs to make the case that more funding is absolutely needed."
Nigro believes this strategy avoids scaring riders and instead focuses on state lawmakers:
"The approach that SEPTA took last year just got a lot of riders alarmed. What we really need to do is just focus the region's attention on Harrisburg appreciating SEPTA, how the workers and residents depend upon it."
Nigro says SEPTA could simply run the system at full service, then shut it down entirely when the cash runs out. That, he says, would wake up Harrisburg. KYW 1060 web site