Monday, October 31, 2011

French to the rescue --- that's a new one

Last week it was reported that Veolia Transportation may (triple underline "may") be interested in taking over the Port Authority in the future.

I, for one, would like to welcome our new French overlords.

Veolia Transportation is a sector of the overall Veolia conglomerate that includes a wide variety of functions like water, wastewater, transportation, energy, etc. The headquarters is in France, but they are a global megacompany with plenty of offices here in the United States.

Veolia Transportation is running public transportation systems in New Orleans, Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Toronto. By all accounts, those systems are doing fairly well.

The Port Authority in Pittsburgh is so underwater, to use the parlayance of our times, that there is a common perception that the only way for them to be successful long-term is to go bankrupt. This will get them out from under the long-term legacy costs of pensions and retiree healthcare. In cold, bloodless theory that sounds like a great way to rectify the problem. Just the scorch the earth and let the pine trees grow anew from the enriched soil.

But those are good hardworking people that worked a long time to get those benefits. Are they in some cases overpaid? Sure, they are. But no one put a gun to the head (I think) of the Port Authority's management team to approve those Collective Bargaining Agreements over the years.

Part of my problem with the Port Authority is that they have no vision. Well, I shouldn't say that in light of the new North Shore Tunnel/Connector/Money Pit getting ready to open soon. The inevitable leaks in the tunnel under the Allegheny River will start probably 1 month after it opens. Their lack of vision stems from not realizing the demographics of the region and how they fluctuate, then adapting to those changes.

Trying to do light rail, by piggybacking off of the PENNDOT High Occupancy Vehicle lane up I-279 North, to the northern suburbs is about 20 years overdue. The "T" in the South Hills is a decent enough system, but the North Hills line could have less stops and higher speeds.

They could also link the "eds" and "meds" more efficiently to downtown and some of the more popular places to live in the City, thus making it easier for students and young professionals to live in the City and work at the various medical centers or go to schools in the Oakland/Shadyside area.

Would Veolia do any of this? Maybe, but probably not. But I would feel a heck of lot better getting a fresh set of eyes on the problem and trying to revive the patient currently on the operating table that is the Port Authority.


  1. "The Port Authority? Is that thing still around?"

    Only thing that springs to mind when I think "PAT" is that incident about 20 years ago where a person left a brown paper lunch bag on a PAT bus one morning. Contents? Eyeballs(believed to be human).

  2. Still around, still inefficient. Your comment reminds me of a line from Superbad...

    "You don't want to ride the bus. They smell like piss."
    "Why is that?"
    "Because people piss on them."