Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Public Transit II: Public Service?

There are two kinds of public service I use on a regular basis since I moved to Pittsburgh. No, no...hold your breaks ...I was not talking about  TANF and food stamps. I meant public transit and public libraries.

You might have noted my previous posts on the main public library network in the Burgh. If you haven't, you can read them  here and here. I haven't wrote much about the Port Authority, nothing beyond the accidental rant here and there.

And there is one more  thing these two institutions have in common -they are both affected by the projected budget cuts which are plaguing most states and cities in 2010. However, the reaction of their management teams couldn't have been more different.

Carnegie Public (CLP) :

The website as well as the client interface are cooler than last year and some extra features were added.
I am not sure if they were able to organize more events this year or they were just able to advertise them better. Whatever they did it worked for us : we viewed 2 puppet shows, one magic show and two open stage musicals .
I am certain that their staff is worried and frustrated since the funding cuts usually will lead to layoffs.However they were neither less friendly. nor less helpful because of it (kudos to them!).
Just browse the 2009 annual report and you will get the message -it is quite simple: this is what we are, what we have accomplished , what we can do and will do in the future and how we think this can be done. It reads just like an invitation ...

Pittsburgh Port Authority:

Beside the addition of a twitter account and blog there are no major changes to the website. It is as hard to navigate and colorless as it was 5 years ago. It almost tells me: you know that you are not welcomed and we know that you won’t use our services if you had an alternative.

The customer service people are as unhelpful and unfriendly as ever (do they get paid $20/hour too so they can read to me the same information I can read and still do not get from their website?)

The recent route changes were supposed to improve traffic flow. Somehow all I hear around me are stories about buses which went missing on route, missed connections and a lot of raised shoulders.

The drivers whom were unfriendly are even more so, the friendly ones are now reserved. Yes, I understand that your jobs are at stake but com’on what are you afraid of ? Are you going to be sanctioned for siding with the passengers if you , at least , let us know why a bus did not make it on schedule?

And for PR : rumors that the fare is going to be soon $7.

I know I may sound unfair towards PAT, but this is why they made me feel lately - as a peon in a game between management, unions and the State Senate.


Hannah Stephenson said...

I am such a fan of public transit--in both theory and usually in practice. I used to live in Vancouver, BC, which has amazing public transit.

I'm now in L.A., and the transit is very up and down. The bus system on the Westside is great, and it's been very easy to navigate. But getting anywhere across town or downtown by bus would be insane.

Thanks for this post!

Ana said...


I heard that L.A. is even worse than Pittsburgh. At least here you can get downtown, and even across town by bus...It may take a lot of patience and cause a lot of stress and frustration, but it can be done...

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