One thing we should not be hearing from members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly today is how public transportation is wasteful and inefficient. The Legislature, always challenged to get anything significant done, is just days away from botching an easy slam dunk – passing a transportation bill.
Transportation traditionally is a bipartisan issue. Everyone benefits when roads are smooth, bridges are strong and safe and transit is sufficient to ease gridlock and parking shortages. And everyone suffers when poor roads destroy wheel alignments, flatten tires and jam with traffic, when bridges crumble and close, forcing detours, and when transit is inadequate and people can’t get to work or appointments or anywhere else without a car.
A good transportation network saves people money and makes the state economically competitive. A poor one causes companies to bypass Pennsylvania or leave for other locales, costing us jobs. A robust transportation improvement program also generates jobs in the construction industry.
Some legislative naysayers fret that the public can’t afford a transportation funding bill. The costliest plan out there – Senate Bill 1 – would cost the average joe (who drives 12,000 miles per year in a 24 mpg car) about $150. That’s $3 a week. For anyone with the wherewithal to own an automobile, that’s chump change.
As for those who complain about paying more to fund transit, the biggest components of Senate Bill 1 are increases in the wholesale gasoline tax and driver fees. None of that money, under the constitution, can go to transit. It’s all going to roads and bridges. If you don’t want to pay more for transit because you don’t ride it, here’s a tip: Don’t get caught speeding. Much of the new money for transit in SB 1 would come from a surcharge on traffic violations.