Monday, October 27, 2008

Public Transit users save money... but deal with more crap

According to APTA, the American Public Transportation Association, the average commuter spends only about $800 dollars a year if they use public transportation, while those who drive can spend around $3000 a year.

Personally, my bus pass is about $50 a month when there's school, and it's about $100 when there isn't. So estimate that their calculations are right to my standards. I spend around $800 a year.

You can actually calculate your expenses on commuting on their website with their commuting calculator.

What they don't mention though is the benefits of driving... I predict that it will be difficult for me to get a job since I don't drive and I don't have a license. You don't have to stand out in the rain or freeze in the snow for forty minutes when you're waiting for a bus. You don't have to worry about lugging groceries or other goods along with you when you have a car.

And if can guarantee that if I had a car, it would be a lot easier to get my cat to the vet a lot easier...

Port Authority imposes new contract

It's been almost two months now, and there has been nearly next to no progress with Port Authority and their union.

However, this Saturday, Port Authority imposed a new contract on their bus and trolley drivers, as well as their maintenance workers. It was an 8-0 vote for Port Authority board members.

Union leaders believe that this forced contract is illegal, and not only are they fighting the contract, but they are suing Allegheny County politician Dan Onarato for withholding funds.

So what does this all mean?

Port Authority workers will be getting an annual 3% pay increase, however, many of their benefits are being cut and they are being forced to retire at a later age.

I do have a relative who drives buses for Port Authority that is VERY upset by this plan. He's worked for them for over 15 years faithfully, and they return the favor by slashing his benefits and forcing him to work for them even longer.

Driving buses and trolleys is not an easy job. I personally believe that it takes a lot out of you and I don't feel as though it's safe to have their employees work up until their 70s. Not only do you lose dexterity at that age, but they're cutting their health benefits... So you're going to have somebody driving a bus that is responsible for the lives of many people... and you can't even fully insure that they're at the very least healthy? You can't have a sick, tired, and worn down bus driver.

Computers and Public Transportation

My laptop was broken this weekend, so I had to go get it fixed several hours ago. The battery was dead and the charger was broken. I probably spent about over $200 on fixing it today. I’m crying a little bit on the inside because of how expensive it was.

Anyways, this entry is not about me whining about how terrible my laptop is, even though I probably could continue to write about it...

When I was taking the trolley the other day, I saw a man sitting in a seat by himself with a laptop no bigger than the palm of his hand. He was typing away on it and browsing what appeared to be the internet (if I’m right) when he was doing so.

One part of me is telling myself that a teeny tiny laptop is absolutely ridiculous as well as hilarious. Another part of me is telling me that it’s brilliant…

But bringing one of those on a bus or subway? That seems to be a HUGE risk and liability. I really hope that the guy who had the mini laptop had some type of warrantee or insurance on it.

Somebody could have easily stolen that, or even worse, he could have dropped it if the subway car stopped suddenly. You could also easily forget something that small. I’ve had that happen to me before… not the dropping my laptop on a subway car part, but just dropping and damaging it. It’s one of the worst feelings when you know that you’ve spent a lot of money on something.

Still, is it worth bringing something very expensive, like a laptop, on to a bus or a subway? Or even a taxi?

I’ve seen people with huge laptops, like mine, taking the subway, and I personally think that they’re nuts. Are you really that busy that you need to do your work or homework while you’re travelling? Do you really need to check your Facebook that desperately while you take the bus?

Another thing that I see really frequently during my commute is people using their cellphones or PDAs to access the internet or games…Have we really become so addicted to technology that we can’t even last thirty minutes without it?

Some people never cease to amaze me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sick of transportation- Literally.

I'm awfully sorry for the lack of legitimate blog posts, however, it's partly due to my excellent skills in procrastination, my business with school, and I feel as though I caught the black plague this weekend.

Everyone around me and in my apartment is completely sick.... hacking up a storm and missing class to stay home and rest.

I don't completely blame my roomies for my illness though.

Since I've been using public transit, I tend to get awfully sick more often.

Sure I like public transit because it's affordable and (sometimes) quick, but I seem to find myself sitting or standing the most ill person on the bus or trolley, or the guy who coughs on his hands and then reaches over for the handrail next to my seat. Being a germaphobe, it freaks me out... a lot.

Over 50% of the air on buses and trolleys is recirculated... which means you're breathing in your flu-infested seat mate's air. Yuck. As if sitting with them wasn't bad enough because you can easily get their sickness through bodily contact... Not to forget the always great person sneezing in your face.

This site seems to have some interesting methods for reducing your contact with germs on public transit.

Although in complete honesty, it seems somewhat impractical. Personally, I would like to breathe when I'm going to work or school... It's kind of an important thing to do. Because most humans need air.


So I've periodically been checking the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and the Point Park University sites to see if there have been any updates on the current strike situation.

And much to my surprise, there have really been no updates that I have been able to find. Just news about management at Port Authority bickering with the union and county representative Dan Onarato fighting with management and the union.

Things really don't seem like they're getting done.

According to Joe Grata, a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette....

"Absolutely no progress has been made in the difficult Port Authority labor dispute involving 2,300 bus-trolley operators, first-line supervisors and other hourly personnel.

Since the authority board and the executive board of Local 85, Amalgamated Transit Union, rejected a state-appointed fact-finder's report Sept. 12, both sides have met only twice, and then never more than for a few hours. As of Friday, no additional meeting had been scheduled."


Is this the future of the Pittsburgh Port Authority?

It's quite possible. Dan Onarato even made a statement to the Post Gazette that if things are not entirely resolved by the end of the year, then the Pittsburgh Port Authority will be gone. And thousands of riders will be left stranded or attempting to adjust to taking taxis or a new transportation company.

This is truly a shame.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Commuting... Stinks

So today has been a terrible day for me in general, but it seems like my morning commute has put me into this lousy mood. I've had some terribly crappy luck with the subway.

So I work in a hot dog stand in Downtown Pittsburgh. I make and serve... hot dogs... surprising and slightly degrading, yes? But on the up side, I usually make about 30 dollars a day in tips, most of them in single dollar bills. This is great because I usually have cash on hand and in my purse after I'm done with work or the next day. But because I forget about where I put my tips sometimes, my purse becomes and ocean of quarters and one dollar bills, which can be annoying any time I need to find my keys and school ID. So last night I cleaned my purse out and put all of my money into an envelope to be taken to the bank.

Of course the one night that I do something mildly productive and actually clean my purse, it comes back to bite me in the bottom.

So this morning I leave for the trolley stop early so I can get a cup of coffee (my new addiction) before my honors history class. However, today is a special day. It's October 1, 2008. My September bus pass is of no use.

I show the lady devoid of emotion at the fair booth my expired September bus pass. And even though I see her everyday, around the same time, she doesn't let me slide. Just this one time... I had absolutely no money in my pocket, not even a single penny... just an empty pack of gum, my keys, and old compact make-up. I beg with the lady to let me go. I tell her that I'm going to be late for an important class, and still no results.

Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars- This is how I feel today.

I was at the point where I turned around and began to trek back up the broken up sidewalk to the dilapidated and animal feces speckled city stairs. I power walk back to my house and retrieve about five dollars in ones and return back to the station as fast as I can.

But in the distance, I can see the white subway car dragging towards the station in the distance. So out of fear of being late to class, I sprint to the fair booth in my worn out skull decorated flat shoes.

This was a mistake. My flats are now caked in a thin layer of blood in the back, as are my heels.

Luckily though, I was able to cram on to the congested subway car just before it left the station. I stand in the back, grasping on to a cold metal pole. A creepy middle-aged man stares at me from the seat. I pull out my iPod from my pocket, and in doing so, an old bandage wrapper falls on the floor from my pocket. I ignore it initially, thinking that that's what they hire janitors for. And it's not like I spilled a smoothie on the floor or something of that nature.

Still, the creepster point out in an irritated and condecending tone that the miniscule slip of paper is on the floor of his beloved subway car. I grumble and stoop down to pick it up as the car makes a sudden stop, but just as soon as I reach for it, the car shifts forward into motion, and I slip backwards, hard on to my back. My pink bookbag and new purse are now coated in public transportation dirt. In my head, I scream in frustration and glare at the middle-aged man.

Eventually though, I get to school and my history class a few minutes after it began, but without my hot mocha morsel. I now know what it's like to go through caffine withdrawl. I need to stop drinking so much coffee.

I have yet to go home tonight around 9pm, so hopefully things might not be so bad like how they were this morning.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Onarato continues to refuse joining union talks

Recently, Allegheny county chief executive Dan Onarato has been withholding over $28 million in funds from Pittsburgh Port Authority until they alleviate the current possible strike situation. He has also been making statements to several media outlets such as the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune review about Port Authority's local union 85 in a negative light, however, Mr. Onarato has not attended a single Port Authority strike talk.

Despite several interviews with him, he has refused to show up to any meeting despite the bus union's request for him to him to appear. Onarato is pressuring the union to accept the deal that was suggested by the fact finder report.

However, I don't really believe that it's fair for Dan Onarato to be making those rash statements to the press if he himself has not attended a single meeting.

Although Onarato may have seen the report and might have received some concerns from union bus drivers, I feel as though his view on the situation might possibly be impacted if he actually sat down with the bus drivers. Other drivers also feel as though his presence would be helpful in creating some much needed progress at the stagnant negotiation meetings.

I also believe that as a politician representing the citizens of Allegheny County, he should be there. If the buses shut down, then it affects all of his tax payers as well as all citizens of Allegheny county. If he was at the meetings, I believe that things could possibly go smoother and that the issues might be alleviated more easily. Dan Onarato should stop being stubborn and do what is best for the people that he represents, including the commuters as well as those who work for Port Authority.