NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 15, 2006

Bus ridership has been declining throughout the United States since 2000 (helped only recently by high fuel prices).  Nonetheless, the Pittsburgh Port Authority (PAT) continues spend huge sums on money on capital projects, running up the deficit, according to the Allegheny Institute.

But Pittsburgh is not the only city to see a decline, says the Institute:

  • Looking at a sample of 13 cities, 9 have seen a drop in bus ridership from 2000 to 2004. 
  • One of the cities that did see an increase, Charlotte, was more likely the result of a growing population and a region that was being underserved in 2000.
  • Another city, Denver, saw a decrease of 16 percent in public ridership, but saw an increase in transportation by private carriers under contract to public agencies.

Despite this evidence from around the country, as well as its own ridership statistics, PAT continues to be aggressive with capital projects.  But rather than embarking on money wasting projects -- leaving it with large cost overruns -- PAT needs to look inward, says the Institute:

  • The authority needs to focus on reducing expenses and streamlining services.
  • The best way to do this is to maintain high volume routes while trimming lower-use ones.
  • Privatizing service and operation functions needs to be adopted as soon as possible.

Until PAT becomes more efficient and starts to grapple seriously with its extremely high costs, it will continue to run large deficits that taxpayers will be asked to cover and their financial situation will never improve, says the Institute. 

Source: "Where Are the Predicted Transit Riders?," Policy Brief Volume 6, Number 65, Allegheny Institute, December 13, 2006.


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