Editorial: Save our soles, Nordenberg

By Staff Editorial

No one picks a college for the transportation.

Even if the surrounding city could smoothly… No one picks a college for the transportation.

Even if the surrounding city could smoothly shuffle students from place to place on state-of-the-art magnetic monorails, few applicants would consider a school that required their parents to take out two mortgages per semester or offered classes taught by Klingons. Though we might not use public transit differences to decide between undergraduate programs, we Pitt students shouldn’t forget the importance of a functioning transportation system to our education.

And neither should Chancellor Mark Nordenberg.

The Port Authority is suffering, and if something isn’t done soon, so will Pitt. The student body needs to raise its voice, and University leadership at the highest level needs to listen to it and act accordingly.

Facing severe budget pressures, the Port Authority’s board of directors approved a plan on Wednesday that would reduce bus services 15 percent by late March (see coverage on page 1). Although more substantial cuts were initially projected, a last-minute infusion of $45 million from Gov. Ed Rendell allowed the Port Authority to run at 85 percent current service levels instead of something closer to 65 percent. But as CEO Steve Bland said in a special board meeting held yesterday, using the emergency funds is only a “temporary solution.” If no new funding is found by July 2012, the Port Authority could be forced to run at  near half its current capacity.

Even a seemingly small 15 percent service reduction equates to 29 eliminated bus routes and reductions in many of the remaining routes, including several ones passing through Oakland. With so much of the Pitt population relying on the Port Authority to get from front door to classroom or workplace, trying to imagine how a 50 percent service reduction will affect the University goes beyond the realm of unsettling.

It’s not only that the economic effect of a crippled bus system could devastate Pittsburgh as a whole, as several speakers noted at yesterday’s meeting. Pitt should be worrying about itself.

Consider, if you dare, the Pitt experience in the post-Port Authority era. Barely able to house incoming freshmen as it is, the University could face an unprecedented flood of on-campus housing applicants and have to consign students to brutally long walks to class. Pitching the Steel City to prospective students as a marketplace worthy of exploring could soon become a farce, as students choose to stay in their dorms and as businesses close due to fewer customers. And worst of all, with fewer buses and more cars on the road, a campus bound by ribbons of asphalt could suddenly become much more dangerous.

If not for the sake of the city, we should appreciate the gravity of the Port Authority issue as it pertains to Pitt’s interests. Harrisburg legislators need to be educated on this issue, and someone powerful needs to facilitate this educational process. We feel that Chancellor Nordenberg, occupying an optimal position of influence as a member on Gov.-elect Tom Corbett’s transition committee, is ripe for the job. A public statement would be a start.

As we wait on Nordenberg to decide a course of action, The Pitt News will like to announce our intent on investing in bicycles in the near future. If you’re a seasoned rider, feel free to e-mail us your advice, as frankly, we’re more of bus-kind of people.