Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My last ACTC meeting? (Nov. 18, 2008)

Current mood: working

I joined the Allegheny County Transit Council in October 1992, after offering testimony at a public hearing about planned service cuts by Port Authority of Allegheny County. A highly placed staffer, Don Bell, moved by my words, suggested to the ACTC membership chair that I be considered for membership. Turns out I already had an application in process. Funny, that.

ACTC's purpose then, as now, was to provide the riders' view of transit service directly to the Board of Directors and top-level staff. I learned quickly that, unlike media coverage would have people believe, that Port Authority really did know what it was doing, but simply had a difficult job to do, and was doing it as well as it could.

Value "could" as you will, though, as there was a non-trivial amount of politics, history and labor-management strife at hand. Indeed, in the Fall of 1992, a really nasty month-long strike was still fresh in most people's memories. Running a metropolitan transit company is a helluvalot trickier than it appears.

Back to me. Transit is my life. I went back to school to get a Masters in Information Science so I could start an information service that would help people learn how to use public transit as Method Number One for getting around. I want to do that more than I want to do anything else. Yet it's been out of reach, for numerous reasons I do not care to go into here. What matters is that, wants or not, I need an income. I've been out of work for 5-1/2 years.

Why that matters to me is that, back in June, I began the process of trying to become a Port Authority bus driver. I have passed all hurdles of tests, clearances and interviews, and am essentially now waiting for the phone to ring. It may not be exactly what I want, but it will be in my field of interest, it pays reasonably well, and after a couple of years, I can look for a jump into a white collar position, which may then allow me to help Port Authority do that from the inside, rather than from the outside.

In the meantime, beginning 12/1/2008, I will be sorting packages for the United States Postal Service, a temp job that will not continue beyond mid-January, if it lasts that long. Also around 12/1, Port Authority's buses may stop running, either a strike or a lockout depending on your point of view. I'm guessing that the labor situation will take a month or so to get worked out, and only when things return to normal can they call another driver class. One that might include me. One which I will join, if and when the phone rings.

Once I have joined Port Authority, in any capacity, though, I will have to resign from ACTC. I can still attend meetings, of course, as they are open to the public, but can only speak if invited to. That's OK with me. Chances are good I couldn't go to a meeting anyway, as I would probably have an evening shift.

From 1993 to 1994, and again from 1995 to 2004, and again since 2007, I was ACTC secretary. From mid-1994 to mid-1995 I was its president. I've taken close to 300 sets of minutes to meetings. I, more than anyone else I know, have been paying attention to the development of transit issues around this town for close to two decades. I have something like two cubic yards of transit history in my closets -- meeting notes, news clippings, fliers, handouts, notebooks, etc., etc. Just about anything that has made news in the Pittsburgh transit field, I've been there, occasionally part of it.

Wednesday's meeting, though, will be the last of 2008. If all goes as I laid out above, though, I won't be going to any in 2009, at least as a member, and chances are good I won't be at any future meetings as a member, either.

I'm not resigning yet, though. Things may yet fall through. But it is high time I suggested a successor as secretary. It's been 16 very long, fulfilling years.

The picture I cannot post in the comment below


bus15237 said...

Comment from Dec. 21, 2011: The driver job did not happen. Instead, after the USPS, I got a software job in the city, and continued as a member then and still.

bus15237 said...

Comment from me from 2008:

If this really was the last one, it was nice to go out on an up note. We got a tour of a prototype for 100 new buses Port Authority is getting. When have you ever gotten on a city bus and it smelled like a new car? Only ACTC members (and a few choice employees) ever get that opportunity. See photos here:

Just for grins, can I put up one photo here? Prototype Gillig bus 5600:

We had two new prospective members. On the street, one pedestrian stopped to talk to us, wondering about why 20 people were swarming around a parked bus that said "Port Authority" instead of a route name. At one point, it felt like I was talking to four people at once -- Jen, the new lady, the pedestrian, and John W. Probably was.

It's going to be hard to walk away from all that. There just are not that many people who know transit, and activism, and citizen advisory councils, and sizing up new buses, like I do. Not to brag, but really, who gets turned on by riding a bus? Not many, I'd guess.