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Blast from the past - Pete Flaherty - Good or bad for Pittsburgh?

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4MoreYearsOfHell Donating Member (943 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-28-05 12:22 AM
Original message
Blast from the past - Pete Flaherty - Good or bad for Pittsburgh?
Coastie for Truth and I had some discussion on this tonight and I would like to hear the input of fellow Western Pennsylvanians with regards to Pete's reign...
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Coastie for Truth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-28-05 03:43 PM
Response to Original message
1. I came back to the Burgh in 1969 (fresh from active duty)
and Pete seemed like a breath of fresh air after too many years of Joe Barr, and the Police (Lawrence Maloney) scandals, etc.

My disappointment with Pete started with "SkyBus"


    1. The computer control system is the same basic system that the DC Metro and the San Francisco BART used (along with practically every other transit system built after the 1960's).

    2. Rubber tires are part of the Paris Metro.

    3. He played the East Hills and East End against the South Hills -- and then "quit claimed" the old subway "rights of way" under Fifth Avenue for pennies on the dollar. (This precluded an East End-East Hills subway extension)

    4. He played the "race card" on the need for cops on all trains -- and the "ease"with which "outsiders" could get to the South Hills (I am an old time Father Charles Owens Rice Democrat).

    5. Once SkyBus was killed, Westinghouse sold the business to ABB - who moved it out of Pittsburgh.


He was no Dave Lawrence and no Dick Caliguiri.


    1. As companies were bailing out of the Burgh - he made no effort to keep them.

    2. As to redevelopment (including PPG Place) - my Dad was tight with Pa Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Papadakis. And Judge Papadakis used to say that "There is a price (eminent domain award) that makes both sides equally unhappy. That's a fair price."

      Every redevelopment activity involves URA craziness and court appeals - that is our over litigious society.


    3. As to Duquesne, Pitt, UPMC, CMU, and Carlow - Pete never extended any help for their own expansion plans. Old time steel workers can criticize the universities for "too much tax exempt property" but, as John Kerry adviser and CMU Professor Richard L. Florida wrote -- they are the only engines of economic growth left in Pittsburgh.

      Good Richard Florida reads are--
      1. The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life by Richard Florida,

      2. Cities and the Creative Class by Richard Florida

      3. The Flight of the Creative Class: Why America is Losing the Competition for Talent. . . and What We Can Do to Win Prosperity Back by Richard Florida


    Pittsburgh "almost had it" - and now it has "lost it."

    4. Energy - Pittsburgh should be the Silicon Valley of new energy technology.


      1. Was a center of commercial nuclear power when I started working - but I will NOT blame Pete for Three Mile island.

      2. Was a center of coal based synthetic gas and synthetic gasoline (Bruceton) -- the political leadership lost that one to WV's Robert Byrd. But Koppers, USS Chemicals, and the whole Neville Island and Clairton complexes were selling synthetic fuels as a by product of coking (I won't blame Pete for the death of steel).


    5. I know that the "Mid Field Terminal" at PIT and the Stadiums were so much political hoop-de-dooo.


Pete let too many opportunities slip through his fingers.

Admitted, the tide was running against the old, industrial cities of the Rust Belt -- but even Coleman Young and Dennis Kuchinich did better jobs.

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happyslug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-28-05 11:38 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. I was on the other side of the SKYBUS Controversy
But than I lived in Beechview. When the Port Authority Transit (PAT) decided to get rid of the Streetcars in Pittsburgh in the Mid-1960, PAT had a problem, what to do with the 42/38 Beechview-Mt Lebanon Line AND the 47 "Valley" line. Converting to buses DRASTIC LY INCREASED the length of any transit trips, in some cases making it 3-4 times longer. This was the result that these were the remnants of the Old Charleroi and Washington PA Interurban lines and as such RAN ON THEIR OWN RIGHT OF WAY ALMOST INTO DOWNTOWN PITTSBURGH. Mt Lebanon even Boosted int he early 1970s that it was only 15 minutes away from downtown Pittsburgh, People laughed at that boost for no one could drive between the two areas in ten minutes, BUT THE STREETCAR ONCE IT ENTERED THE TROLLEY TUNNEL WOULD HIT THE MT LEBANON LINE 15 MINUTES LATER. The 42/38 was heavy used and packed. The Scheduled during Rush hour was marked "Comes Frequently" than as rush hour ceased went to trips every 2-3 minutes.

The Valley line was even worse when it came to converting it to Buses. Route 88 was (and is) a narrow two lane road (one lane in each direction). People have proposed Expanding RT 88 to four lanes since it was originally constructed in 1912, but the extensive undermining of the South Hills of Pittsburgh meant that any construction will be 5-10 times the costs of any other highway in the state. This high cost is Do to the need to shore up the road-bed do to all of the old coal mines in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. From Mt Washington to Washington Pa with very small exceptions, everything has been undermined since mining started in the 1790s.

Please Note I do NOT include the purchase of the extensive housing and business that would be needed, these costs in just cutting the hills down, filling in the mines (and finding the mines, most were mined out BEFORE the state required mine maps) etc. These costs are at best only a rough guess, thus every time expansion of Rt 88 is proposed it dies a quick death.

The Valley line goes right by Rt51 and than Rt 88. It was the MAIN MEANS OF transportation along its length till long after WWII (i.e. Long after most other areas of Pittsburgh had switched to cars as the main means of transportation. The reason again was like the 42/38 route THE VALLEY LINES WERE FASTER THAN MOST CARS ON GETTING TO DOWNTOWN PITTSBURGH (Especially in Rush Hour).

Given this fact what was PAT's Solution to the "Problem" of 42/38 and the Valley lines? Buses were proposed but when died a quick death when it was clearly shown that MOST users of the Valley line would switch to cars instead of switching to buses when the Streetcar line was closed down (and really screwing up not only Rt 88 but Rt 51, and both Rt 19 and Truck 19).

Most people along the line proposed just rebuilding the Rail lines. The rail line needed rebuilt since the last real re-build of the Valley line had been in 1900 when it was converted from a 1870 era narrow Gage rail line to the Pennsylvania Gage. The Beechview line had not be rebuilt at all except for the part in Beechview proper which had been converted from an exclusive right of way with two narrow roads on both sides of the Right of way to a broad street with the streetcars and cars sharing the middle of the street.

Thus by the 1960s the lines needed extensive work, but PAT was just anti-rail in the 1960s and turned to SKYBUS as a way to closed down the Streetcar line while maintaining something close to the Service people were getting from the Rail lines. The proposals were made, an experimental SKYBUS system was installed in the Allegheny County Fair Grounds (I even road is during the county Fairs of the late 1960s and early 1970s) and than the plan was made public.....Beechview and Bethel Park, the two communities most dependent on the rail system revolted....

The reason for this revolt was clear, the SKYBUS route was to go through the old Wabash Tunnel to a Station just off right in now Brashear High School (where the City School Board wanted to Build one of its proposed four Great high Schools, another proposed killed in the early 1970s). The route had TWO STOPS IN BEECHVIEW, stops in Dormont and Mt Lebanon, than SKYBUS cut down to Castle Shannon than along the Washington Pa Interurban line till South Hills Village. Bethel Park was to get a paved bus-way on the old Charleroi Interurban line up till a new station was Washington Junction. Beechview was to get a similar bus route to collect people to the SKYBUS stations.

Beechview had been built around the streetcar line, it fact even today it is easier to get into and out of Beechview by Streetcar than it is by any other means (and that included automobiles). Two stops were NOT going to be enough to keep Beechview happy given that it had eight stops with the Streetcar (and one of the two stops in Beechview was by Brashear AWAY from the existing users of the streetcars).

As to Bethel Park, taking a bus to new SKYBUS Stop and than getting on an already crowded SKYBUS was unacceptable. When people asked about whether new SKY-BUSES could START at Washington Junction, or from the Existing Neeld and Dormont loops, the engineers said no, all SKY-BUSES had to start from the new station to be built beside South Hills Village. Thus everyone from Dormont to Pittsburgh would have almost no chance to get a seat during rush hour (The Old Pittsburgh Railway Company would run "Short" loops in the Morning Rush hour, i.e. instead of going all the way to the end of the line the streetcar coming from Downtown would turn around in the Dormont Loop or the Neeld Avenue Loop and pick up passengers who normally would NEVER get a seat, I always liked these short loopers for I do like to sit down once in a while when I am on a mass transit vehicle).

Thus you had the two areas most affected by SKYBUS violently opposed to it and you expected a Politician not to cash in on that opposition? Yes Pete jumped on this wagon, but the opposition was lead by Commissioner Hunt. In many ways Pete was late to join the opposition, in some ways more to please the large number of Police and Firemen who lived in Beechview given their opposition to Pete's freeze on hiring new Police Officers.

While Pete was late his actions were decisive, he forced a study on SKYBUS and its Alternatives and the decision was made that the best solution was to rebuild the streetcar tracks (Which everyone who road those rails like I did could have told them).

Even while I was opposed to SKYBUS to replace the Streetcars, I backed SKYBUS between Downtown and Oakland, the second and third mass transit stops in the State of Pennsylvania (Downtown Philadelphia is Number 1). It made sense between those two area, it removed the buses from Forbes, Fifth and if designed right Center. The problem with that proposal was the Streetcar lines between Oakland and Downtown had already been converted Buses and PAT was happy with the Conversion. PAT did NOT want to build Rapid Transit, PAT wanted bus services for the poor. PAT only embraced SKYBUS for the simple reason PAT could not replace the Valley and Beechview Streetcar lines with Buses. Once PAT's opposition to Rails was overcome by public opposition PAT finally accepted rail service was the most cost effective means to move people between the Bethel Park, Beechview and Downtown Pittsburgh.

Even today I wish PAT would install a SKYBUS system above Fifth Avenue, cut down to Forbes as you enter Oakland, pass Carnegie Museum and Library (And The Cathedral of Learning), pass CMU, turn around and swing back through the Pitt Campus up to Centre Street than along Center to downtown Pittsburgh. A good starting and stopping point would be over the Grant Street station of the LRV system. Such a system would complement the LRV.

A SKYBUS station over the Grant Street LRV station would be an excellent connection between the two systems and enhance both. But that would mean PAT would have adopted mass transit as a Public Good as opposed to something for the poor. It would require some imagination that has been lacking in Allegheny County since the late 1940s when the them County Commissioners Built Greater Pitt Airport rather than expand the County Airport (On the Grounds that by taking over the Moon Area strip mines, cheaply I may add, you could build the biggest Airport in the Eastern US, Greater Pitt is still the largest Airport in the Eastern US).

As to the "New" LRV system (as the Streetcar system is now called) PAT still shows its hatred of it. PAT barely hide its hatred of the fact that the LRV system, once it reopened, EXCEEDED the numbers of expected riders as soon as it opened and kept that number to this day (Which is NOT uncommon for rail systems nationwide, rail and other off the road system almost always exceed Number of Riders expectations done in studies of mass transit usage, while systems that use conventional buses tend to fall short of expectations of the numbers of Riders in such studies. Why the difference? No one knows for no one has done a study on why the difference).

PAT further expressed it hatred of the success of the LRV by imposing a extra fee for users of the LRV during Rush hours (To discourage use, it did not work). PAT meet Federal specs on the JOB, but where it could avoid doing things to improve people access to the LRV PAT has been more an obstacle to over come than a source of improvement. For example, only now 20 years after the LRV was open has PAT finally embraced building Park and Rides that were needed as soon as the LRV had been opened. The slowness of opening the Valley line can also be attributed to PAT, PAT NEVER presented a plan to the Feds or the State to get the Valley line re-built until the Feds finally threaten to take back the money reserved to rebuilt the valley line.

Sorry about the rant, but the SKYBUS debacle is a classic case of local elites (The PAT Board) wanting to get rid of something their disliked but that the people wanted to keep. In the case of SKYBUS, SKYBUS was to kill off the Streetcar from Pittsburgh once and for all. Unfortunately for SKYBUS, it could NOT do the job and was sacrificed instead. My biggest regret about SKYBUS is the failure to built it to Oakland. Its rubber tires would have avoided the problems of the Elevated Trains in NYC and Chicago, its continuous movement would have permitted the students of Pitt, CMU, and Carlow to go back and forth from Downtown Pittsburgh will ease (and would have eased the traffic flow for Automobiles in Oakland). SKYBUS in Oakland running 24 hours a day would have made Pittsburgh a center for Mass transit. SKYBUS would have shown what you could do in a high density urban population area, while the LRV would have show what you can do in a high density suburban area when it came to mass transit. Both would have complemented each other and that is the true tragedy of SKYBUS.
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Coastie for Truth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-29-05 12:43 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. I don't give the PAT Board or Allegheny County's leadership much credit
for intelligence. It seems thing went down hill when Dave Lawrence died, went down hill even faster after Milt Shapp's term as Governor, quit sliding during Caliguiri's too short term as Mayor, and have been in a death spiral ever since.

Sophie was a nice grandmother. Period. Tom Murphy is in way over his head.

I left Pittsburgb 20+ years ago - but my mom and sister and a few cousins are still there (and we have a "family plot" there) - and I own 1/8th interests in two Greenfield rental properties.

Transit systems are built in stages. (in the Bay Area BART was started at the time of SkyBus, and is still ten years away from Silicon Valley). So, I never expected the SkyBus line to reach me until I was retired and gone to warmer climes.

But, I think a successful SkyBus could have been the basis for a new growth industry in the area.

As to trolleys - as the history of the decline of urban mass transit is written - it is becoming clear that General Motors (through legal and questionable means) pushed that result.

My sister teaches in Beechview - so I have some familiarity with the issues.

Also, my dad's family is from the Route 88-51 area, so I know that area.
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happyslug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-29-05 01:27 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. The biggest problem started under Lawrence
He was the one who started NOT budgeting money for police Retirement as the police officer were working (which is what private business do). I believe he believe the City would come back and when the Police Retired the City would have the revenue to pay them. The problem was it never happened. Even under Flaterty he never budgeted for Police and Fire Retirement even while he froze the number of Police and Fire personnel.

This continued under Caliguiri, who actually STOPPED the Freeze, but while before the numbers of Police were near the numbers there should be. I always like the comment made during Caliguiri's Mayorship, Pittsburgh had twice the number of Police officers as did the City of Los Angles, with both having the same population (remember I am talking the size of the cities NOT each cities metro area). I am simply sorry you can NOT have 1500 Police Officers in a city the Size of Pittsburgh. Not that you could not use that many officers, but you just can not afford them. This is the reason for the City's present economic problems. The City has excess debts (For police and fire personal whose service to the City was in the past) and limited means to raise revenue. Limited more by the fact if the City raises taxes to much more and more people who have jobs will leave (and take their tax money with them).

Furthermore the City School Board has made the situation worse. Most people in the City of Pittsburgh pay more in School taxes than Municipal taxes. Study after Study has indicated the number one reason people leave the City for the Suburbs has been the high wage tax. Sofia understood this an reduced the City's wage tax rate but could not convince the School Board to reduce its rate.

The real estate tax is NOT as bad a problem as the wage tax. Studies have shown that most real estate taxes are self-adjusting, if one municipality taxes its property to high, the property's value goes down to reflect the high taxes, thus real estate taxes is self-regulating between neighboring municipalities. On the other hand people see that 2% School rate compared to the surrounding Suburbs 1% rate and moves accordingly. You thus have more and more people on Social Security, welfare or low income jobs in the City do to the high wage tax, yet the School board does NOT want to reduce the wage tax and raise the same revenue through the real estate tax.

As to Murphy, it would have taken a truly great politician to straighten out the mess of the Finances of the City of Pittsburgh. Murphy saved the Pirates (who would have moved unless they had a new stadium, Three Rivers was NEVER a good Baseball Stadium and I have to put that blame on Lawrence for it was doing his administration that the plan for Three Rivers was switched to make it have more Football seats. To get those football seats you killed Three Rivers as a Baseball field.)

Murphy, liked Masloff, has tried to straighten out the problems of the City, and like Masloff took some hits for it. As I said Murphy saved the Pirates for Pittsburgh, and than had to please the Roonies and give them a new Stadium. Murphy managed to get the Stadiums built and get himself re-elected (always a function of a good politician). That is when the roof caved in, he was boxed in. If he raised taxes he would drive more people out of the City, but he had these high number of retirees to pay off (and other city Debts). He had to cut back and the biggest thing in the City Budget is the Police (with the Fire Department Second).

I always said that when the City of Pittsburgh Population dropped below 200,000 in the early 1990s the City should have petition the court for a Judaical finding that the City of Pittsburgh was no longer a Second Class City but a Third Class City and subject to the Third Class City Code not the Second Class City Code. The main Advantage of that would have been the various City-County joint operations would have become county only operations and saved the City a lot of money (But the City Bureaucrats had the State Legislature re-defined a Second Class City as starting out at 150,000 people instead of 200,000 People). Sometime you have to force people to do the right thing, but you also have to be willing to take the hit. In the early 1990s the City was NOT willing to take a hit. Today it is taking a hit and will continue to take a hit until the City accept that you can only pay for so many Policemen, Firemen and other City Employees and sooner or later you have to pay them.
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Coastie for Truth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-29-05 12:22 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. Response to some points
1. It is bad budgeting - and atrocious fiscal policy - to pay retirees from taxes collected after they retire (rather then to set aside money while they are active employees). In my new home town the police and fire have a % of the salary put into CALPERS every year. This is what the Universities, many school systems, Carnegie Library, etc. do through TIAA-CREF.

However, in defense of Lawrence, the City and Commonwealth had a good future and were on a growth curve. I was at Tech then, and Pittsburgh was a growth area.

2. I am not an expert on First Responder management -- I had Coast Guard time, and I am an OES Volunteer (we man the parallel communications system at high rise fires, and 4 alarm fires), and a Red Cross Volunteer (emergency services for families displaced by fires, floods, earthquakes, etc.). So I do work with the Police and Fire. But I do not get involved in budgeting, HR policies, etc. AND I HAVE A SAINT FLORIAN MEDAL IN MY CAR - ASK THE FIRE FIGHTERS - PITTSBURGH'S BRAVEST - ABOUT SAINT FLORIAN

3. When the School Board closed our neighborhood school - we decided to move. And "Three Mile Island" was the signal to leave. It was not taxes -- it was taking away our neighborhood school (and I am an Ivan Itkin - Jimmie Cunningham - Father Charles Owens Rice leftie liberal Democrat --- but not with my kid's school - does that make me a hypocrite - or a good dad).

The massive decline in the Tri-State area was a function of

    1. The end of steel -- and that was a function of the market for automotive steel, which fell by 60%. And that was Detroit's failure to predict the Japanese invasion and meet the threat (I have had Toyotas for 15 years).

    2. The end of synthetic hydrocarbon fuels - we let Bruceton Lab move to Morgantown, steel died (and took the metallurgical coke business down; synthetic fuels can be a byproduct of metallurgical coke).

    3. The abortion of the transit vehicle manufacturing business. As a Westinghouse Engineer - I knew that Pittsburgh's first skybus line was a "revenue service" test track -- and if SkyBus was a success, the systems would be manufactured in Pittsburgh. Note: DC's Metro and San Francisco's BART are successes. And both systems are still adding new lines.

    4. The lack of venture capital to keep the computer software industry here. The computer software industry was nurtured at Tech by Alan Perlis -- and when the "start ups" couldn't get funding locally they went to Boston and Palo Alto---

      a. Cadence - the basic work was done at Tech
      b. Lexis/Nexis/Mead Data - founded by my wife's professor at Pitt
      c. Adobe - founded by Chuck Geschke from Tech
      d. PayPal - started by some survivors of the old Equibank
      e. Dragon Systems - (voice recognition) - founded by some Allderdice and Peabody grads at Tech
      and there are hundreds more.


    I know a lot of those folks - it wasn't high taxes that drove them away (talk about high taxes to somebody starting a business in California or Massachusetts) - it was a very conservative venture capital, banking and legal community that wouldn't invest in anything other then "iron and steel" - and Pete Flaherty who would not do the missionary work to keep those businesses here. Lawrence and Caliguiri and even Sophie fought that battle -- but not Pete.


And Pete's "get tough on the colleges and universities and hospitals because they're just taking property off of the tax rolls for college soirees" was so much bull crap to please the guys at Chiodo's.

As to Duquesne, Pitt, UPMC, CMU, and Carlow - Pete never extended any help for their own expansion plans. Old time steel workers can criticize the universities for "too much tax exempt property" but, as John Kerry adviser and CMU Professor Richard L. Florida wrote -- they are the only engines of economic growth left in Pittsburgh.

Good Richard Florida reads are--

    1. The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life by Richard Florida,

    2. Cities and the Creative Class by Richard Florida

    3. The Flight of the Creative Class: Why America is Losing the Competition for Talent. . . and What We Can Do to Win Prosperity Back by Richard Florida


Pittsburgh's best days are behind it now - and Pete is not blameless.

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happyslug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-31-05 12:48 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. First Steel was dead in the mid-1960s, it just needed to be buried.
As you read me right in the mid 1960s. The Steel Industry in the US was still Healthy during the 1958 Steel Strike (Which the Steel Industry forces knowing the country was already in a Recession and demand for steel was down anyway, thus they could blame the USW instead of their own inept management for the lost of revenue).

By the mid-1960s the Steel industry could see it was in trouble, the big mills of Japans were producing substantial amount of Steel at costs the US could not do. There were two possible solutions to this problem, the first was to build a modern Steel plant on Lake Erie that would be competitive with the Japanese Plants and milk the existing Steel plants tell their have to close down. The second plan was just Milk the existing steel plants and when the plants could no longer produce steel close them down and buy off-shore.

Given today's tendency to off-shore everything it is surprising that US Steel actually tried the first option. This lead to US Steel buying land off Lake Erie to Build a huge Super-Mill. This plan lasted till the early 1970s when US Steel joined the rest of the US Steel Industry and opt for the Second solution (i.e. Milk the old mills and than abandon them). The site for the Super-mill is now Pennsylvania State Game Land #314. For the location and Map of Pennsylvania State Game Land 314 go to the following and scroll down to the last number on the list which is 314:
http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/pgc/game/regions/default.asp...

Anyway, notice either plan required the milking of existing Steel plan (Remember we are talking in terms of the 1960s). To milk the plants the plants had to be operated, a strike would have stopped or reduce greatly the amount of milking the could occur. Thus the 1967 No-Strike Contract. No matter what the USW wanted the US Steel Companies were willing to pay it to milk those plants. I remember reading an Newspaper Article quoting the than President of US Steel that he did not see US Domestic Steel Surviving without nationalization in ten years (again this was a early 1970 article).

My point of all of this that anyone who looked at the situation knew that Steel was going to collapse sometime between the late 1970s and the mid 1980s. Harvard Business School, after WWI, came out with a Rule of Business "If you would NOT invest in that business today, get out of that Business, if you can not get out of the business than milk it for all you can till it falls". That is what the Steel Industry thought of the Steel Industry from the Mid-1960s on-wards, something to milk for its Stock holders and for money to invest in other businesses.

Some people refused to face this fact for example Duquesne Light but the worse offenders were the politic ans of Pittsburgh and the Mon Valley. Thus I can NOT avoid blaming Lawrence. Through Lawrence died in 1966 he was Governor of Pennsylvania from 1959 till 1963. Lawrence was thus Governor at the time Steel first saw that it was dead. He was one of the Voices to build the new Super-mill on Lake Erie, but that would NOT have helped Pittsburgh, in fact would have HURT Pittsburgh. Barr succeeded Lawrence as Mayor for Pittsburgh and than Flaherty succeeded Barr, than Caliguri, Masloff and now Murphy (Somewhere in there Pittsburgh even had A Blackman as mayor. I can not remember his name but he had been President of City Council and I beleive succeeded Caligurias Mayor (do to Caliguri's early death) but did not run for election himself.

Anyway I am getting off the topic. Steel was going downhill from the 1960s onwards, but the City itself was only minimally impacted (Most of the Steel Mills in the City Of Pittsburgh closed years before the 1980s. By the 1980s the only Steel Mills left in the City itself were the old Jones and Laughlin Mills on the South Side and its pair across the river where the new Technology center is today. Pittsburgh was hit hard but the Mon Valley was hit harder. The City suffered more from the generally economic decline in Allegheny County caused by these other Steel mills Closing than its own Mills closing.

Anyway the point is that economic problems for the City of Pittsburgh do to the decline of the Steel Industry was known by the mid-1960s. Lawrence and Barr seems to refuse to address it and with Flaherty everyone hoped for it to go away. Thus the standard excuse that the Decline of the Steel Industry was not foreseeable is FALSE, not only was the decline foreseeable it was foreseen by the Steel Industry and anyone who understood what the Steel Industry was doing (including signing the 1967 No Strike Contract with the USW). It was ignored for it meant cutting the City's budget AND raising taxes to pay for the retirement of the Pittsburgh Police and Firemen. No one wanted to raise Taxes so now the City is in trouble.

For a brief history of Lawenece and other Pa Governors:
http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/governors/lawrence....

Mayor Murphy's Web Cite:
http://www.citymayors.com/usa/pittsburgh.html
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Coastie for Truth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-07-05 01:32 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. I was a "Summer Hire" at Monroeville R&D in 1959
and I could see the short shrift they were giving to "oxygen injection" and more scrap (instead of pig iron). The MBA's had replaced the real engineers at USS by 1959.

My uncle, a retired steel company VP (worked his way from a laborer - in the service during WW2, then went to "Tech" under the GI Bill) used to say:

    "Nothing ruins a good engineer more then getting an MBA degree"
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jimsstore Donating Member (1 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-11-05 01:19 PM
Response to Reply #3
8. The demise of the trolley in Pittsburgh and other cities
Oh here we go ahead about how GM conspired to eliminate the trolley systems all over the country, The trolleys were in decline as early as the 20's Traction companies even that early were converting to buses. Rideship was declining as were their profits. They were looking for a way out of the high cost of maintaining rail systems. The writting was on the wall by the 30's. I would be a fool to say GM and other copanies were not glad to have this happen, but to say they were a direct cause is simply not true. It true that NCL was controled by GM indirectly, but lets get real if you owned a co that built buses and also controled some transit companies would you not use your own buses. I loved the old streetcars in Chicago but lets face it at the time they left it was becoming increaseingly difficult form them to fight the cars. It was time for them to be off the streets. I do think a rail system with its ROW is best
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happyslug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-21-05 06:34 PM
Response to Reply #8
11. What are you talking about??????
Notice I mentioned the Streetcar line THAT WAS THE FASTEST SYSTEM THAT EXISTED IN THAT CORRIDOR. This route was (and is) on its own Right of Way (ROW) and has been since the late 1860s (and that is right the 1860s i.e. right after the Civil War). I tried to stay out of the debate as to the general decline of the streetcar (which had more to do with a general hostility to streetcars than actual conspiracy or in-efficiency). My point was Skybus was developed as a replacement for the Drake/Library Streetcar system when it became clear that buses COULD NOT replace the Streetcar on that line. Almost all of the Streetcars that survived the 1950s (let alone the 1960s) were of this type (i.e. ON THEIR OWN PRIVATE RIGHT OF WAY).

Now if you go to my paper on the the raise of the Suburbs I go into the decline of the Streetcar. The Demise of the Streetcar had more to do with a general hostility to Rail on Road transit by the Various State's Highway Departments than it had to do with actual advantages of Buses over Rail (The main reason rail was replaced by Buses in most Cities was do to the need to replace not only the rails, but the overhead wire and the generating sources, costs that most cities did not want to get into. Even with these costs Streetcar were competitive with Buses until the State Highway Departments made a determined efforts to keep Streetcars off their roads).

As to your history of the decline of Streetcar it is in error on three important points:
1. Electric Railways peaked in 1918 but continued to grow till 1927 in Urban environments. Why the decline after 1918? Almost all of the Decline was in Rural electric railways (interurbans). These electric Railways had been built to compete with the Steam Locomotive Railroads of the time period (i.e. in RURAL AMERICA). With the decline in Rural America after WWI these Electric Railways were the first to feel the pinch of that decline. This was accelerated by the adoption of the Automobile. Since most of these Electric Railway routes had been marginal in the first place, they were the first to fail. Furthermore as more and more people switched to automobiles, the Electric Railways had to cut back service, which caused even more people to abandoned them. This "cycle of Decline" lead to the vast majority of Rural Electric Railways failing in the 1920s. On the other hand the Urban lines expanded, but not enough to compensate for the rapid decline of the Rural Routes. Thus you had a "Decline" in the 1920s but only in one aspects of the Streetcar/Electric Railway system.

2. In the mid-1920s the Depression set in. While the Stock market did not crash till October 1929 (and the actual depression really did not set in till March 1930) manufacturing (other than automotive) was in decline all through the 1920s. Thus in the mid-1920s you had the peak of inner-city Electric Railway usage, but the decline was marginal, more to do with the general economic decline that forced people NOT to use the Streetcar as opposed to abandoning the Streetcar for the Automobile. Throughout the 1930s and WWII the Streetcar held its own but to keep fares low most did not take in enough income to replace their Cars, Tracks, Generating Equipment and other good their needed to stay in Business.

3. By the end of WWII Automotive Traffic had increased so much that it as clear that Public Transit and Auto Transit could no longer operate on the same roads. Drivers were complaining not only of streetcars stopping at every red-light but of having to avoid driving on the tracks.

Another post WWII factor was that during the Great Depression various state Legislatures had taken money from Gasoline Taxes and spent the money on non-transit items. Do to these expenditures Various states added State Constitutional Amendments putting restrictions on how Gasoline Taxes could be spent, generally restricting such Gasoline Taxes to Highways. Most state Highway department than determined that the amendment forbidden them to spend ANY highway tax money on roads where Streetcar Tracks were on. Thus to get the State Highway Department to improve a Bridge, or a road that had streetcar tracks on it, the Streetcars tracks had to go. Furthermore if the transit company decided to opt for a separate Right of Way (ROW), the state Department of Highway would NOT pay for that ROW even if it removed transit vehicles (and eased congestion) from Public Highways.

Why the State Highway Departments adopted this policy is a product of history. First prior to 1964 and the US Supreme Court One man One Vote ruling, Rural Areas had greater say in their State Legislature than Urban Areas (Even of more people lived in Urban Areas). This Rural domination meant that more money went to Rural Roads than Urban Roads (and even less to any type of Transit). This pre-existing prejudice against urban areas was re-enforced by GM in that only buses could provide any form of Mass Transit to Rural America (Even if it was once every couple of days). Thus you had a prejudice for Buses in the State Legislatures for buses even while most of the larger urban areas retained Streetcars (1940s and 1950s).

As the price of Gasoline went down in the 1950s (Dropping to its lowest price in real terms in the late 1960s) the advantages of the Electric Rail system over buses declined. Roads construction had permitted wider roads so bigger buses could be operated on these improved roads (Streetcar by their tracks could be fitted onto very narrow streets buses because they had no such "guides" needed wider streets to operate on). Electric rates were declining in the 1960s but no where near what gasoline and diesel prices declined in the 1950s and 1960s. A complicating factor is that when most streetcar lines had been built, the Streetcar Company had to agree to pave the streets the streetcar operated on. These costs continued into the 1940s and 1950s (In fact in Allegheny County Pennsylvania their are eight small bridges North of Pittsburgh that are still owned by the local Transit Authority do to its predecessor's construction of those bridges for its streetcar AND automotive traffic about 1910, even through the last streetcar ran on them, in the early 1960s).

Now with the above you have by the 1950s another decline in Streetcar usage. It is clear, today, the better solution would have been to rebuilt the Streetcar lines on their own Right of way but this was NOT politically possible in the 1950s and 1960s. Highway funds could NOT be used for that purpose and you had no other real steady source of funding for such improvements. The PCC cars had been adopted in the late 1940s by most surviving Streetcar companies for the simple reason their could hold more people than the buses of the time period. You would see a vast improvements in the road system from 1945 till 1960 (as the country geared up for building the Inter-state Highway System), improvements that finally permitted the extensive use of buses of the size of Streetcars (In Pittsburgh several of the older pre-WWII GM buses were kept for decades just to operate on some of the narrow streets of Pittsburgh, streets larger buses could NOT operate but could carry no where near the number of riders that a streetcar could).

The big problem for Streetcars in the 1960s was that their was NO funds to keep them operating. It was clear by the 1960s that Transit could NOT finance itself, areas that had tried that approach just saw their Transit companys fail. With each failure Cites and Suburbs found out how dependent their were on their Transit systems. Most poor people could NOT get around without the Transit system but at the same time could NOT pay enough to keep the system operating. In Pittsburgh do to the Various Bankruptcy of the Old Pittsburgh Railway Company, no real improvements to the Rail system had occurred since the 1940s (when the last PCC were bought). Something had to be done. The best choice would have been a commitment for transit on its ROW but neither the County nor the state wanted to pay for that costs. With most of the People of Allegheny County living outside the City of Pittsburgh by 1965 the City could not be expected to bare the costs. Streetcars were still viable, especially given the City of Pittsburgh Topography, but the State hatred of Rails in its Highways doomed the Streetcars. Thus when the Port Authority was formed it was based on the premise of getting rid of the Streetcar.

Thus we are back to the problem I started with, the Port Authority wanted to get rid of ALL STREETCARS, but there was two routes that based on how the routes ROW ran no bus could replace them AND PROVIDE THE SAME LEVEL OF SERVICE (The roads did not Run that way AND the ROW bypassed all of the bottlenecks on the roads along the Route). Skybus was viewed as the solution to THIS PROBLEM i.e. how to get rid of the last Streetcar line in the County NOT to the problem of how best to provide transit service.

Now I have also addressed why the streetcar died out in the 1960s, it had more to do with overt hostility than any real advantage of the bus over the Streetcar. This hostility was used by GM to convert transit systems to buses, the real question is how much of this hostility was caused by the mere existence of Streetcars on Public Streets (and thus blocking cars) and how much was the product of lobbying by GM. GM was NOT the sole reason streetcars died out world wide (and GM did have branches in Germany and the Rest of Europe so GM Lobbied in those countries in addition to the US, thus what happened world wide does NOT exclude GM's anti-streetcar efforts). They were other pre-existing conditions that supported replacing streetcars with Buses. The real issue is would the conversion have occurred to the extent it did WITHOUT GM lobbying? I do not think so, some of the marginal urban lines would have been replaced by buses, but if the Streetcars had survived the 1960s the fact it is easier to remove Streetcars from highways and onto their own ROW than it is to removed buses to ROW (do to the best ROW is an underground tunnel and Streetcars make few fumes so the Tunnel does not need the same level of air circulation as a tunnel design for buses).
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PhillyHank Donating Member (1 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-15-05 09:35 PM
Response to Original message
9. Pete! RePete! Stick with Pete!
I just happened to stumble upon this discussion and, I must say, that I am impressed with the depth and breadth of the observations on Pittsburgh in the early to mid 70s. I've lived in Philadelphia for the past 20 years (couldn't find a "real" job after graduating from college in Pittsburgh during the Reagan years), but I was born and raised in "the 'burgh". I can't say that I miss it, but Pittsburgh does have a special place in my heart.

A couple of observations:

To "Happyslug", the President of City Council who became mayor upon Dick Caliguiri's death was Sophie Masloff. I remember that day well because I heard it early that morning on KYW radio (in Philadelphia) as I was getting ready to catch the Amtrak train to Pittsburgh to see family members. By the time that I got to Pittsburgh, I saw video on the KDKA-TV news with reporters interviewing Sophie early that morning. I think that you are referring to the man who was City Council President when David Lawrence was elected governor. I can't remember his name, but I don't think it was "A Blackman"

"Coastie for truth" and the other making observations about SkyBus.....there's no doubt that Pittsburgh missed a great opportunity when it came to a modern transit system. But please keep in mind that it was not only Pete Flaherty, but the late County Commissioner (Dr.) William Hunt and numerous borough mayors and township commissioners as well who filed suit in Common Pleas Court to enjoin the Port Authority from beginning SkyBus (or, as they called it, the Early Action Program). Many of those mayors and commissioners were from the same South Hills communities that SkyBus was designed to serve. As an aside, I can't remember the name of the Common Pleas Court judge who granted the injunction. But I do recall that he was a Democratic Party stalwart (placed on the bench by the old Allegheny County Democratic Committee Policy Committee----made up of Barr, Staisey, Foerster and other elected officials). The word was that Leonard Staisey and Tom Foerster were none too pleased with that decision (which ultimately led to PAT dropping the Early Action Program).

So why didn't the home folk in Allegheny County (especially the South Hills) embrace SkyBus the same fervor as those in San Francisco or Washington? Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that neither one of those cities had ANY mass transit system in the areas now served by BART and the DC Metro. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, already had a viable (though somewhat antiquated) transit infrastructure serving the South Hills. Those folks were comfortable with what they had. Why did they need some "new-fangled" unmanned bus on elevated tracks when they had the "good old streetcar"?

Again, Pittsburgh missed a great opportunity but it got down to "location, location, location". The South Hills may have been the immediately growing region of the county at the time. But if you look into later decades, it was the north and west of the City of Pittsburgh that saw growth. At the time the SkyBus litigation, Flaherty, Hunt and the suburban mayors/commissioners released an alternative plan to SkyBus that not only called upon strengthening the South Hills trolley network, but pushed for "heavy steel rail" transit to the Mon Valley, Beaver Valley and Armstrong Valley. The rights of way were already there could have been more easily accomplished than the construction required for SkyBus.

But like most things in the Pittsburgh (and Allegheny County) body politic, elected officials don't always see beyond the immediate needs.

As to the observations that Mayor Flaherty did little to encourage the expansion of Pitt, Duquesne, CMU and other institutions of higher learning, I say "so what"? I can recall reading an article a couple of years ago on the City of Pittsburgh's challenge with the property tax base. The article quoted a master's thesis that Pete wrote (while a member of City Council in the mid 1960s) that identified the coming crisis that Pittsburgh would face because of the high proportion of property owned by universities, hospitals and other institutions not subject to property tax. Love it or hate it (and most of us do), the property tax is the fiscal life support of municipalities, school districts and counties in Pennsylvania. Until Pennsylvania voters have the guts to reform that taxation system (which we had during Bob Casey's tenure as governor), we have accept that fact that a regressive property tax system is here to stay.

What Flaherty proposed in his thesis was that cities be able to collect from such "non-profit" institutions what later became adopted in Philadelphia by (then) Mayor Ed Rendell---Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT). The Pittsburgh "non-profits" were horrified at the time about being asked to pay something toward the basic municipal services (police, fire, sanitation, etc) that their employees (often residing outside of the city) enjoyed during their workdays. Fortunately for Rendell, he was able to pioneer PILOT in Philadelphia and the "good corporate citizens" (like the one that I work for) quickly stepped up to the plate and did what was right. In the City of Philadelphia, approximately 40% of property is wned by governkment and non-profit institutions. I'm sure that the CIty of Pittsburgh closely approximates that (if not exceeds) given its geographic size in comparison to Philadlephia. From what I have read from afar in the on-line editions of the Post-Gazette and Tribune (hey....I try to get both viewpoints!), I can't say that Pitt, CMU, UPMC and other Pittsburgh embraced the concept with any degree of fervor.

But to return to Coastie for Truth's original question..."Blast from the past - Pete Flaherty - Good or bad for Pittsburgh?", my response is DEFINITELY GOOD. Deficit spending ended. Basic city services and productivity increased. Fiscally-responsible tax cuts were realized by city taxpayers. City services were delivered to neighborhoods without regard to which Democratic committee person was in favor and which was not. City employees were hired on merit instead of political connections. No public corruption or scandals involving city officials. And Pittsburgh sports teams were in the World Series and the Super Bowl. What more can you ask??

Pete Flaherty was the right man needed at that particular time for Pittsburgh.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts!
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The Zanti Regent Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-21-05 02:23 AM
Response to Original message
10. Thumbs WAY down on Flaherty
I lived in Pittsburgh from 1973-77, I was going to Pitt while Flaherty was mayor during his second term. It was bad enough that he opposed SkyBus, which was the #1 disaster he presided over. Top on that his obsession with cutting taxes and services. I remember how Schenely Park deteriorated. You used to be able to swim in the park's lake, until too many tires and junk got tossed in. Instead of patching potholes timely, that fool was too busy placing "STATE MAINTAINED ROADS" all over the city.

Phipps Conservatory was a wonderful showplace for exotic plants, every year it had a wonderful Spring and fall flower show presided over by Frank Curto. Well, Flaherty fired Curto and the exotic plant collection went the way of the Aviary, Buhl Planetarium, Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh Zoo and other treasures. All of them went downhill due to Flaherty's deliberate neglect.

Pete Flaherty was a real incompetent fool, but his brother, Jim, was even MORE incompetent as County Commissioner. Folks does the name of Robert "I GOT CAUGHT WITH A CHEAP HOOKER IN A MOTEL AND ELSIE HILLMAN PAID HER OFF" Pierce bring back happy memories? Remember how Flaherty and Pierce cut services beyond the bone? Jim Flaherty pushed his ballot initiative that rolled back Lawrence's clear air initiatives? Under Staisey and Foerster, there were some innovative programs, such as hiring mentally retarded people to serve as courriers in the county buildings. Jim Flaherty put an end to that and tossed those folks back on SSI.

The best thing Jimmy Carter did was get Flaherty out of the mayor's office.

Flaherty may have tried to atone for his past sins when he was elected County Commissioner and he patched up relations with Tom Foerster, but by then it was too late.

Oh yeah, I still remember when Pete ran statewide first against Schweicker for Senator and then Thornburgh for Governor. Both of those campaigns were just incompetent. Even in 1980, when he could have stopped Specter, he didn't, once again Pete pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory. What a jerk he was!
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