Who to Contact About the Pittsburgh Drink Tax

I recently wrote a post about the new Drink Tax and what type of accountability the county and Port Authority will have with the money it raises. I have recently emailed the Dan Onorato, the council and the Port Authority to ask for just that: an explanation of what will be done with the money; what are the measures of success.

If you would like to email them, you can do so as well using the following contacts:

Dan Onorato’s email is executive@alleghenycounty.us
Contact the Port Authority’s Community Outreach program at asnyder@portauthority.org
Email all of Alleghency Council at council@county.allegheny.pa.us

Update: I received an autoreply from A Snyder at the Port Authority that stated:

“I will be out of the office until the end of January. Please send all customer related issues to Dottie Buchanan and Brian Dudas.”

No email addresses for Dottie or Brian, though one might assume that they’re dbuchanan@portauthority.org and bdudas@portauthority.org, and judging by the message A Snyder may not be reading after all.

I’ve included my email in the Read more… section of this post for anyone who might be interested, or you can use it as a template if you appreciate a certain degree of rashness to your statements.

Hello Mr. Onorato,

I am writing to inquire as to the $30 million which is to be raised with the Drink Tax and used for the Port Authority. In particular, I would like to know what the measurement for success is. For example, next January, after the county has had a chance to collect this money, what real improvements will I see to the transit system?

Will the money be used to get rid of the costly, ineffective and insufficient phone operators who are the current solution for assisting riders who are looking for scheduling information and replace them with an automated system that can be accessed any time, day or night, unlike the phone operators who are only available during business hours and can’t even be reached during rush hours? Or will the money be used to build a website which is Web standards compliant, works on all browsers, is accessible to all people (the current site is not Section 508 compliant and therefore cannot be accessed by many disabled users who require a screen reader or other devices to access websites) and even works on mobile phones? Certainly these two improvements alone would dramatically increase the ease of use of finding a bus, particularly to people who are in transit and are more likely to have access to a mobile phone than a bus schedule or desktop computer connection.

Or is this money simply going to be used to continue to prop up a failing system riddled with bad business practices? Has the Port Authority done an in depth study, not just analyzing existing routes but the need for potential new routes or major route adjustments, to make sure they are even providing the most valid service? For that matter, has anyone done an in depth study on the Port Authority itself to see if its practices are sound ones modeled after other successful transportation systems throughout the world?

Or will this money be slowly diverted from the Port Authority, perhaps, as so many taxes in the past have been used to raise money for one thing, and then spend it on something else?

As any successful business requires, I am sure that your office and the Port Authority have some sort of measure of success for this program. Can you please share it with me so that I will be able to look back a year from now and see what progress has been made on my dime?

Thank you,

Nathan Swartz
Resident of Pittsburgh’s Shadyside Neighborhood
Web Designer, Business Owner, Regular Bus Rider, Drinking Establishment Frequenter

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