Monday, February 18, 2008

The Last Straw For Pittsburgh: I think I’m going to send the city the bill for my tire.

I hate to follow up such a fun topic like the rebirth of the art of the dunk in the NBA with a rant on pittsburgh, but alas I have no choice after tonight.

I’ve made it really clear that I’ve been less than thrilled with living in pittsburgh for the last 3 years or so, well tonight my frustration with this place hit an all time high and surprisingly it has nothing to do with anything at the law school.

Many of you have probably filed your taxes already, I haven’t yet, but will soon. I didn’t make much money in 2006, so last year when I filed I wasn’t charged any federal taxes, neither was I charged state taxes, but somehow the city of pittsburgh thought that it was such a privilege to live here that I should pay them $143.

I have no problem paying taxes, I love my county and think it deserves my financial support. Also, the state of PA has some nice areas that I wouldn’t mind financially supporting via taxes. But the idea that pittsburgh deserves money from me is crazy. If I could see one single area where they are investing this money to make my live here better then I would be perfectly fine with it, but as it stands the infrastructure of this place is falling apart despite the fact they will tax any activity you may want to do here. I’ve lived in much bigger cities which took care of their roads and other governmental responsibilities really well without any state or local taxes. So, this conundrum is what leads me to tell you my story from tonight.

Tonight I went out to watch wrestling at a local restaurant. As I drove there I swerved to avoid a traffic cone tuned over in the street. I was able to avoid the traffic cone, but still hit what I assume it was put there to help me avoid, a massive pot hole. I wasn’t driving all that fast, certainly less than 35 miles an hour, but as I continued to drive I could tell that my tire had been cut by the impact. Interestingly, just Friday I had heard on the morning news of another area where a pot hole had caused 8 flat tires in an hour. Obviously I wasn’t happy about the situation, but I was able to find an emergency pull off before I wound up riding on my rim. I changed the tire and wondered why the city hadn’t spent any of my $143 from last year filling any of their pot holes.

So, I make it to my destination on my spare and enjoy the show. As I head home I feel another bump, this time going less than 25 miles an hour, and surprise, surprise, I suddenly feel that I’m driving on a flat tire again. This time there wasn’t even a cone, even though I was on the same street. That’s right, pittsburgh’s roads are so bad that I got a flat tire from different pot holes on both my way to and from my destination.

It’s not like these pot holes are a rarity, the roads here feel like you’re driving on a gigantic asphalt piece of Swiss cheese. Also, there are quite a few man hole cover like things that aren’t level with the road. Get this, they constructed these things, made them not level with the road, and on top of that put them directly on the part of the road where your tire runs, not in the center of the road like anyone with a brain would have done. These things aren't bad enought to pop a tire, but are bad enough to really annoy you while you drive.

So, as a result of this insanity I have officially eliminated any possibility of staying in pittsburgh when my lease run out. Whatever small chance there was of me staying is now gone. I know some will say “but what if you get a great high paying job offer out of the blue that’s in pittsburgh?” To them I say this; get a stop watch and time me making world record speed as I run from this place no matter what.


ClickNathan said...

I would think those other cities that you've lived in are certainly taxing you, perhaps just not taxing your income. There are plenty of taxes you'll never even notice - two years from now no one will realize they're paying a drink tax. PA already charges you taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, and many other things not included in the 6% state-wide sales tax. So just because a city isn't taxing your income, don't think they're not taxing you at all.

Also, potholes suck. I completely agree, but when you see a temperature change of 80 - 90 degrees from summer to winter, you've got to realize there'll be damage. This isn't just a Pittsburgh issue, it's all of the states with four seasons.

As for things this city is doing to improve itself:

• 5 new bicycle lanes have been put into the city between last summer and now
• the entire Transit system is being re-evaluated and their management largely replaced to improve public transportation
• Flexcar (now Zipcar) was successfully courted, eliminating the need for more than 15 private cars per Zipcar
• $7M spent on pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure over 2007/2008

You can thank both the City of Pittsburgh and those of us who opt out of using the very cars which are the vast majority of the reason we have so many potholes.

Not to mention that we've got 5 large to very large city parks and countless smaller ones, 3 stadiums (two of which are only a few years old, the third soon to be replaced, and Heinz Field is often referred to as the best football stadium in the US), 5 world class museums and I could go on...

I'm not saying your particular situation doesn't suck - Jesus, two flats from potholes in one night is enough to push anyone over the edge - I just thought I'd point out some of the things you $$$ is being spent on. :)

Adam Samons said...

From living in cities without an income tax I’m well aware of the other ways that they find to tax their citizens. I guess you think that I’ve never lived in one of these cities when a new tax on something other than income is attempted to be levied. My problem with pittsburgh isn’t an issue with collecting an income tax specifically, but with the fact that the taxes they collect, through whatever means they choose, are higher than in other areas I’ve lived while returning less value to me as a resident. Let’s not forget that in addition to income tax and property tax (if unlike me you own a home) pittsburgh has a slew of other taxes like the parking tax, the new drink tax, business privilege tax, the list goes on and on. My problem is a simple consumer issue, I don’t see value coming from the dollars I pay, but I’ll cover that more below in my analysis of the programs you bring up.

Next, you seem to have made an assumption that I use a car as a primary means of transportation. I actually only drive to New Castle 3 times a week and out to the North Hills about twice a month on weekends, other than that I’m on the buss, so I’m aware of what my money is being spent on and have my own opinions on these programs, some good, some not.

1st potholes: Yes, they will always be an issue in any city with 4 seasons, and I understand that it will be an issue in these areas. That’s not what I have a problem with. My issue lies with the way in which pittsburgh handles this issue, or perhaps I should say doesn’t handle it. Simply relying on the “Oh, that’ll always be a problem” line isn’t an excuse for sucking at trying to make the problem better. Just because I have a somewhat slow metabolism doesn’t mean I stop working out, in fact it makes me work out harder.

2nd: My tax money going for new bike lanes: While I’m all for taking as many cars off the road as possible bike lanes in pittsburgh are not an efficient use of tax money. The reality is that the weather keeps many people who would like to bike from doing so for much of the year. Also the city’s topography is another challenge to making biking an efficient alternative means of transportation for many or most people.

3rd Zipcar: I like this program and am happy that pittsburgh was able to get it here. I’ll give the city credit here for recognizing a good opportunity to bring in and work with a private company with a pretty nice service.
With that said I do question whether in reality it eliminates “the need for more than 15 private cars per Zipcar.” I know a few people who use the service and they all don’t have cars and rely solely on the bus. I have yet to see anyone go from having a car to just relying on the Zipcar service and public transportation. From my limited sample size what I’ve seen is the program puts Zipcars on the road (which are a godsend for people without a car like myself up until a few months ago) without taking any personal cars off the road. I’ll admit I haven’t done any deep study of Zipcar’s impact on how many cars, if any, are taken off the roads, I’m just going off personal experience here. Though I would be interested in seeing any research that has been done.

4th Public Transportation: It’s been my primary means of getting anywhere for the three years I’ve been here and remains to be even though I have a car now. I’m aware they’re trying to make changes, but at this point it’s far too early to tell if these changes will turn out for the better. I’ll just say that I’m skeptical based on the town’s track record.