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Port Authority board fires steve bland

This topic contains 36 replies, has 19 voices, and was last updated by  scott 1 yr, 9 mos.

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erok

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Feb 1 2013 at 11:43am #

yowza!

http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/transportation/port-authority-board-fires-bland-672980/


erok

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Feb 1 2013 at 11:44am #

The dismissal was engineered by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. He has not commented on the matter but sources who asked not to be identified have said friction developed between the two over Mr. Fitzgerald’s desire to have greater control of day-to-day operations at the agency.


erok

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Feb 1 2013 at 11:47am #

sorry, i’m posting as i’m reading the article.

first this: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/3384191-74/brimmeier-turnpike-former#axzz2JfOuKOhD

then this “The vote to dismiss Mr. Bland was 5-3, with four members recently appointed by Mr. Fitzgerald all voting yes, along with board member Jeff Letwin, who was appointed by the prior county executive, Dan Onorato. The others voting to fire were Joe Brimmeier, Connie Parker, John Tague, Tom Donatelli.”


rice rocket

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Feb 1 2013 at 11:49am #

180k for a CEO is all they’re willing to spend? No wonder they’re so dysfunctional.


erok

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Feb 1 2013 at 11:52am #

serious. the other cities that bland interviewed with a few months ago, were starting at twice that. jacksonville and i think atlanta if my memory serves me


Mick

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Feb 1 2013 at 12:12pm #

“Look, dude, we asked you to do the impossible SIX DIFFERENT TIMES. But have you EVER come through? Even once?”

What has Fitzgerald ever done for us? (actually this is a serious question.)


StuInMcCandless

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Feb 1 2013 at 12:16pm #

Recall that many thought Bland was overpaid. Paragraph 14 of my 3,600-word rant on transit funding, from August 2010, got into it with fists a-flyin':

I am tired of hearing that Steve Bland should resign, take a pay cut, blah blah blah. Steve Bland is not the problem, nor was Paul Skoutelas before him, nor Bill Millar before him. He’s the man at the top. He makes $180K. Find 10 other people working in the region with 3,000 people working for them, supervising over $400 million in annual budgets, who do not make $180K. In the private sector, if you found 10 such people, they are making well beyond $180K. He is not overpaid. And even if you removed his position or forced him to work for free, you have only eliminated $180,000 of the $47,000,000 hole, or about 1/250 of the problem. Sorry, but there are not 250 Steve Blands on staff to fire. So, if this is your argument, get out of the conversation, and shut up.

I liked the guy. I’ll be sorry to see him go.


rice rocket

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Feb 1 2013 at 12:16pm #

Mick:

Stu: It’s more damning about what PAT is willing to spend on talent than it is about Steve’s actual ability. Yeah, maybe you can find a gem that’s willing to work for $50k a year, but it’ll take you 10 tries to get there, each which will have multi-million dollar mistakes.


erok

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Feb 1 2013 at 12:22pm #

well said stu


jonawebb

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Feb 1 2013 at 12:47pm #

It seems like you guys know a lot about whether Steve Bland was doing a good job, so I’ll defer to your judgment there, but referring to the absurdly inflated salaries of other CEOs to justify his high salary just seems wrong. Are any of these guys really worth $150K+/year? I knew all kinds of really smart people at CMU who worked really hard and made a lot less than that. And high paid CEOs make multi-million dollar mistakes, too, you know.


StuInMcCandless

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Feb 1 2013 at 1:01pm #

I’m less concerned about them paying the CEO $180K, and more concerned about finding the $330M/year to actually run the system. As opposed to expecting to run a $330M/year system with only $250M/year in revenue.

Bland was paid to do that, and to find that $X million/year, given that the state starts from ZERO each spring, with zero dedicated funding.

I recently dug back into writings I did on this subject in 1996. Precious little has changed since Bill Millar was at the helm, and they were calling for his head on a plate.


erok

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Feb 1 2013 at 1:22pm #

jonawebb, while i agree with you in spirit, the reality of the matter is that people who are experienced in running organizations that big have huge salaries.


Mick

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Feb 1 2013 at 1:55pm #

@jonawebb Are any of these guys really worth $150K+/year?

yeah. they are.

The trouble isn’t CEOs getting a little more than $150,000

The problem is that you can’t find CEOs for sizable getting that. My imrpession is that 8 figure salaries are the norm and for the compaies that rhave recieved federal bailouts? Bonus and stock options are closer to $150 M.

I have no problem with CEOs getting low-level doctor salaries, though.


brybot

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Feb 1 2013 at 2:52pm #

Definitely got to side with jonawebb on this issue.

In my opinion, its pretty sickening to see people getting rich off of other peoples’ hard work. Sure, a CEO is managing the whole company, and that requires experience and knowledge. But the company would be nothing if not for all of the individuals making things happen.


Pierce

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Feb 1 2013 at 3:21pm #

@brybot

As far as I know, nobody who works for PAT is starving or I’d bet is even below the poverty level. I’m not a fan of capitalism either, but I don’t think Bland’s salary is a huge contributor or part of that system.

Heck, if we go by Obama’s standard, the guy is still decidedly middle class.

How many of us could point to bosses who manage far, far, far less people and make at least half that? How many people at Google do you think make half that? (If I remember correctly their median salary was 100k)


jonawebb

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Feb 1 2013 at 3:46pm #

Thinking about it, I guess it’s a supply and demand thing. I don’t think the salary reflects intrinsic value. The number of people who have managed a comparable organization, who know transit, who are willing to move to Pittsburgh, and who are willing to deal with the PAT board is so small that they can charge a high salary. Just like ordering a custom bike — if you specify every little detail you’ll end up spending a pretty penny even if the bike you end up with has the exact same geometry and components as something off the shelf. It’s not that the bike, or person, really has that much value, it’s that the supply is so small the price gets really high.
I don’t know about Bland, but I doubt the average CEO does much if anything to justify their high salary. I’d be willing to bet that almost all the time what they do is fill a chair and make decisions that any other intelligent and informed person would. So, really, anybody with a transit background (I’m thinking Stu, actually) could do this job. But try convincing the PAT board to hire somebody who hasn’t run a comparable organization. They’d never take the chance.


erok

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Feb 1 2013 at 4:01pm #

all i’m saying is that dude could get a ton more in the private sector, and in reality, $150K isn’t that unreasonably huge.


Marko82

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Feb 1 2013 at 4:15pm #

I’m on the side of $180K being an ok salary. Also, when you are CEO it’s more about internal politics (and in this case real politics) than what you know about transit. To use a sports analogy, a really good football coach would probably make an equally good baseball coach, because their job isn’t so much the x’s and o’s of the sport, but more about managing the other coaches and making sure everybody is focused on the right things. It’s the pitching coach who needs to know the intricacies of pitching not the head coach. But then the head coach needs to make sure that the pitching coach is doing their job sufficiently.

I would be willing to say that in that regard PAT would be better suited to finding someone who is a very good “head coach” rather than some transit wonk. How many of those $90K managers are doing their job effectively? Bring in a good ‘ol boy (Brimmeier) and you’re probably stuck with the same old 90K pitching coaches.


WillB

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Feb 1 2013 at 4:28pm #

Saying that any person with a transit background could run the Port Authority diminishes the incredibly difficult work that Steve Bland did during his tenure. He oversaw the transformation of the Port Authority into a dramatically more efficient system during a time of perpetual budget crisis, and did so in a way that emphasized community input over heavy handed top-down decision making. I like Stu, but I don’t think he (or, really, many other people) could have done that.


Vannevar

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Feb 1 2013 at 5:38pm #

Word being circulated among the PAT unions is that it wasn’t the budget issues or internal politics that prompted the County Executive to push for the dismissal.

The scuttlebutt is that Bland approved a change to their intranet site that had big blocky chunks of grayish-blue and blueish-gray and the County Executive is colorblind and very sensitive about it. Also, the most-recently-read functionality wasn’t working.


StuInMcCandless

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Feb 1 2013 at 7:37pm #

Marko has it right. And I do like the head-coach analogy. Bland was there to play the political game, trying to wrangle $400M/year for capital and operating projects, from politicians who wanted nothing to do with transit. He also had to deal with an intransigent labor union, a media conglomerate which only reports transit news in a bad light, and trying to bring a chronically underfunded operation into the 21st century.

I could not run Port Authority, but I wouldn’t mind being a board member. Indeed, John Tague (who voted for firing Bland, btw) and I are both past presidents of the Allegheny County Transit Council.


erok

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Feb 1 2013 at 8:15pm #

stu, were you surprised that john tague voted to fire bland?


StuInMcCandless

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Feb 1 2013 at 9:24pm #

Yes. Of course, note that I have been out of the loop for over six months since I left ACTC. I know and respect John Tague, and know him to have his head on straight, not “owned” by anyone.


dmtroyer

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Feb 1 2013 at 10:19pm #

erm, I guess I can appreciate the head coach analogy… but I know for a fact a coach in professional baseball who hasn’t played professional baseball will get very little respect from the players they are tasked to coach.


Marko82

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Feb 1 2013 at 11:33pm #

@dmtroyer, good point. But then you probably don’t want to hire the owners nephew either.

Lynn Collins was talking on WQED earlier this evening about how rude and antiquated the current system is and how user unfriendly it is. It would be nice to be able to tell when the next bus was coming given smartphones etc. And it shouldnt take a decade to implement smart-cards so users dont need exact change. For me the new CEO should understand technology and implementing change. Hell, just posting paper schedules and maps at stops would take us light years from where we currently are.

Edit: When I first moved into my house twelve years ago I needed to go into town so I walked to the bus stop and waited for my bus. Unbeknownst to me was that I didnt have the most recent schedule (because really, how can you tell?). I was waiting for an inbound bus while two different outbound buses stopped to discharge people right across the street from me. I remember making eye contact with both drivers and neither one said a thing even though it was obvious I was waiting for the bus. Turns out there were no more inbound busses at that time of day. I ended up having to walk back home and taking my car AND being late for the show I was going to. BTW, those bus stop signs are still up, even though that route was discontinues almost a year ago. Great service.


salty

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Feb 2 2013 at 12:58am #

I’m certainly in favor of new technology, but people have been riding the bus for years without any technology beyond a printed schedule. To look at it another way, before they were forced to change so many routes due to lack of funding, it was a lot less confusing.

I’m definitely looking forward to smart cards too but for the past few years I’ve been buying tickets from Giant Eagle. It’s a huge improvement – I always have a few on hand and never have to worry about change.

Definitely my #1 wish is real-time bus tracking. Not knowing if you missed the bus or if it’s just late is the worst. Although, again, if the system was decently funded so it had more frequent headways it wouldn’t matter so much.

Anyways, I don’t ride the bus a ton, maybe a few times a month, but for the most part the system does work – definitely at least for pairs of places that don’t require a transfer. It does take a bit of commitment to use it, but I figure that giving up is playing right into the hands of the anti-transit crowd and damned if I’m going to do that. And, I know I’m biased but the transit part of Google Maps is absolutely fantastic.

Steve Bland certainly made plenty of lemonade out of the shit sandwich he was handed. Although, if he was an impediment to adopting new technology as he’s been accused of, then I’m not happy about that. Regardless, the way he got canned is crap.


sloaps

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Feb 2 2013 at 9:51am #

Pop Quiz!

Newspaper reports: Behind-the-scenes manuevering by some PAT directors and clandestine politics undermined his authority and effectiveness at PAT, _______ said.

Name that ex-Port Authority Executive.


pbeaves

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Feb 2 2013 at 10:43am #

there used to be a text msg service for bus routes.
you would msg a number with a labeled stop and would get a msg back that provided a list of the most recent busses & times for that stop.

not exactly real time, but it was better than nothing.

and that service has been discontinued for about a year.


jonawebb

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Feb 2 2013 at 11:59am #

I ride up Greensburg Pike now and see the old signs from the 67G are still there. But no such route exists. I just went on the PAT web site, waited 5 minutes for the system map to download, to verify. Does it really cost that much to send somebody out to dig up the old signs? Or to design a web site that doesn’t take so long to show a system map?
Maybe PAT does need new management, after all. It’s not obvious to me that Bland did the best job possible. I know folks here like him, and know more about transit than I do. But after seven years a new guy might have some ideas on how to fix things even without more money. (Though summarily firing the guy and paying severance is just stupid and vindictive.)


melange396

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Feb 2 2013 at 4:53pm #

vannevar++ lulz

i think i saw fitzgerald drinking at houghs last night. if id read this thread earlier, i mightve had enough liquid courage to ask him what gives (and hopefully he had enough liquid lip loosener to tell me).


ieverhart

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Feb 2 2013 at 5:56pm #

It does take a bit of commitment to use it, but I figure that giving up is playing right into the hands of the anti-transit crowd and damned if I’m going to do that. And, I know I’m biased but the transit part of Google Maps is absolutely fantastic.

+1. And I’m not biased.


Swalfoort

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Feb 2 2013 at 7:06pm #

I use the CMU developed Tiramisu app on my android phone at least daily, I suspect.

It pulls up a map of stops near your location, then you click on the stop you want and it tells you what buses stop there, how long ago the last bus was SCHEDULED to arrive there, and the buses that are due to arrive in the next 60 minutes.

So, at my usual stop heading home it will say:

82 inbound, last bus 3 minutes ago (schedule)
19L outbound, last bus 1 minute ago (schedule)
82 outbound, next bus in 8 minutes (user input)
19L outbound, next bus in 12 minutes (schedule)

There is an option to record the actual time of bus arrival as a sort of crowd sourcing option, but I don’t think it is used very much.

I love Tiramisu, and only wish it didn’t take like a whole minute to load on my Galaxy II S. Since I often use it to determine which route to take home, and therefore what stop I need to be at, that minute seems like an eternity.


Steven

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Feb 2 2013 at 7:22pm #

PAT’s current system map is from June 2012, and was built to show changed routes due to the transit system overhaul. It’s 11 MB.

Michael Sypolt has a system map in PDF format here. It’s 550 KB, or 5% the size of PAT’s, but from March 2012.

I suspect manually updating a system map 4 times a year requires sufficient effort that PAT may think it’s not a good use of their limited budget. (Making an auto-updating system map is probably hard.)

And to answer a question like “Does PAT serve Greensburg Pike?” it’s easier to use Google Transit anyway.


erok

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Feb 4 2013 at 2:16pm #

hell, if they’d just embed google transit on the front of their page, i’d be convinced that they were at least trying to make things better.


ieverhart

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Feb 4 2013 at 4:09pm #

I suspect manually updating a system map 4 times a year requires sufficient effort that PAT may think it’s not a good use of their limited budget. (Making an auto-updating system map is probably hard.)

Aren’t most schedule changes time-based, not routing-based? A system map would not need to be updated at all in that case.


Steven

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Feb 4 2013 at 6:07pm #

That’s a good point. But I think the majority of quarterly updates change at least some route maps. And PAT still plans to completely revise all downtown routing eventually.

I don’t think they need to embed Google Transit on their home page (better to have it in a new window), but it’s good that it’s listed as a menu option (under Maps) on all PAT’s pages.


scott

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Feb 5 2013 at 1:51pm #

Here’s a blog post we wrote on the Steve’s legacy for the bike community

http://bike-pgh.org/blog/2013/02/04/former-port-authority-ceo-steve-bland-leaves-a-legacy-of-improved-transit-access-for-bicyclists/

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