Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Port Authority Cuts Comment Period Draws to Close

The 30-day window for the public to weigh in on proposed fare hikes and service reductions ends today at 4 p.m. The Port Authority of Allegheny County is facing a massive funding shortfall both due to the failure to toll Interstate 80 – a key component of Act 44 – and to come up with a resolution in Harrisburg over the summer. More than a thousand riders, business owners and community leaders have given input on the changes. Without an intervention fares in Zones 1 and 2 and the price of passes and tickets will go up January 1, as well as a premium charge for light rail service and 13 express routes. On January 9 service hours will be reduced by 35%, reducing the number of routes from 129 to 85. At least 500 Port Authority jobs will be eliminated and about 90 neighborhoods throughout the Authority's coverage area will be without service or see service loss. Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie says the comments collected so far reflect a mixed understanding of the agency's issues. "We hear people pointing the finger at us, clearly, for decisions we've made in the past and telling us it's our fault their lives will be impacted this way, and other people do understand it's a statewide funding issue that effects other agencies beyond the Port Authority." Ritchie says they're reviewing all of the comments and will use them to inform their January service proposal. Many people have asked if there's any way to stop the cut backs from taking effect and Ritchie says it's being discussed in Harrisburg and they're doing their best to make their voice heard as an agency – "and hopefully somebody does have a resolution that would come in time to prevent such deep cuts in our system." The Authority's Board of Directors will consider final approval of the proposed changes at its September 24 meeting.

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