The members of the board of the Port Authority of Allegheny County have given the green light to fare hikes and service cuts but all of them are hoping to reverse their decision. At its monthly meeting this morning, the board unanimously approved fare hikes that will go into effect January 1st and a 35% cut in service effective March 13th. That cut will result in 45 routes being eliminated and nearly all the remaining routes being reduced in some manner. Night and weekend service will be severely curtailed. Board Member Joan Ellenbogen says it is now up to lawmakers in Harrisburg to listen to the pleas of riders and find a funding source that will allow the board to avoid the cuts. “These people are fighting for the ability to hold on to work, to access healthcare and to worship. How anyone can turn a deaf ear to the stories of hardships that these cuts will inflict is beyond me,” says Ellenbogen. Ellenbogen is also concerned for people who rely on home health care assistance. She says many of the providers get to their assignments using mass transit.
Before the meeting, a group of transit supporters gathered across the street from the PAT offices on 6th avenue. Al Hart of the United Electrical Workers Union was among them. He says life in Allegheny County is about to get a lot worse and those who use transit already realize that. “The people who don’t think about this are the people who drive to work who are about to be in for a big surprise when they get to sit for an extra hour every morning and every afternoon because the roads are crowded with another 10,000 cars of people who were thrown off the buses,” says Hart.
A study by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission estimates that the fare hikes and service cuts will add 14 minutes to the average commute and put 9,000 more cars on the road in Allegheny County. PAT CEO Steve Bland calls this a “very dark, dark day” and says it now puts the focus where it has always belonged, on Harrisburg. However, he says he has not yet heard of a funding solution being formed at the capitol.
A list of route changes can be downloaded from the PAT Website.