Friday, June 24, 2011

Changes Possible for County Transit

Two bills in the state legislature could have deep impacts on the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

House Bill 10 gives Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission sole authority over public transit carriers in Allegheny County. Currently, the Port Authority must approve deals to let private transit companies operate in the county.

Allegheny County Transit Council President Jonathan Robison says if the PUC is given control over county bus lines, the changes won’t turn out well.

“Some private carrier sees a PAT route, and if they, by raising rates and reducing service, can make money, they’ll take over that route instead of the Port Authority,” says Robison.

Robison calls the bill a “union-busting” effort, but sponsoring Representative Mike Turzai says every other county transit system in Pennsylvania works under the PUC.

“This legislation is about transit competition. … Transit competition will promote greater efficiency and provide more options for county residents,” writes Turzai, a Republican from McCandless. “To best serve Allegheny County, we need to end the transit monopoly.”

House Bill 10 passed with support from both parties and has been sent to a Senate subcommittee.

Meanwhile, a Senate bill to change the makeup of the PAT Board got its first consideration Tuesday. That legislation would require the Board to include members from the state legislature, the local transit union, County Council, and the transit council.