In the 48-year history of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, never has it faced a bigger decision and potentially even bigger fallout.
The PAT board of directors reluctantly voted Friday to cut service by 35%, which officials said would result in a loss of at least 40,000 of its 225,000 riders.
The plan, which has been the subject of several public hearings and board debates, eliminates 46 of 102 routes. Only 13 of the remaining routes would offer service after 10:00 PM, six routes would be shortened to eliminate the portions farthest from Downtown, and fares would increases by 25-50 cents on most routes. The changes will result in closing of the Collier bus garage and laying off up to 500 workers.
The fare hikes would take effect on July 1, and the service and jobs cuts would occur on September 2.
ACCESS Takes Hits
Another issue stirring the pot is proposed cuts to the Access system, which would affect about 1,800 people with disabilities.
Patrick McMahon, President of Amalgamated Transit Union local 85, had no trouble voicing his opinion and made the most of his opportunity at the podium in front of the board.
"We are moms and dads. We are little league coaches and church elders. We are volunteer firefighters and regulars at the neighborhood coffee shop. We are this community. We are not ATMs who can be rung for more cash every time politicians somewhere fail to live up to their responsibilities," exclaimed McMahon.
CEO Stephen Bland remains optimistic that there can be a long-term solution, and the decision of the board will be reversed in the near-term.
"Well, at this point, all the players need to come together and get creative," Bland said. "We heard all of the speeches today were geared around this. Everyone involved needs to come together, work hard, get creative, and find a permanent solution — not a stop-gap solution — so we can prevent this from occurring year after year."