Government
8:31 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Council Hears about Public Transit Cuts

Political and transit leaders today warned Pittsburgh Council about the dangers of another round of service cuts.

According to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) will be facing a huge service reduction this September due to a $64 million deficit.

"50 percent of the people who work in Downtown Pittsburgh every day use transit to get here," said Fitzgerald. "We're the only region in the country that has recovered all of its occupancy and all of its jobs since the 2007 'Great Recession' began. And if we lose transit, we're going to undo a lot of that momentum and a lot of that growth."

Fitzgerald said unless the state addresses transit funding, the city will backslide economically.

PAT Executive Director Steve Bland said about 46 of 102 current bus and rail routes will need to be eliminated.

"35 percent of our service hours, approximately 45 thousand weekday transit trips would no longer have a route accessible to them," said Bland. "About a third of our park-and-ride lots would still exist, would be available for carpooling, but would no longer have express commuter service available."

Bland said another round of cuts will put about 750 more cars a day on the Parkway East. He said the good news leading up to the cuts is the public being more focused on finding permanent fixes, and ridership being up.

Patrick McMahon, president of Amalgamated Transit Union #85, said they've had to face years of funding crises, each ending in service cuts.

"Enough is enough. There is no reason for this senseless pain," said McMahon. "The crisis we face now, just like the ones before, can be healed by a political leader summoning the political will to pass a sustainable transportation funding bill that will send public transit into full recovery."

McMahon said opponents of public transit argue that people pay too little and workers make too much to gain political points with voters who hold "Tea Party sentiments." He said transit employees have done their part, citing the layoffs of about 200 workers last March.

However, critics say pensions and other legacy costs should be reduced. Fitzgerald, McMahon and Bland will travel to Harrisburg at the end of April to speak with the governor about the cuts.