Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced Friday morning that his office will review the effectiveness of hiring practices at the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAAC) and analyze the authority’s service. DePasquale said now is an ideal time for a performance audit.
“If we’re going to be competitive in this region economically, having a vibrant Port Authority is critical to meet those needs.”
DePasquale added that whether or not Amazon builds its second headquarters in the area, many young professionals moving to the region want to use public transportation.
Analyzing how PAAC makes service decisions is particularly important, said DePasquale: which routes get added, which routes get taken off, how the agency manages transfers and how low-income workers are able to move around the region.
“This is an audit of the Port Authority itself, it’s not just the bus routes,” he said. “It’s really about how effective are they at moving people through the region. And that’s the collective—all the people in the region that need their service.”
In response to questions about whether the audit will consider how the proposed bus rapid transit project may affect riders in the Mon Valley, as well as the cost burdens of moving to a cashless system, DePasquale said his office reserves the right to expand the audit. “If we look at the service routes, if we think there’s a disparate impact on low-income, and the card system is part of that, then we have the right to go further into that.”
The Port Authority collects vast amounts of data, said spokesperson Adam Brandolph, associated with all of its buses, all of its rail vehicles, real-time data, schedule data, ConnectCard data and more.
"It's our goal to focus more on that data, we recently hired a new data analyst," he said, bringing the agency's analysts up to two. But, "it's so much that we're even having difficulty storing it on our internal servers."
The performance audit will cover January 2016 to December 2017. DePasquale said he expects the audit to be completed and released by the end of 2018. However, if the scope of the audit is expanded, it may require more time.
Brandolph said the agency welcomes the review.
“We look forward to receiving his recommendations to support the continued improvement of our transit system.”
State law requires the Auditor General to conduct a performance review of port authorities in counties of the second class at least once every four years. In its 2014 audit the Department of the Auditor General found problems with PAAC’s procurement processes and its relocation policy.
The new audit will also review progress made on those issues.