A local lawmaker's push to allow mass transportation providers easier access to Allegheny County has made it to the governor. House Bill 10 passed the Pennsylvania Senate Tuesday on a 27-21 vote. The same measure moved out of the House on a 118-81 vote last year.
The bill sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) would take away the Port Authority of Allegheny County's ability to review applications to provide bus service in the county. Interested parties would still have to get approval from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and live under that entity's regulations.
"Where the private sector can provide service, we ought to let the private sector provide service," said Turzai. "Safety would be regulated just like it would for anybody else."
Turzai said the governor's staff has indicated he would sign the legislation. It would take effect 90 days after the signature is in place.
Opponents of the legislation have argued that private companies will come in and "cherry pick" the best routes, leaving the Port Authority in even worse financial condition. Turzai does not agree.
"Richland Township in my district has never had service from the Port Authority, and yet, Butler Transit comes south on Rt. 8 into the city of Pittsburgh but can't pick any passengers up because of the monopoly that the Port Authority has."
Lenzner Coach Lines successfully applied to provide service from the North Hills but scaled back that service just weeks after it was launched.
Turzai believes there will be no negative impact on routes in less affluent communities. "The Port Authority has been operating with significant inefficiency and in many ways its past practices have been really almost abusive … and one of the things it needs is competition," Turzai said.
The passage of the bill comes as lawmakers are debating the 2012-13 budget. The Port Authority has asked for additional funds in that budget to help stave off massive service cuts later this year. There have also been calls for the state to change the way it funds transportation needs of all types.