Transportation
5:30 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

Port Authority Calls Back Laid Off Workers, Adds Rail Operators

In an ongoing effort to ensure the light rail system runs efficiently during busy times, the Port Authority of Allegheny County is taking several steps including calling back workers who were laid off last year. Port Authority CEO Steve Bland told the Board of Directors at their monthly meeting, the loss of about 135 employees in recent months was a contributing factor to problems with the North Shore Connector earlier this month.

"Really, the quicker we can resolve our long-term funding issues, stabilize service levels, hopefully avoid the September 2nd service cuts, then the quicker we can ensure reliability and the stability of the workforce," said Bland.

The high turnover, added Bland, is due to ongoing stress and uncertainty surrounding the Port Authority, which has announced steep service cuts that will take effect in September. To deal with current issues, more rail operators are being added and during special events more light rail service is being added.

"The other thing is for people who are stranded on a platform, or look like they're stranded on the platform, will have announcements on a regular basis so they know when the next train is coming and be able to plan accordingly," said board member Jeffrey Letwin.

Even though the cuts are looming, Bland said there is good news for the Port Authority: ridership is up. Just two months after opening the North Shore Connector, he said ridership has increased 31% over a year ago.

"It's now very obvious that the subway extension has become an extremely popular link for commuters, visitors, and anyone catching a game, concert, or any event on the weekend," said Bland. "As you know, many predicted that this extension would fail. Clearly they were wrong."

In regard to the budget cuts and service loss, board Vice Chair Guy Mattola said he's hopeful pending legislation in Harrisburg will help ease some of stress. House Bill 2363 would make Allegheny County eligible for the state's Persons with Disabilities Program, which the county doesn't qualify for because "extensive fixed-route service in the county enables persons with disabilities to travel on ADA-complementary service."

If approved, Mattola said it would help protect public transit service for thousands of users who otherwise might lose their Access service in September.