Following a rally to urge Pennsylvania lawmakers to take action to provide consistent funding for public transit in the Pittsburgh region, protestors and officials filed into the monthly Port Authority board meeting.
The protestors delivered a pair of shoes to Governor Corbett's Pittsburgh office to symbolize the thousands of transit riders who may find themselves walking to work or the grocery store in the wake of 35 percent service cuts from PAT. The proposed cuts follow last March's reductions of 29 routes, and this round would eliminate 45 more routes, leaving an estimated 45,000 daily riders stranded.
PAT CEO Steve Bland said the cuts are not set in stone, and there is a chance state action would be able to prevent them.
"We understand, through a variety of sources, that Governor Corbett does plan to address the transportation issue in his February budget address to the state," Bland said. "So this is still absolutely a resolvable issue and I know that everyone who's been engaged is waiting to hear what the governor has to say and ultimately what action he and the legislature will take."
Bland said the cuts are not easy to make, but PAT needs to, by law, present a balanced budget. Without a larger dedicated stream of funding from the state or service cuts, that budget its projected to include a $64 million deficit.
President of the Amalgated Transit Union Local 85, Pat McMahon announced the union will begin negotiations with the Port Authority before it is legally obligated to do so. He says that is in part an effort to show unity among the parties in the region.
"We are stepping up our efforts to save transit by immediately getting to work on the only part of the solution we can directly impact," McMahon said. "We hope our example will motivate the other transit funding stakeholders to step up their game and take action on the parts of the solution within their control."
McMahon said all parties involved in the region are consistent in their view of the situation.
"We all agree that the answers to solving the transit funding crisis lie in Harrisburg," McMahon said. "The governor and the legislature have to summon the political will to solve the problem. Local 85 cannot control that."
The Port Authority board will hear public comments beginning February 5. If approved, fare increases would take effect July 1 and service changes would take effect September 2.