A bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would allow the Port Authority of Allegheny County to apply for special funding from the state to avoid cuts planned for its ACCESS paratransit program.
Sponsoring Representative Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) said his bill would make the Port Authority eligible for up to $3.7 million for ACCESS. The money would only supplement PAT's total budget for paratransit services.
Vulakovich said the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation currently excludes Allegheny County from its "Persons With Disabilities" (PWD) fund because PAT usually has the wherewithal to provide for its own paratransit system.
"Now, however, that the crisis at the Port Authority is in, the Port Authority is saying, 'We can't afford this anymore,' and so now they would like to be able to participate in that program," said Vulakovich. His bill would let Allegheny County in on the PWD fund.
The Port Authority now faces a $65 million budget deficit. ACCESS is one of many PAT services that will sustain deep cuts in September unless more funding is found.
Vulakovich said PAT would use the PennDOT funding to continue providing ACCESS service beyond the federal minimum of three-quarters of a mile from fixed bus routes.
"Right now, the cost of providing that extra service above the three-quarter miles is about two and a half million [dollars]," said Vulakovich. "The problem is if they cut more fixed routes, that cost will actually go up. The cost of that could go up to almost five and a half million dollars."
Currently, the Port Authority provides door-to-door paratransit service for the whole county and for a 1.5-mile radius around its border.