Governor Tom Corbett is expected to sign legislation that takes 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.
The Senate last week approved House Bill 10, which the lower chamber passed in the fall.
Representative Mark Mustio (R-Allegheny) is a cosponsor of the bill. He spoke to Essential Pittsburgh, and addressed the concern that's been expressed that the bill would allow private companies to come into the city, cherry-pick the best routes and leave those in need stranded.
"I think that's a bunch of hooey," he said. "The Port Authority is cutting routes where the buses are full. If you can't make money when the buses are full, when are they going to make money?"
PAT has scheduled drastic service cuts for the fall due to a projected $67 million deficit and a drop in state funding. That has caused an outcry from the community. Protesters have repeatedly called on state lawmakers to restore funding. Mustio said state funding isn't the issue, and added more funds won't be allotted until PAT makes changes.
"I suspect a lot of it has to do with legacy costs, benefit costs that are paid to their drivers. Quite honestly, when I rode the buses into Pittsburgh, interviewing the passengers, they didn't care if it was a Port Authority bus, they just wanted a bus," he said.
Mustio called PAT contract benefits "outlandish," and said there's nothing like them in the private sector. He said he'd like to see benefits similar to other transit agencies across the state, that don't offer the unlimited health care benefits PAT employees get.
The Representative emphasized that the state will take no action until the Port Authority does its part.
"The only way, in my opinion, that we're going to address this issue is to have some sort of competition and, at the end of the day, if the cuts have to take place, they're going to take place," said Mustio. "It's my understanding that there's not going to be any additional revenues until there's some significant concessions made."