The Port Authority of Allegheny County took the last steps before the precipice recently. Facing a $64 million budget deficit, the board of directors approved unprecedented service cuts come Sept. 2.
While there's still time to reverse the cuts, that will require the parties to stop playing chicken on the edge of the cliff. As it is, everyone looks for the other guy to start getting real.
Gov. Tom Corbett says the state doesn't have the money that it formerly had to bail out public transit and he won't become involved until the transit union and the Port Authority have a discussion on overall costs.
Patrick McMahon, president of Local 65 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, says his union can't make a deal with the Port Authority without knowing what the state is going to do.
As for the Port Authority, it plans for the worst while hoping for the best. And the public? The public should be alarmed and incensed. Consider what happens if no solution is found.
The system, already reduced to 102 routes, would lose another 46. Only 13 routes would have service after 10 p.m. Six suburban routes would be shortened. Some 400 to 500 drivers, mechanics and administrative employees would be laid off. Ordinary people, especially low-income workers, will be without a way to get to work. ACCESS, the agency's service for the elderly and disabled, would be reduced by 35 percent, leaving 1,800 vulnerable people without their lifeline.
The board has also approved a fare increase for regular riders, the third in five years, to take effect July 1. The base fare will go up 25 cents to $2.50, among the highest in the nation. And virtually nobody in the region will escape unscathed -- with the Port Authority gutted, more riders will turn to cars, making the traffic thicker, the commutes slower, the pollution greater, the parking Downtown sparser.
If this is allowed to happen, Sept. 2 will dawn as a doomsday for Pittsburgh, the day that the city's promise was dashed. While there will be plenty of blame to go around, the final share will be at the top, where the buck stops -- with Gov. Corbett.
He needs to make this a top priority and provide leadership. First, he needs to show he's serious about transportation funding in general. For months, the report from his own committee on funding roads, bridges and public transit has just gathered dust.
The transit union must also play its part once more when its contract expires in June. Critics speak as if the union has done nothing to help solve the agency's problems, but in 2008 it made concessions that saved $93 million, largely for retirement benefits. It also increased the employee share of health care costs. It needs to rise to the challenge again because the times absolutely demand it.
A solution can be found, but the public voice has to grow louder in demanding it -- louder than the sound of a clock ticking down to Sept. 2.opinion_editorials
First Published May 6, 2012 12:00 AM