Bus stop blues: The Port Authority's latest cuts raise a concern

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If the Port Authority was figuratively a bus, it would be on a wild and crazy route to avoid potholes threatening disaster. Fares have gone up and routes cut. More of the same was narrowly averted last summer when members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 voted on a contract with $60 million in givebacks, which headed off a 35 percent service reduction.

The Corbett administration and the General Assembly still haven't come through with a comprehensive transportation funding plan, which would repair roads and bridges and give mass transit systems like the Port Authority a source of stable funding. With the wild ride not over yet, the system has to make economies where it can.

That brings us to the recent news that the Port Authority will eliminate about 430 bus stops on 36 routes starting June 16. These stops are described as unused or rarely used and were identified for elimination by passenger counts done by sensors in bus doorways. In a system of 7,200 stops, Port Authority managers expect the impact on any one route to be small.

But as the Post-Gazette's Jon Schmitz reports, another 250 to 400 stops are expected to be cut in November. Further, the Port Authority doesn't know what impact these changes will have on travel times.

But if stops are rarely if ever used, what's the harm in leaving them be, especially absent any evidence that trips will become quicker? Allegheny County has an older population compared to other parts of the country. Many seniors are not mobile and depend on public transit. To its credit, the Port Authority promises to adjust its plan if any such riders find that they can no longer easily catch a bus.

Making economies is what the Port Authority must do, but a thousand little economies could turn out to be death by a thousand cuts to its core service. The Port Authority must be mindful of that as it moves forward.



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