Committee takes reluctant step toward more transit cuts

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A committee of the Port Authority board today reluctantly approved a proposal to raise fares in July and slash 35 percent of service in September to close a projected $64 million budget deficit.

"This is not something that any of us want to do," said Wendy Stern, the authority's assistant general manager for planning and development.

Authority officials made another appeal for a comprehensive statewide solution to a transportation funding shortfall that is affecting roads and bridges as well as transit. They also acknowledged the need to win concessions from union employees in ongoing negotiations to replace the contract that expires in June.

"We can't waste any more time," authority chief executive officer Steve Bland said. "We have to get down to it."

Ms. Stern presented board members with a list of impacts from the planned cuts:

• elimination of 46 of the existing 102 bus routes

• termination of service after 10 p.m. on all but 13 routes

• shortening six routes

• layoffs of 400 to 500 drivers, mechanics and administrative staff

• and "devastating" reductions in ACCESS, the agency's nationally recognized paratransit service for the elderly and disabled that provides 6,000 daily rides.

An estimated 1,800 users of the service in outlying parts of Allegheny County would be stranded, she said.

"We would be abandoning people who don't have choices," board member Guy Mattola said. "Allegheny County will take a big step back in providing services to our most vulnerable citizens."

The Zone 1 fare will rise by 25 cents to $2.50 on July 1. The Zone 2 fare would go up 50 cents to $3.75.

While the fare increase is almost a certainty, the service cuts can be avoided if the state provides a funding solution, officials said.

"This puts in place a schedule that certainly can be undone," Mr. Bland said. The full board is scheduled to vote on the fare increase and service cuts on April 27.

region - electionspa - Transportation

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. First Published April 18, 2012 4:15 PM


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