A standing-room only crowd jammed Scott's meeting room March 25 to protest the township's recent correspondence asking the Port Authority to suspend bus service on Orchard Spring Road between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. weekdays and all weekends.
The March 13 letter was written by Scott manager Denise Fitzgerald based on a decision made at a March 11 commissioners' workshop meeting. All commissioners were present for that session except for Bill Wells, who was absent because of a death in the family.
In the letter to Ellen McLean, Port Authority CEO, Mrs. Fitzgerald wrote that residents' concerns last October prompted the board to request the cuts. Chief among them were safety, noise and pollution issues for their children on the lengthy two-lane street that connects to Greentree Road. Residents had also said that some buses were either empty or carried few riders. However, minutes from that October meeting indicate that officials were not planning to seek any changes from the Port Authority.
Consequently, some residents were furious to learn about the recent correspondence, particularly since officials had indicated last fall that they would not get involved.
"It's absolutely unethical what you people have done," said Kathy Quinn-Hodel of Orchard Spring Road, who pointed out that buses aren't the only large vehicles that must be able to travel on the street. Fire trucks, for example, must be able to navigate the road, too.
"When they increased three buses, no one came and asked us," fumed Barbara Hopkins of Orchard Spring Road.
Heather Pellegrini questioned the timing of the letter, and Kyle Frascarelli wondered what inspired it.
Lori Lang of Orchard Spring Road noted, "There's 60 buses. This isn't a ridership issue. What it is is a routing issue for the [Port Authority]."
"There's not another area in the county that has 60 buses a day," she continued, adding some of the buses use Orchard Spring as a way to reach the bus garage in Collier.
But residents such as Julie Kmick said she bought her house on nearby Roseleaf Road because of the availability of public transportation.
"I understand concerns about the volume," she said, noting that the buses provide accessibility, especially for those who work off-peak hours.
"My fear is when it's not profitable anymore, the buses will no longer go by anybody's houses. I think we have to be very careful what we ask for because we might just get it," commented Mr. Wells.
"I was assured by this board that we weren't going to mess with this, but then I missed one meeting. We didn't have a dog in this fight," he added.
Noting that "there is a lot of passion in this room", commission president David Jason assured, "Nobody wants to hurt anybody. We don't want to take your buses away."
Though a motion was made to ratify Mrs. Fitzgerald's action in writing the March 13 letter to the Port Authority, solicitor Robert McTiernan was quick to interject that the board didn't legally have to vote.
Because of his counsel, the board took no action.
"We'll see what happens," observed Mr. Jason.
Allegheny County Council member Michael Finnerty said the Port Authority will be looking into the situation, particularly concerning empty buses that are not profitable.
"They don't know yet," he said.
Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: suburbanliving@ post-gazette.com.