Regular Port Authority riders lament transit service cuts

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It's not unusual for commuters to strike up conversations with the people they see every day on the buses to and from work.

Yesterday, many of those conversations were about the extensive route cuts being proposed by Port Authority and Allegheny County officials.

"Everybody's been talking about it," said Dennis Lewandowski, 48, a systems analyst for Mellon Financial Corp. who takes the 78A each weekday from his home in New Kensington to his office Downtown. "People are talking about looking for jobs outside of Pittsburgh and no longer coming into Downtown Pittsburgh."

Mr. Lewandowski said the proposed elimination of the 78A would stretch his commute from a 45-minute trip to almost an hour and a half. But he can't understand why the Port Authority would cut it.

"It's not like the bus is empty," he said.

And while he expressed sympathy for rising transportation costs, he said he doesn't think the Port Authority is doing a good job of living within a reasonable budget.

"They're spending money on the Wabash Tunnel and things like that," he said. "Why? Or this tunnel under the Allegheny River to the North Side. It's unbelievable.

"I can see them cutting back some services. But not eliminating them."

Suzanne Chybrzynski, 46, an insurance broker, has taken either the 68G or 63A bus from her home in Edgewood to her office in the U.S. Steel Tower for 20 years. Both those buses are on the Port Authority's list of routes to be terminated.

Last night, she said, she and her fellow riders were discussing their alternatives.

"I was shocked when I heard this," she said. "Pittsburgh's going to have virtually no bus service. That's ridiculous for a metropolitan city. I would hope the state would eventually come through with the funding that's needed.

"We are going to be forced to either drive, which would be awful with the price of gas, or we're going to have to park in Port Authority [park-n-ride] lots, which are notorious for crime."

Mary Jo Wilson, 66, of Squirrel Hill, is semiretired, working three days a week in the American Red Cross Building on the Boulevard of the Allies. Although she relies on the 67F or 67J, both of which are listed for elimination, she has alternatives.

"But not every neighborhood has choices like we do in Squirrel Hill," Ms. Wilson said. "Most of the people who would ride it in this area make minimum wage and don't have a car and need public transportation to get to and from work. It's preying on the poor more than anybody else."

Yet Ms. Wilson said she doesn't really blame the Port Authority. The problem, she said, is that lawmakers in Harrisburg haven't provided public transportation with a regular, reliable source of income.

"The Legislature needs to pass a dedicated transit tax," she said. "Then we wouldn't have this problem, and the Port Authority wouldn't have to go begging for money every year.

"Other metropolitan areas in the country have these taxes and it makes a world of difference. I mean, how could you function if you didn't know where your money was coming from one month to the next? But we don't have politicians with the intestinal fortitude to do it."


Dan Majors can be reached at dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456.


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