Cutbacks at strapped Port Authority take effect today

Service will be eliminated on 30 routes and reduced on another 104 in an attempt to cut a $44.6 million deficit

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After much debate and dread, today some buses finally stop running.

Port Authority's long-heralded 15 percent service cut -- which eliminates 30 routes and reduces service on 104 -- takes effect today, part of an effort to close a projected $44.6 million budget deficit for the coming fiscal year.

   
Port Authority service cuts

Starting today, the following 30 Port Authority routes are eliminated: 1B, 1C, 5C, 11A, 11F, 13D, 15A, 25C, 25D, 28F, 28G, 31A, 36B, 41A, 50B, 65E, 73B, 79B, 83B, 88A, 91S, 501, CL, CV, DB, F, GR, JL, SW, U

To check the revised routes and schedules, visit the Port Authority Web site.

   

No one is happy about the changes, but PAT said they were inevitable considering the authority's precarious financial state.

"We'll definitely miss it," Rose Rusiski, of Manchester, said Friday after getting off a Route 501 bus Downtown with her husband, Edward. As of today, the 501 no longer exists.

"It will hurt a lot of people, although we're not too bad yet," Mrs. Rusiski, 71, said. "It was very convenient."

More cuts are likely around the corner as PAT gears up for an additional 10 percent service reduction in the fall and a fare hike come January.

"It's a very difficult day for everybody at Port Authority to see these cuts actually going into effect," PAT spokesman Bob Grove said last week. "Our whole goal here is to attract people to public transportation, which not only saves them money and, we think, adds convenience to their lives, but makes our highways less congested and helps our environment.

"When you have to cut service 15 percent, it's very, very difficult to watch. It's the unfortunate financial reality right now."

In March, the PAT board ratified the cuts. They amount to eliminating 15 percent of the hours that buses are in service each year -- or paring the 2.5 million hours down to under 2.2 million hours.

Another cut in service hours is on the horizon if PAT cannot find funding. Although a 10 percent cut would be smaller than the current reduction, PAT Chief Executive Officer Steve Bland has warned that the cumulative effect would be devastating on the transit system.

"We're going to continue working very hard to ensure the other 10 percent doesn't occur this fall," Mr. Grove said.

As of today, 29 weekday routes and one Saturday-only route are gone.

Of the remaining 184 weekday routes, 104 have reduced service. Of the remaining 83 Saturday routes, 52 have scaled-back service. And of the remaining 68 Sunday routes, service is down on 35.

In light of cutbacks, PAT today is reducing the hours of operation of its Downtown Service Center during the week and the Customer Service Department on weekends by 90 minutes.

PAT customers can call 412-442-2000 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Customers who are speech or hearing impaired can call the TTY number, 412-231-7007. Weekday hours remain the same, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Downtown Service Center at 534 Smithfield St. is open from Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The service center will remain closed on weekends.


Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at jsilver@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1962. Staff Writer Laura Yao contributed to this report.


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