Seeking to increase pressure on Gov. Tom Corbett to find a solution to Port Authority's financial problems, a group of Democratic lawmakers held a hearing Thursday to warn of the impacts of a 35 percent transit service reduction scheduled for Sept. 2.
Representatives of government, business and the medical sector were nearly unanimous in their view that the reduction, the biggest in the transit agency's 48-year history, would damage the region's economy, cause jobs to be lost and affect riders and nonriders alike.
The loss of service would add traffic to already crowded roads and highways, including Greentree Road and the Parkway West, said W. David Montz, borough manager of Green Tree, which hosted the hearing. "During rush hour, Greentree Road is already bumper-to-bumper from the parkway into Scott Township, which is over a mile," he said. Backups on the parkway could extend to Robinson.
The 38 Green Tree bus route is one of 48 that would be eliminated, stranding residents who ride the route and hurting businesses that depend on it to get their employees to work, speakers said.
"With the reduction in transit service to this area as well as other areas ... businesses will not be able to attract the employees necessary to service their businesses," said Lynn DeLorenzo, president of NAIOP Pittsburgh, a trade organization representing real estate interests.
Bill Griffin, a vice president of DialAmerica, said the company has shelved plans to add up to 150 jobs at its Green Tree facility because of the likelihood of transit cuts. "We face the very real scenario of losing nearly half of our workforce due to lack of transportation. In simple terms, as many as 145 jobs would be lost and 150 potential jobs would not be created," he said.
Craig Stambaugh, vice president of human resources for UPMC, said transit cuts "will create additional burdens on the patients and families who rely on public transportation to get to UPMC clinic appointments, take a sick child or loved one to see a UPMC doctor or seek care and treatment."
"For some of our patients, driving is not an option ... in these cases, Port Authority is a necessary and vital lifeline," he said.
Danielle Cannon, property manager of Carriage Park Apartments on Greentree Road, said loss of the 38 route could cause hundreds of tenants to move. "Recovering from the mass exodus that would be caused by losing this bus route would take months, perhaps even years," she said.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the service reductions also would impact the 100,000 people who attend college in Allegheny County, spend money here and generate jobs. "That's one more component of our economy that would be stifled."
Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, said the transit crisis deserves the same urgency as if the Fort Pitt Bridge were on the verge of collapse. "Even those people who never drive on the bridge would understand immediately the impact its closure would have on the region, the economy and the daily commute," he said.
Members of the House Democratic Policy Committee said they were eager to act but that nothing will happen without Mr. Corbett's backing. "It's really important and necessary for the governor to step up and lead on this issue," said Rep. Matt Smith of Mt. Lebanon, who co-chaired the hearing with Rep. Dan Deasy of Pittsburgh's Westwood section.