Port Authority closes 11 light rail stops, forcing riders to adjust
Christopher Roman, 35, who works at Goodwill in Lawrenceville and has multiple sclerosis, now walks from the St. Anne stop to the top of the hill on Hoodridge Drive, where he lives nearly a mile away.
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Dave Donofyio's walk from his Bethel Park apartment to the nearest light-rail stop doubled in length Monday when the Port Authority officially closed 11 stops along its Light Rail Transit route.
For many of the people who ride the T from their suburban homes to work Downtown almost every day, the elimination of the stops meant only a slightly longer walk. A few even applauded the change, saying they thought the Port Authority had fulfilled its goal of shaving down their commute time.
But for Mr. Donofyio and others who have health problems that make it difficult to walk, the closures made little sense and brought about what some called "drastic" changes to their lifestyles.
"This is not San Diego or Atlanta. It's not a young city," said Mike Cronin, 63, who lost his Latimer T-stop in the cuts. For a lot of senior citizens, he said, an extra half-mile walk, in some cases along a busy road without a sidewalk, "is a complete disruption to their lives."
By most accounts, Monday's commute went peacefully. Tyrone Arnold, 53, who works Downtown and lives near the Willow stop along the Blue Line called it a "good day."
He said that because his stop was not among those cut this time, he worried more about Sunday's fare increases and the looming possibility of additional cuts.
Jenny McKerrow, 39, who uses the Library stop in South Park to travel to and from work, noticed only a slight delay in her evening commute, which occurred because an inbound train had a brake problem. She was in Florida last week and said she didn't even notice some stops had been removed.
Pat Fitzpatrick, 56, who gets off at another stop in South Park, said, "This might be a good thing" because she thought her morning trip from home to Downtown seemed a few minutes shorter.
Heather Pharo, a spokeswoman for the Port Authority, said in an email that the morning commute "went smoothly." She added, "Our light-rail operations department is continuing to keep a close eye on T service during this transition."
Yet, many people who because of their age or health problems have trouble walking said they felt as though their lives had been disrupted.
Mr. Donofyio, 39, lives in the Colonial Park apartments in Bethel Park and works in the mailroom for one of PNC Bank's Downtown offices.
Living on a tight paycheck, he said he was using the Latimer T-stop between Library Road and Florida Avenue to travel to work five days a week. He often crossed Library Road, walked up a hill and straight into his apartment.
When he left work on Monday night, Mr. Donofyio boarded the Blue-Library Line and exited at the Monroe station, about a half-mile away from his previous stop.
Because there was no sidewalk, he hobbled down the berm of the road, where cars are supposed to drive at 25 mph but residents say they often speed. Part way through his walk, a man in a passing car shouted, "Get off the road, man."
"It's upsetting," said Mr. Donofyio, who added that he worried what might happen when snow piles up alongside the road in the winter.
Others, such as 59-year-old Patty Fox, who also used the now-defunct Latimer station, found ways to cope. She chose to walk along one of the quieter, suburban streets, nearby Florida Avenue, until she reached her old stop and resumed her normal walk. She too, though, worried what might happen during the winter or when it becomes darker outside.
The new walk is "not bad" for her, she said, but she added that she understood it could be harder for people who are older than her or who have health problems.
For others, the adjustment required a slight bit more work. Christopher Roman, 35, of Castle Shannon, works as an adult education teacher at a Goodwill in Lawrenceville. He has multiple sclerosis and was using the now-closed Martin Villa stop to ride Downtown, where he would catch a bus because the walk to the stop provided him with an appropriate amount of exercise.
On Monday, he grabbed the cane a friend had given him as a present and walked to the St. Anne's stop, which was now closest.
"I told myself I would never use this," Mr. Roman said of the cane, "but I brought it along as a security blanket."
Some Port Authority drivers worked Monday morning to show extra sympathy for people who struggled with the light-rail changes or simply forgot their old stops had been closed. A driver on an inbound Red Line picked up several people at the closed Neeld station in Beechview but reminded them that the station was now closed and he would not be able to let them off there in the evening.
Still, some sorely missed their old T-stops.
"Logistically, I don't want to say I have a suggestion for how to fix it," said Mr. Roman, "but I do know there is a need."
First Published June 26, 2012 12:00 am