Bill backing private transit needs to be clarified

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An effort to clarify a bill to allow private mass transportation companies to compete with the Port Authority of Allegheny County likely will delay the bill.

The change means the bill, if approved by the full Senate, also must go back to the House, which already approved it in June.

Sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, the bill would make it easier for companies to compete with Port Authority of Allegheny County. The legislation would give the Public Utility Commission the power to authorize private providers of mass ground transportation to operate in the county.

Tuesday's amendment clarifies that the legislation would not affect air transportation.

Proponents of the Turzai plan say Port Authority keeps cutting routes and raising fares even though the state provides a 66 percent subsidy. They say busting Port Authority's monopoly would help.

Democrats such as Sen. Jim Ferlo of Highland Park disagree.

"It makes no common sense and it furthers the problem," he said. "The real solution is through collective bargaining. The Port Authority board needs to come up with an operating budget that's sustainable and based on revenues they have, or the county needs to ante up more from the county budget."


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