Port Authority will restore a Mon Valley bus route that it eliminated in a wave of service cuts more than two years ago.
The former 55 Jefferson route will be reborn as the 55 Glassport starting Sept. 1. It will operate between Century Square in West Mifflin and the North Versailles Walmart, with service to the West Mifflin Walmart, Southland Shopping Center, Community College of Allegheny County's South Campus, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, Clairton, Glassport, McKeesport (including Port Authority's Transportation Center), UPMC McKeesport, Port Perry and Great Valley Shopping Center. Buses will run seven days a week, once an hour.
Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said the agency revived the route out of concern about the future of a free service that helps people in the economically disadvantaged area get to their jobs.
Heritage WorkLink, which provides about 13,000 rides per month, "stepped in and really helped fill much of the void" after the 55 Jefferson was eliminated in March 2011, he said.
Congress last year eliminated the program that funded WorkLink, and Heritage Community Initiatives currently is operating it with supplemental state funding that runs out Aug. 31.
Amy Schnarrenberger, development director for Heritage, said the service will continue to be needed to connect people to the new Port Authority route. She said discussions are under way about whether and how the WorkLink service will operate after the 55 Glassport debuts.
"We are delighted that the Port Authority is recognizing the need in the Mon Valley," she said.
Port Authority cut 15 percent of its service in 2011 because of a severe funding shortfall, and the 55 Jefferson was one of several that were eliminated even though they had adequate ridership, Mr. Ritchie said.
Since then, public officials representing the area have called for its revival, he said. The authority was able to fund the estimated $460,000 cost without increasing its budget or cutting other routes. The 55 Jefferson had average weekday ridership of about 620 when it was abolished.
Among those supporting the new route was state Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa Jr., who said public transit was vital to that area because of the economic hardships there.
"This allows individuals in those communities to get to places where there's employment," he said. "It will be well-used."
Another free bus service threatened by Congress' elimination of the Job Access and Reverse Commute program, RideACTA, serving the Robinson Town Centre area, also is operating with supplemental state funding and working to secure permanent funding, said Lynn Manion, executive director of the Airport Corridor Transportation Association. That free service helps workers connect to about 150 job sites from the Port Authority's 28X Airport Flyer.
Minor schedule changes will occur on 15 other Port Authority bus routes on Sept. 1. Details of the adjustments and the full schedule for the 55 Glassport are available at www.portauthority.org.