Port Authority authorizes massive service cuts, fare increases |

Port Authority authorizes massive service cuts, fare increases

Protesters make their way down Wood Street to picket at the Pittsburgh offices of Gov. Tom Corbett Friday morning, April 27, 2012, ahead of a vote on drastic cuts to Port Authority services. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Protesters picket at the Downtown Pittsburgh offices of Gov. Tom Corbett Friday morning April 27, 2012, ahead of a vote on drastic cuts to Port Authority services. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Protesters picket at the Port Authority headquarters in Downtown Pittsburgh on Friday, April 27, 2012, ahead of a vote on drastic cuts to service. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Port Authority of Allegheny County officials this morning approved the most sweeping service cuts in its 48-year history.

Paired with a series of rate increases set to take effect in July, the measures are intended to eliminate a $64 million deficit from the authority’s $370.2 million budget.

The 35 percent service cut will likely mean a loss of roughly 40,000 of 225,000 daily riders, officials have said, once the authority chops 46 of its 102 routes.

“The damage of the cuts, if they come about, is likely irreversible,” said Port Authority CEO Stephen Bland.

Bland urged Port Authority board members and elected state officials to step up efforts to find a lasting solution to the authority’s money woes so the service cut vote could be reversed.

Most of the fare increases would require riders to pay an additional 25 to 50 cents.

All but 13 routes would lose service after 10 p.m. and 18 Park n’ Ride lots would lose bus service.

The cuts would take effect in September. If nothing is done to avert them, they could result in more than 500 layoffs.

Pat McMahon, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, said his union’s workers “are not ATMs” who can spit out an endless supply of salary and benefit concessions.

“It’s time for the governor and the Legislature to do their part and summon the courage to protect this vital service,” McMahon said.

Roughly 60 transit union members massed outside the Heinz 57 Center on Sixth Avenue, Downtown, where Port Authority’s board met, holding signs and shouting slogans protesting the cuts.

Security kept the group across the street and away from the entrance.

They marched to Gov. Tom Corbett’s Downtown office afterward to continue the protest.

Inside, the meeting was orderly. Just before the board cast its unanimous vote, union members walked into the room and lined the back wall in a silent protest, their hands folded in front of them.

Corbett said again Thursday the state would not bail out Port Authority to stave off service reductions for another year as it has done in the past. Corbett said he hopes to address state transportation funding issues broadly sometime this year.

The authority’s board approved other measures to increase revenue, including lifting a restriction on allowing alcohol advertisements on Port Authority property.

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