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Port Authority board OKs fare increases, service cuts

As expected, the Port Authority of Allegheny County board has OK’d fare hikes to take effect in January and service cuts to take effect in March.

As approved Wednesday, fares will rise Jan. 1 by 25 cents in the central Zone 1 and 50 cents in the outlying Zone 2 covering much of the Mon-Yough area.

A 35 percent service cut will occur two months later.

Port Authority will cut 500 jobs, 350 through layoffs and 150 through attrition, and two of six transit garages will close in Collier and Harmar townships. Port Authority’s West Mifflin garage will remain open, along with facilities in Ross Township, East Liberty and for T or light rail trains near South Hills Village.

“Eliminating 35 percent of our bus and T service hours will have a devastating impact on the Pittsburgh region,” Port Authority CEO Stephen G. Bland said.

Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said 52 communities will lose all service seven days a week, while another 35 will lose Saturday service and 38 will lose Sunday operations.

“We’re essentially changing every route in our system,” Ritchie said.

According to lists posted on portauthority.org, communities losing all service include parts of Baldwin and Churchill, the Walnut Avenue area in Clairton, East McKeesport, Glassport, the Route 885 area in Jefferson Hills, Liberty, Crawford Village and areas along Jenny Lind and Walnut streets in McKeesport, parts of Monroeville including Forbes Regional Hospital, areas along Bell Avenue in North Braddock, North Versailles Township, Port Vue, Wall, the Mifflin Estates area of West Mifflin and White Oak.

Those posted as losing Saturday and Sunday service include areas along West Street in Homestead, as well as Homeville in West Mifflin, Munhall, Pitcairn, Trafford, Turtle Creek and Wilmerding.

Those posted as losing Sunday service include Dravosburg, Lincoln Place and Whitehall Place Apartments.

Also, Ritchie said, there is a “real possibility of additional cuts” effective in July.

Bland blamed the collapse of Act 44 of 2007, which left a $47 million gap in state funding for his agency.

Ritchie said Act 44 was intended to help improve funding for highway work, bridge repairs and public transportation systems, but in all nearly half a billion dollars disappeared because the federal government did not go along with a provision for tolls on Interstate 80.

Ritchie said Gov. Ed Rendell called on transit providers to cut costs and set a statewide savings goal of $60 million, but Port Authority alone cut $52 million in annual expenses and generated $14 million in new revenue.

He said the March job eliminations will bring to more than 1,000 the number of positions eliminated since Act 44 took effect.

That will leave around 2,200 employees, the bulk of whom are drivers and maintenance workers.

More than 50 people protested outside Port Authority’s downtown Pittsburgh headquarters prior to Wednesday’s vote, including Patrick McMahon, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, which represents the drivers.

Bland hoped lawmakers would find a solution during a special session on transportation.

No action was taken before that session and the regular 2009-10 General Assembly session ended last week.

“While we continue to seek potential solutions with our state leaders, we now fear the worst and have to assume that they will not act in time to address this issue,” Bland said.

A so-called “premium fare” of $4 proposed for a McKeesport flyer run was not approved, but Port Authority officials did not rule out such a fare at a later date. It would have covered 13 bus and three T runs from outlying areas into downtown Pittsburgh.


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