Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Public Decries Port Authority's Drastic Cutbacks

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Public Decries Port Authority's Drastic Cutbacks

Article excerpt

Reaction Wednesday to the Port Authority's proposed bus service cuts ran from "unbelievable" to "impossible" among community leaders whose neighborhoods face service elimination if the state does not fund a gap of $64 million for 2012-13.

The cut of 46 routes and reduction of service on nearly every surviving route would affect between 150 and 200 neighborhoods, boroughs, townships, housing developments, schools and retail and medical centers. Zone 1 and Zone 2 riders would pay an additional 25 and 50 cents, respectively.

Between 500 and 600 Port Authority employees would be axed and riders would have half the service of a year ago, when the Port Authority made a 15 percent cut. The new cuts would take effect in September.

Court Gould, executive director for Sustainable Pittsburgh, said the city's efforts to revitalize itself and the recognition it has gotten nationally "puts us on the cusp, at a point where cutting transit pulls the rug out from under Pittsburgh, and as goes Pittsburgh so goes the region. Public transit is a public service and dependent on state support. A win-win opportunity sits squarely on the governor's desk at this moment."

The Port Authority is "doing what they have to do to be fiscally responsible," said Chris Sandvig, a regional policy manager for the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group. "They drastically increased efficiency, and ridership is up. The bigger issue is a transportation system that keeps our economy viable. This is not about saving the Port Authority, it's about saving the city."

Under the proposal, East Hills will be completely cut off from bus service.

"That's impossible," said Barbara Moore, director of community services for East Hills Properties. "No bus service at all up here?"

"We came a long way to build this community, to get programs out here," said Monique Shorter, president of the East Hills Resident Preservation and Development Corp. "Now we are going to be trapped."

Served now by one bus, the 79, she said, "it is already hard for our residents to get to jobs, to training programs, to school."

"Unbelievable," said Pastor Sue Hutchins of Hilltop Health Ministries Consortium in Allentown, which would lose the bulk of its bus service. "It's the neighborhoods that can least afford to lose service that continually get cut.

"Most folks in the Hilltop area don't have cars, and a bus is their only option" to go anywhere. "As it is now, people have to take two or three buses."

About 5,000 students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools ride to school on buses, said Ebony Pugh, a school spokeswoman. "The proposed cuts would affect many students who have to transfer to get to a main route, so we may have a struggle there and would have to look at how we would transport those students."

Bill Newland, a member of the Port Authority's Committee for Accessible Transit, said these cuts would further burden Access, a bus service for the elderly and handicapped. …

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