PAT: Cuts hurt everyone…Black neighborhoods dodge most of the pain

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Unlike 50 surrounding communities, Pittsburgh’s Black neighborhoods would not see a total loss of service if cuts planned by the Port Authority of Allegheny County go forward—but they will see significant cuts in some weekend and off-hour daily service.

lifesupport
LIFE SUPPORT—Medical tech students at the Stanford Brown Institute wait to tell a stenographer service cuts could jeopardize their and their children’s schooling.

During its Aug. 19 public hearing at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the authority repeated its intention to cut service levels 35 percent and raise fares in January unless state legislators find a way to close a $47 million hole in its budget.

Still, because Pittsburgh’s Black communities account for a large percentage of the authority’s existing ridership, they would see fewer cuts than neighborhoods that use less transit.

“We have to stay where our core customers are,” said spokesperson Judy McNeil. “We have to maximize ridership.”

That doesn’t mean riders from the North Side, the Hill District or the East End wouldn’t be inconvenienced—they would.

“I’m really concerned about cuts to the 84A, 84B and 84C routes. Now if I want to go to the South Side Giant Eagle, I have to go into town first,” said Duryei Hamilton. “Now I’ll have to wait on the 81 Webster.”

And he’ll have to wait longer. The 84 routes had already been scheduled for elimination Sept. 5, with the renamed 81 Oak Hill and 83 Webster picking up some of that traffic. Now those routes will see cuts to weekday, Saturday and Sunday service.

NoOpportunity
NO OPPORTUNITY—Morris Jackson of Wilkinsburg tells the Port Authority board that planned service cuts might kill his job opportunities.

Morris Jackson, from Wilkinsburg, has similar worries. He doesn’t like the pending elimination of the 61A.

“It is hard enough for me to get to work as it is now and I am not one of those people who is looking to be on welfare,” he said. “I am actively trying to get my self out of that situation and become a more self-sufficient person. But at this point, until I can find the means to get my license and get funds to get a car, I need PAT to get to work.”

Jackson, like Hamilton, would have to take another bus Downtown then another to work. McNeil said even though the cuts would be inconvenient for most commuters, for others, they would mean real hardship.

“It’s the elderly, students and folks working non-traditional hours that we’re really hearing from who say they will really be in a bind,” she said. “They have service to get to work, but then they’d be stuck there. Or folks may have to leave hours ahead for a doctor appointment.”

Several students attending classes at the Stanford Brown Institute chose to give their statements to a stenographer rather than wait for the microphone to tell the authority the planned cuts would be devastating.

“The way they are treating the system and cutting buses off, they are making it so difficult for me to get to where I need to go such as my school and my child’s school, and it’s just not fair,” said Nanette Bridges.

Her classmate Tehia Mason said a lot of students rely on bus service and many won’t be able to get to school or get to school on time.

“Our kids won’t be able to get to school or doctor appointments,” she said. “Where I live, they are cutting the buses so the elderly can’t get around and we are here to advocate for the students, the kids and the elderly.”

The farther away from the city one has to travel, the greater the hardship will become. All express routes and reverse-commute routes to the airport, Robinson Town Center and Cranberry Township are all slated for elimination in January.

“There will be some minor adjustments after we hear everyone, but without a funding source this is where we are,” said Authority CEO Steve Bland. “The governor can’t ‘flex’ road and bridge money like last time because that funding has already been reduced by 24 percent. But he has some ideas, and we’ll continue to meet with folks in Harrisburg to se what can be done.”

Governor Ed Rendell’s latest idea, announced Aug. 24, is to levy an 8 percent “gross profits tax” on all oil companies doing business in the state. That, he said, added to his earlier proposal to increase automobile registration from $36 to $49, drivers license from $28 to $32 and title fees from $22.50 to $31 could raise $576 billion a year.

Both Democratic and Republican House and Senate members said passing such a bill before the Nov. 2 election is unrealistic.”

The final, detailed fare and service changes would go before the board for a vote Sept. 24. If nothing changes, fare increases would go into effect Jan. 1 and service cuts would follow Jan. 9. To see the preliminary changes visit http://www.portauthority.org.

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