Shortly after the Port Authority of Allegheny County put forth its preliminary plan to reduce service in anticipation of a projected $52 million shortfall, members of the Dinwiddie Community Alliance contacted PAT about restoring the Hill Loop and Church Loop routes they said seniors rely on for shopping, doctor visits and Sunday services.

In September, as part of its efforts to increase efficiency, the Authority eliminated the 84C Loop routes—which linked the Hill with the South Side allowing shopping at the Giant Eagle on weekdays and provided service to all the Hill Churches on Sundays.  Parts of those routes were  taken up by the  81 Oak Hill and 83 Webster.

Though the authority met with alliance members  Nov. 8 to offer modifications to the changes made in September, community members at the meeting were not satisfied, saying too many seniors cannot walk the 4-5 blocks, often on steep slopes to  catch the bus.

“What they are proposing is just shuffling the existing buses from street to street—which would actually reduce service even more,” said alliance member Carmen Pace.

“Their proposal does not address the long term solution to the problem. This is just not acceptable. Hill District residents deserve adequate and accessible bus service in their community like everyone else.”

With the authority preparing to make even more drastic cuts in March unless the state legislature addresses the budget shortfall, PAT spokesman Jim Ritchie said the Loop routes would not be restored.

“We’re looking at cutting 35 percent more service in March. The board votes on that Nov. 24. So we’re pretty much stuck,” he said. “The Hill is going to fare better than most areas because it does have high ridership, and because of discussions we’ve had with Dinwiddie and other groups we are making changes to the 81 and 84 routes.”

The series of changes Ritchie noted would:

•Restore service to Sugar Top, linking it and upper Webster Avenue to Downtown and the coming Centre Avenue grocery;

•Link Oak Hill, Addison Terrace and Elmore Square with Downtown and the Centre Avenue grocery, and

•Link the K. Leroy Irvis, lower Bedford Avenue and the Centre Avenue senior buildings with Oakland, and the Wharton Square shopping center on the South Side.

“We have listened,” he said. “We’re doing as much as we can, but we can’t return service everywhere.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@new­pitts­

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