Thursday, August 19, 2010

"We're frustrated too" -- Steve Bland's Remarks to Open Today's Public Hearing

Port Authority is holding an all day (8 am - 8 pm) public hearing today at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center regarding a proposal to cut service and eliminate fares. This proposal is needed due to the statewide transportation funding crisis, which largely was caused by the Federal decision to not allow tolling on Interstate 80. This has caused shortfalls in transportation budgets ranging from Port Authority to PennDOT.

Below are the opening remarks of CEO Steve Bland.

Good morning

My name is Steve Bland and I am the CEO of Port Authority.

I’d like to thank our riders, community leaders and elected officials who are taking time today to attend this hearing.

This is a difficult situation, and one that the management and Board of the Port Authority do not look forward to. You might ask how a Federal decision not to charge tolls on Interstate 80 causes bus and T riders in Pittsburgh to lose service. The answer is complicated and frustrating – it’s frustrating to riders, and we’re frustrated too.

Port Authority continues to support the many State lawmakers who have pushed to provide a reliable stream of transportation dollars – a stream that would dedicate money for highway work, maintaining bridges and providing public transportation.

The law adopted in 2007 to achieve these goals, called Act 44, was cut short, however, when the Federal government turned down a key element – the tolling of Interstate 80.

As a result, transportation providers across the state now face shortfalls. This includes transit systems like the Port Authority and SEPTA, in Philadelphia. It also includes Penn DOT for their crucial highway and bridge programs.

In fact, in the plan approved by the State Transportation Commission just last week, PennDOT projects a 24% reduction in available funding over the next four years, compared to the most recent four years. This means more structurally deficient bridges will join the ranks, and more miles of roadways will not be improved.

So, now, with no immediate solution in sight, we have no choice but to plug our shortfall by cutting service and increasing fares, although all aspects of our budget will be reduced.

The hearings we hold today are legally required by the Federal Government for any fare increase or significant service reduction. However, we’re also here today to have our riders and other community members make their voices heard - to document the tremendous and hurtful impact this will have on our region if it must come to pass.

We know riders will suffer. We know employers will suffer. And, we know businesses, schools and all types of community institutions will suffer.

Port Authority is an integral part of this region.
It is our desire, as a public agency, to continue making improvements that will establish reliable public transportation services for many years to come.

We’ve made many of these difficult changes in the last few years, cutting costs by more than $50 million and increasing operating revenue by more than $10 million.

We continue to revamp our routes – for the first time in our history – transforming an outdated system that followed old trolley lines into one that better serves the Pittsburgh and Allegheny County of today, and in a much more efficient manner.

These changes will better serve our changing communities, support economic growth and satisfy a statewide call for Port Authority to become a more efficient transit system.

The route changes we’ve been making every few months will set the stage for future improvements, such as RapidBus service and smart cards.

This is the vision for Port Authority that’s within reach. The cuts proposed for January certainly would significantly damage, perhaps permanently, our ability to continue improving the system.

That’s why we have to make sure leaders statewide understand how critical public transportation is to this region.

So, today, I encourage you to make your voice heard and to tell your story of how these cuts would impact your life.

Thank you for attending. And, thank you for speaking out.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Reminder: Public Hearing This Thursday, Aug. 19

Port Authority of Allegheny County will hold a public hearing on proposed fare and service actions this Thursday, August 19 from 8 am to 8 pm at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The proposed changes are intended to balance the Authority’s FY2011 budget, which was adopted in June with a $47.1 million revenue shortfall. Port Authority is one of many transit agencies throughout Pennsylvania facing a funding crisis due to the federal government’s decision not to approve tolling on Interstate 80.

The fare changes would increase base fares across the board and introduce premium pricing for light rail service and 13 express bus routes. Service hours would be reduced by 35 percent, cutting the number of routes from 129 to 85. About 90 neighborhoods throughout Port Authority’s coverage area would be left without any public transit service or see significant service loss.
For more details on the proposed changes, click here.

Fare changes are scheduled to be implemented on Saturday, January 1, 2011. Service changes are scheduled for Sunday, January 9, 2011. The proposals could be discontinued or rescinded if the funding crisis is resolved.

Individuals wishing to testify at the hearing are encouraged to pre-register by calling 412-566-5437 (TTY 412-231-7007) from 9 am to 3:30 pm on weekdays. Oral testimony will be limited to three minutes per speaker. Those who have not pre-registered may register at the hearing and will be called on as time slots become available. Port Authority will provide a sign language interpreter at the hearing as well as Braille copies of informational documents.

A public comment period is ongoing, and
comments may also be submitted online by clicking here or by mail at Port Authority Fare & Service Proposals, Heinz 57 Center, 345 Sixth Avenue, Floor 3, Pittsburgh PA, 15222. The comment period began July 28 and the deadline for comments is Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 4 pm.

For more information, including details on transportation to the hearing, call Customer Service at 412-442-2000 (TTY 412-231-7007) or visit To request printed information only, call 412-566-5543.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hybrids Meet Hip-Hop: Free Concert on Monday, August 9

Local hip-hop group Formula412 will hold a free live concert this Monday, August 9 at the Cabaret Theater at Theater Square, Downtown Pittsburgh, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Before the live performance, Formula412 will debut a Public Service Announcement (PSA) filmed on one of Port Authority's 28 hybrid buses. The PSA incorporates Formula412's new song "Gotsta Give," which features eco-conscious lyrics.

The concert is free and open to the public, and is part of The Sprout Fund's Spring Program Biodiversity Symposium, a gathering of community leaders, environmental experts and engaged citizens

For more information visit Formula412's website at or

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tunnel to Somewhere

A report issued yesterday by two U.S. Senators in Washington D.C. painted a one-sided and innacurate picture of Port Authority's extension of the T to the North Shore. The report claimed the project is a waste of federal stimulus dollars and described it as a "Tunnel to Nowhere."

Those claims are misguided and not based in factual information.

Read or listen to news reports regarding the report:

The bottom line is the T extension will directly support about 4,000 jobs through its design construction. Creating and sustaining jobs was the primary goal of the federal stimulus program and that's why the North Shore Connector was an ideal candidate.

The jobs include both full-time and part-time employment and occur within various phases of the project, from design through construction. It includes suppliers of materials and equipment, construction, design and engineering.

And, describing the North Shore as "nowhere" simply is not the reality.

When local leaders first proposed extending the T to the North Shore, the area mostly was covered with parking lots. Leaders envisioned developing the area - beyond construction of PNC Park and Heinz Field. They asked Port Authority to oversee construction of the transit project.

Today, that vision is being realized. The list of major destinations that would be served by the T is growing and includes:

  • Del Monte
  • Equitable Resources
  • Carnegie Science Center (700,000 annual visitors)
  • PNC Park (1.75 million annual fans)
  • Heinz Field (500,000 annual fans, excluding concerts)
  • New hotels
  • An amphitheater - under construction
  • Community College of Allegheny County (7,200 students)
  • Rivers Casino
  • Andy Warhol Museum (90,000 annual visitors)
  • Several other entertainment, corporate and retail locations

Monday, August 2, 2010

Public Transportation's Petition to Congress

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has created a petition to tell Congress to invest in public transit.

This petition shares the message that investment in public transit improves the quality of life for all Americans, not just transit riders. Decreased traffic congestion, greater energy independence and a strengthened economy are just a few of the benefits of public transit.

Please click here if you'd like to add your name to APTA's petition and add your voice to call for increased investment in transit.