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.


  1. with these bus cuts this january i will end up losiing my job because i have no way to get there i do not drive and can not afford a car and i have talked to other people in my apartment building that r elderly and rely on the buses to get them to the doctor or even to the hospital i live in munhall and there will not be a bus except the 53L and that does not even go into the waterfront so how can the people of munhall get to the grocery store there will be no bus lets get real here and learn how to manage your budget stop paying the big bucks and let them see how the low income people get by with what little they have and now no way to go any place .....i think u should try getting around without a car and rely on a bus to get u where u need to but u cqan't use the buses that r being discontinued in jan

  2. Mr. Bland,

    I've used public transportation in some way almost my entire life. It was something I could count on. Getting to school, visiting friends, going out for the evening and getting to work. It was a way of life for me. My children were also taught to take the bus. From little on, they looked forward to our trips to town for Christmas or to the Arts Festival in the summer. The bus ride seemed to be the best part of the trip for them. It taught them to be independant. One son lives in California. He buses everyday to work and back. My other son is now living in New York. He also uses the bus for all his needs. What I'm trying to tell you Mr. Bland is, public transportation is a necessity of life.

    I keep hearing how the riders need to make concessions. That we should try to understand and accept what the Port Authority is telling us. I think most of us are. We are willing to make concessions. We are willing to walk that half-mile to the bus stop..cut into our family budget to pay for our bus pass..or adjust our time schedules to see that we get to work on time.

    What's hard to listen too, is the complaining and the finger pointing of why your budget falls short. Is is not time for the Port Authority to make some concessions. Will the drivers take a cut in pay or help pay more towards their benefits. The directors and all high paying positions..will they take a pay cut. Contribute more towards their benefits. My family has over the years. My husband's company closed it's doors in the 1980's. He lost his job, his retirement and our health benefits. We struggled, but we got though the bad times. Is this not the time for the Port Authority to do the same. It doesn't make sense to me for the drivers or anyone in the company to lose their livelyhood. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

    Yes, my bus is being cut...the 51E. I listen to concerned students who attend CCAC South. How will they get to school. To the young mothers with babies trying to get an education to make a better life for their family. One elderly lady visits her young ill daughter in a Pittsburgh nursing home every week. How will she get there.

    We are all ready to do our part. Walk a distance to a bus stop, transfer as many times as we need and pay that fare increase. We are all ready to make our adjustments and concessions.

    Is it not the time for Port Authority to step up to the plate and become something we can all count on again.

    Thank you.


    Mrs. Sandra Sandusky
    West Mifflin

  3. I ride the 68J and I dont understand how the Port Authority came to the decison to completly eliminate the route. The 68J is always filled with riders and at least once a week the driver can't fit another body on to the bus! I will not be able to get to work if the 68J is eliminated and I fear that I am not alone. I am willing to pay the premium price for a bus, so please dont eliminate the 68J.

  4. I'll start with a disclaimer. I haven't ridden a bus in years. So, cuts in service will probably not affect me. Taxes and fees to support the system will. It is sad to hear so many people express the hardship cuts will create. The fact of the matter is, there is not enough money to run the bus system. Period. The system has been a money loser for years. Money has been squandered. Money has been misappropriated. Money has been diverted from road projects to labor contracts. At some point, the bill comes due. And in these financially strapped times, the bill is due now. I wonder how much riders think about the insolvency of the system? If there were no service cuts, and the system contiunued to run in the red, would riders be speaking out? I'm not suggesting that there will be no hardship. I am suggesting that hardship is a fact of life. Especially when people put their faith in an untenable public transportation system. It's time for riders to start brainstorming about transportation alternatives. Ask yourself, "What would I do if the buses stopped running permanently?" Give up? I doubt it.

  5. As a resident of Forest Hills, the 68J is my lifeline to my job Downtown and the reason I moved into the community in the first place.
    the current plan to eliminate the route makes no sense as the buses are nearly always full during peak rush hour both inbound and outbound. It's elimination will cause extreme hardship for many.
    An earlier proposal would eliminate the 68J and replace it with another route that would bypass Forest Hills entirely. That makes little sense either since by your own studies 38 percent of the passengers board along Ardmore Boulevard in Forest Hills.
    Please reconsider and save the 68J.

  6. you simply cannot remove blue line south hills service on weekends. that is not a small "nothing" route. the "t" is one of the most used parts of public trans. Furthermore, the mall is more, not less, popular to travel to on the weekends; as well as the workers out at the south hills (I included) need to work on the busy weekends and rely on the "t" to get to and from work.
    We (transportaion users) know that a higer cost will happen, but I think many of us (thinking like me) will galdly pay more money to keep the "t" running all 7 days, rather than loosing our jobs; which is what a loss of weekend service will do.

  7. Legislators don't care about the poor,the elderly or handicapped. I hope gas goes to five dollars or more, let the rich suburbanites drive there suvs. Public transportation was never meant to be profitable. If it were privatized they still wouldn't service the poor lower class areas. Thousands will lose there jobs including port authority employees. Guess the suburbanites can now pay for there two year unemployment and added welfare people. Its always about what's in it for me philosophy. You gotta pay one way or another.

  8. I just don't understand how you can build a whole new Market Square downtown and not have money for buses. Who in the positions of power is all thumbs? If you guys do not start thinking about the middle class and the communities involved, we as the people will vote out whoever is in office making these ridiculous, selfish, insenitive decisions. Point the fingers all you want to but we will find out who is making careless decisions on our behalf. Pittsburgh is going through enough hardship as it is, now you want to add on to it. Are you trying to make Jesus come back sooner? You're mind is corrupted and I hope it has not gone to your heart. You estimated 500 jobs lost, you're wrong. It will be estimated over 500 jobs lost including yours should you not start thinking about the people that are struggling to find way to get to their jobs. How about the elderly? How about the poor? Doesn't anyone think about others anymore or is it just money,how can we get more money in our pockets and pretend we work for the people. Here's an idea toll the interstate so we can have money for transportation. You guys are causing ripples in a calm sea. You're not spending money wisely and maybe next political term we should pick someone who could. The mayor is already trying to raise the parking meters and garages, now are buses.What is wrong with you people? Are you trying to get this city enraged we already have enough violence in this city. Do the right thing please.

  9. Drivers and management should make a goodwill gesture and take paycuts or freezes. This will put out to everyone that they care about the people and are willing to put some skin in the game.

  10. Wasn't the drink tax supposed to solve many of the Port Authority's financial issues? Where has all that money gone?

  11. Transit cuts to this large degree will have impacts on those who are NOT riders. Consider how many commuters use public transit on a daily basis. Now consider a day without those commuters using public transit on the proposed routes to be cut, with all of those commuters driving solo on Pittsburgh's already overwhelmed highway system, further contributing to air pollution. Just another unfortunate ramification of this unfortunate plan.

  12. I am disappointed in the changes. There is enough money in society to run a top-quality bus service, there is certainly enough to run what we have now. There is the difficult matter of getting the funds together - a higher tax burden for this would be worth it. Those of us who don't have a car and use the busses are saving society money by doing so - we use fewer resources and when the costs are summed, we consume less. The private/public divide just obscures an accurate comparison - public transit is more efficient than private vehicles. The costs I would pay to own, run, maintain, and insure a vehicle (combined with bayesian cost of accidents and the like) is higher than what I would pay in taxes even for a public transit system that did not collect fares and would be entirely funded through tax dollars. I think this is true for most people. That's what I would like to see. In hard financial times *or* good ones, it's no good to pay fewer taxes when you have to pay more for the private-sector services to replace them. For those few of you who are wealthy who actually would pay more, your taxes come out of funds that are in the realm of luxury, not necessity - it's your duty to help support societal institutions.

    Please don't cut transit - raise our taxes if you must. People depend on reliable public transit, and it's the most efficient way to get around.

  13. Me and my fiance live in clairton/wilson if they cut the 55 out we have no way to doctors grocery shopping it is bad enough i can't catch a bus to clairton hill to my doctors but my fiance has has really bad seziures and if he has to go to the hospital then he has noway to get home because he depends on the 55 and. We are also dependent on 61C 59 Y46 with out them we are really in big touble it is hard for me to walk up hill because i have Asthma and my legs swell really bad so please try to keep the buses running please there are so many of us that can't drive that depend on the buses how will people who depend on the bus get back and forth to work and suppot there families and the drivers need there jobs as well the have families and even have grandchildren they have to support

  14. How much money could be saved by charging students to ride. They ride free. Seniors ride free, I am sure they would pay versus losing service all together! I also heard that Port Authority workers have lifetime health benefits, if that is true, no wonder the Port Authority is in trouble!

  15. This is getting crazy every year. We need dedicated funding for transit. Future contracts have to eliminate lifetime healthcare. Philadelphia only covers three years of healthcare benefits after you retire. The previous workers got theirs the current workers wont. Be happy you people have jobs, time to realize, this aint your fathers Port Authority.

  16. I take the 41, 41D, 41G, and 42 to school each day. After January, only the 41 and 41D will remain. I now have to take two busses to Oakland because the 42 was discontinued. The bus is packed during the morning rush hour. Please reconsider

  17. if G3 is going to be premium price, then we better have the "coach" buses so people don't have to stand (like they already are now) and be an express!

  18. Where are people supposed to park in robinson to take the G1?? Ikea has a warning sign and now the strip mall across from it(which has empty stores and will never have a full parking lot)has one as well that threatens to tow. Is anyone dealing with these people or do we have to fend for ourselves again?

  19. They're only doing these drastic cuts to help themselves. They don't care if you can't walk, can't get to the doctors, shopping, work, school, etc. Lies, lies, and even more lies! They say the same thing 100,000 times over. They've messed us up before and they're doing it again. Faster, Smarter, Better? HA! How is it better to have to go Downtown to get to Walmart? Some people have to do that now. Next year we'll have NOTHING! One route per area to no routes hardly in any area. Real brilliant. You're not broke. If you can build tunnels under a river and add new fare boxes, no you're not broke! I've had it with your greed. So heartless. You don't care who's life you mess up so long as your pocketbooks are safe. You disgust me!

  20. To put it simply, you don't care about anyone, but yoursleves. Just say it.

  21. I am currently beginning my studies as a graduate student. When moving to a new apartment, I made sure I was on the trolly line because of it's convenience and affordability. $80 for a monthly pass is do-able; the $160 premium price simply is not. That is a lot of money for a college student to endure. I'm not sure how I'm going to get to school come January.

  22. By raising the price of the Trolley to $160 a month you now made it cheaper for me to drive and park in town. Based on a 21 days of work in a month. Your loss

  23. Talk about cart before the horse! Implementing SmartCards *after* making changes to the routes is entirely backwards. Right now you haven't a CLUE about the routes your riders are taking because you can't track movements through the fairs.

    SmartCards would shed a huge light on what riders are doing and then you would be able to design a route system around that.

  24. Drewbert, you hit the nail right on the head.

    There were so many times when the fare boxes went broke. It practically happens every week. So you're losing money there, your loss.

    Secondly, the routes you have now even after the changes went into affect for some of the buses are still costing you money.

    Case in point: HP flyer is now P12, and yet there are still a lot of empty buses and each is 5 min. apart. I realize that a lot of people live in the Holiday Park area but this is not efficient for you guys to have huge coach buses pull up to stops practically empty. And it happens every time. Even after this so called change that was supposed to streamline your system. You need to start thinking about cutting some of those routes so you wouldn't have to eliminate the Cranberry bus, the Wexford bus, etc.

  25. $160 a month for a so called "premium" express route is outrageous!

    Especially after the fact that that those express routes aren't even express. You STILL make stops, therefore you're not express.

    For example: Monroeville's East Busway is only half the trip to Downtown, the traffic before Wilkinsburg is a total nightmare.

    Why should I be paying 160 bucks a month for that? This is the bus system we're talking about, not a subway or a train that doesn't have to deal with traffic.

    I don't think the NYC subway system charges that much. When I was in Boston I paid 2 bucks to ride the train into town, and this is Boston we are talking about. Isn't Pittsburgh supposed to be the most livable place?

    If that's the case, then you guys are making it harder and harder.

  26. You need to have bus riders and bus drivers on your board because they are the ones who truly know about the routes. The people on your board very likely has never been on a bus in thier lifetime and know squat about what is needed.

    I'm taking these threats with a grain of salt anyway. You guys try to scvare us with service cuts every year anyway and the money magically appears. Pleaseclean upyour act PAT or privatize.

  27. The bulk of the budget is union labor and union retiree labor costs. They have to be cut.

    Set a maximum annual pension amount. $50,000 a year would be reasonable. They way its been for decades is union employees worked huge amounts of overtime in their final few years to pump up their pension amoungs and got full pensions by their late 40s. Time for the gravy bus to end. Cut both union and non union management pay 10% top management cut pay 20%. THen get rid of transit cops - let regular police handle calls. Why are public union employees immune from the pain that private sector workers are feeling? Bland says legally he cant do it. Well if Harrisburg wont change the law then shut the system down, dump the unions and hire back drivers as non union only. Slash and burn baby!