Thursday, January 19, 2012

Service Cuts, Fare Increases Proposed Due to Budget Deficit

Port Authority is facing a $64 million deficit in its operating budget for the coming fiscal year, starting July 1. This deficit stems from a lack of dedicated funding for transportation at the state level.

Left without adequate state funding, Port Authority will have no choice but to slash service, increase fares and lay off employees in order to balance its budget, which it is legally obligated to do.

These actions would be devastating. More than 40 routes would be eliminated from the 100 we currently operate, and schedules would be reduced on all remaining routes. Commuter service to many suburbs would disappear. Late-night service would be cut on all but a few routes, negatively impacting the shift workers so many employers depend upon. Riders who rely on ACCESS paratransit would see fare increases and decreased service. And hundreds of Port Authority employees would be laid off.

However, these devastating cuts do not have to happen. Adequate state transportation funding could prevent this drastic step.State Reps. Dan Frankel and Mike Sturla have introduced a bill (HB 2112) that would ensure funding for Pennsylvania’s transportation system, including roads, bridges and mass transit. You might recall that Sen. Jake Corman proposed similar legislation last year. And just last week, Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch said Gov. Corbett would propose a transportation funding package next month.
Of these, Rep. Frankel’s proposal clearly would help sustain public transportation in Allegheny County. We would not have to cut 35 percent of our service.

There’s likely to be much discussion of these proposals in coming weeks. Be assured that we’ll continue to stand up for those who want a thriving public transportation system in Allegheny County.

Passage of a bill would be the first of two steps necessary to get Port Authority in a stable financial position. The second step is tackling legacy costs and securing union concessions during this year’s contract negotiations.

While we continue advocating for adequate state funding, Port Authority must at the same time prepare for the worst. Without a state funding solution and real progress on legacy costs, fare increases would go into effect July 1, with service cuts to follow on September 2.

It is our deepest hope that we do not have to enact these service cuts and fare increases – that our state government recognizes the devastating impact they would have on our community and regional economy, and acts to avert this crisis.

Full details on possible service and fare actions are now posted on our website, including a service reduction/fare increase chart, system maps showing affected areas, and information on possible changes to ACCESS. We will also hold a public hearing and public comment period so that riders and community members may comment on the proposals. View full details.