Several Northside neighborhoods may be without service if the Port Authority’s proposal to cut service 35 percent in the face of an almost $50 million budget deficit becomes a reality.
Under the proposal, Shadeland Avenue in Brightwood and Spring Garden would be left entirely without public transportation.
On the weekends, Allegheny West, including the Community College of Allegheny County, Fineview, Manchester and Troy Hill would be entirely without service, but would still have some service during the week.
Perry Hilltop and Observatory Hill would see a significant loss of service on Sundays only.
In addition to the service cuts, fares will increase. Zone 1 fares (most Northside buses operate in Zone 1) will rise to $2.25 from $2 for a one-way trip. Zone 2 fares will rise from $2.75 to $3 one way, and premium pricing would be applied to certain bus and T routes.
The near $50 million Port Authority budget deficit comes after the federal government denied tolling on Interstate 80 through Pennsylvania, leaving a hole in the state’s overall transportation budget for 2011.
Port Authority spokesperson Jim Ritchie said public transportation groups have been working the state legislature to find a solution and bridge the budget hole so that essential services will not be cut.
“The nitty gritty is up to the state folks to figure out,” Ritchie said. “The elected officials from this area are very aware [of the problem].”
Because of the upcoming November election, a solution is not likely before then, and the Port Authority board postponed its planned September vote on service cuts until its November board meeting to allow the legislature more time to come up with a solution.
This means that service cuts, if enacted, will not go into effect until March 2011. Fare increases will go into effect in January 2011, as originally planned.
Over the summer, the Port Authority held a day-long public hearing and also took feedback by mail and online. Ritchie said the overwhelming response from the community on service cutbacks was, “If you have to increase your fares, that’s one thing, but when you cut service you really affect my life.”
The Port Authority is still in the process of cataloguing and reading all of the feedback it received, and will not make final decisions about which routes to cut until it has a chance to take all feedback into consideration.
Ritchie said service cuts were decided based on areas that had the least demand, and that high-demand corridors will be affected the least.
“Every route in our system will be affected one way or another,” he said.
For example, even in high-demand areas, bus frequency will decrease and riders will have to wait longer for their bus.
Ritchie stressed that the Port Authority has been asking the state government for a dedicated stream of funding for public transportation for years, and will continue to do so until a solution is reached.
You can also read about the Port Authority’s discussion of bringing a rapid bus system to Pittsburgh on our blog, here.