Though the North Shore will receive enhanced public transportation next month, by September, two other Northside neighborhoods are facing complete service elimination.
The 2,122 other weekday bus riders of the 15 Manchester and the 604 weekday riders of the 11 Fineview will fall victim to the 35 percent service cut announced by the Port Authority last month.
While the latest slew of Port Authority transit cuts will largely affect suburban routes and express buses, Manchester and Fineview are facing complete service elimination, which will leave close to 3,000 Northside riders stranded.
On Jan. 18, Port Authority announced that its latest 35 percent transit cut will eliminate bus service to Fineview and Manchester, as well 100 other neighborhoods throughout the region if the service reduction passes.
Riders throughout the City will also see a 25-cent increase for Zone 1 rides and a 50-cent increase for Zone 2 rides.
“These proposed cuts are a direct result of the shortfall in state funding for transportation, including roads, bridges and mass transit,” said Heather Pharo, Port Authority spokeswoman. “This isn’t something we want to do, and we are hopeful that a solution can be found and such drastic cuts can be avoided,”
Public transportation advocates across the City have said described the potential cuts as “crushing” and “city-crippling.”
Last spring, Governor Tom Corbett appointed a Transportation Funding Advisory Commission to address the state’s transportation funding crisis. In August of 2011, the commission recommended combined stable and consistent funding sources, streamlined operations, efficiency improvements and new tools to help transportation systems statewide.
Spokeswoman Kelli Roberts with Corbett’s office said there is currently no plan to address the commission’s recommendations separately from the rest of the state’s budget.
“The governor is continuing to look at those recommendations, said Roberts, “keeping them in context with the economy and what taxpayers can afford right now.”
It is estimated that if in effect, the commission’s recommendations would cost taxpayers about $11 a month in additional taxes.
Fineview Citizen Council President Melissa Gallagher said the service cut would be especially detrimental to Fineview because many of its residents are elderly, disabled or low-income and rely on public transportation to grocery shop, go to doctors’ appointments and fulfill other basic needs.
“For the residents of Fineview, the bus is not just a way to get downtown, it is also lifeline to work and school. Fineview does not have a business district and due to the topography of our neighborhood, most of our residents cannot walk to East Street, East Ohio Street or the Perrysville #8 Bus Route,” said Gallagher, who uses the 11 Fineview daily to commute to her office Downtown.
She said the cuts will be a financial hardship on her family because she will pay $13.75 to $20 to park Downtown each day compared to the $4.50 she would have spent on bus fair, and the value of their home will go down as it is no longer on a bus line.
“I believe this is where we need the dedicated funding from the state level since the transit systems are crucial to the infrastructure of our cities,” she said. “I hope the Transit Authority will reconsider keeping some morning and evening routes from Fineview to Downtown and back.
Manchester Citizen’s Cooproration echoed these sentiments
“It’s common sense. People need busses,” said Ashley Jarret of Manchester Citizens Corporation. She noted that Manchester also does not have a nearby grocery store or business district, which makes public transportation a necessity for elderly residents and for those without cars.
Pharo said that the Port Authority takes many factors into consideration when cutting routes that include a route’s ridership, operating costs, productivity and availability of an alternate service.
She said that some 11 Fineview riders may be able to take the 8 Perrysville bus and some 18 Manchester riders may be able to take the 13 Bellevue, 15 Charles, 16 Brighton routes or ride the T from Allegheny Station into Downtown which will open in March.
“There were simply no easy decisions to be made, and many popular and well-used routes will be cut under this proposal,” said Pharo. “There’s no more fat to trim in our route system; unfortunately, there isn’t a single route that won’t see a reduction of some kind if we’re forced to make these cuts.”
While protests are happening throughout the city and leaflets are being passed out at Downtown bus stops, concerned riders may contact local state senators to advocate for state funding.
“Many community organizations have stepped up to advocate for reliable transit funding,” said Pharo. “We encourage riders to learn more and get involved. KeepPGHMoving.com is a good place to start.”
The Port Authority board will vote on the service reductions on April 27, and if passed the cuts will take effect in September. Port Authority will hold a public hearing on February 29 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and will collect comments online and by mail February 5 through March 9.