Port Authority cutbacks limit non-drivers
By Rebecca Jeskey
Recent cutbacks in Allegheny County’s Port Authority services have left non-drivers with one major question: How will we get where we need to be?
According to Port Authority Spokesman Jim Ritchie, the service changed 77 bus routes and eliminated 14 of them on September 5.
”With some routes, we changed the schedules. With some routes, we changed that actual routing that they followed. In some cases, we actually were able to consolidate routes – two routes that might serve the same area into one,“ he said.
Ritchie added that the eliminated routes, in most cases, are now part of other itineraries. The Authority
cut routes that had low ridership and those that were more expensive to upgrade.
”We’re trying to find ways where we might have routes that really have low ridership or duplicate other routes, and try to reallocate those assets, those buses, those drivers to others areas where we want to improve services because we have higher demand,“ he said.
The recent route changes are part of the Transit Development Plan, which is a program that Ritchie said started three years ago, due to guidelines imposed by state officials. ”What they wanted to see us do was to improve ourselves, to improve how we operate,“ he said. ”They wanted us to be more efficient as a system.“
According to Ritchie, the state transformed how it funds public transit.
He stated, ”All transits in Pennsylvania receive state money to balance their budgets. Port Authority does the same. They traded a new law called that Act 44 in 2007. That law required transit agencies to be more efficient and more productive. If you did that, you stood to receive the maximum amount of state funding available. If you didn’t do that, you risked losing money in the future, which would have hurt our ability to put out buses everyday. We took it upon ourselves to basically study our system top to bottom. It’s the first time it’s ever been done.“
He added that the transition, for most riders, is not an easy adjustment. ”You have to get used to new schedules, new routes name, and in some cases, you have to find new place to get your bus,“ he said.
The transition, for some La Roche commuter students, is a constant adjustment. English education major Gerry O’Neil commutes from Shaler Township and reported that he sees flaws in the Port Authority schedules.
”They make it very difficult to have any kind of efficiency in your schedule,“ O’Neil said. ”Let’s say you have a window, and your morning class is done at 11, and then you have an evening class at 6. It is pointless to try to leave and then come back.“
To O’Neil, the issue with public transportation goes beyond Port Authority.
”The fact is that this is America, and if you don’t drive, you don’t count,“ he said. ”Part of the problem is that our whole suburban lifestyle and way of thinking and outlook is predicated on everyone having an automobile.“
He added, ”If you look at how suburbia gets laid out, you have this area that’s outside the city where everything is separate. Well, you live here, and you work here, and you go to school over here, and all of them require that you be able to drive if you’re going to get to places on time and get things done. I have a hard time envisioning the soccer mom on the bus.“
O’Neil isn’t the only commuter student affected by public transportation conflicts, according to Kelsey Landis, Student Government Association (SGA) commuter representative. Landis reported that some students have complained about the Port Authority route changes.
She said, ”When I asked a commuter of the school how the Port Authority route changes have affected him, he mentioned that since his car is currently out of service, he has to rely on public transportation, and that he has to walk 30 minutes to the nearest bus stop.“
Landis explained that she has received few complaints and declined to comment on any current plans to approach transportation issues among commuters.