Port Authority Must Reinstate Mask Requirements for Rider and Worker Safety

Image Description: An older woman wearing black glasses, a surgical mask and a flowery dress, holding a black handbag is walking away from a red Port Authority bus with its door open with a passenger boarding.

We condemn the irresponsible decision by the Port Authority of Allegheny County to stop enforcing mask-wearing on public transit, following the Florida court ruling yesterday regarding the CDC mandate. The decision by PAAC comes as COVID-19 cases are rising in Allegheny County and nationwide due to a new and more transmissible strain of Omicron. Transit agencies including Chicago’s CTA and Portland’s TriMet (…and NYC’s MTA, San Fran’s Muni, BART and SFMTA, Denver RTD, Caltrain, AC Transit, Seattle’s King County Metro and Sound Transit, and Kitsap Transit…) have elected to continue local requirements and enforcement for mask-wearing despite this latest challenge to federal CDC directives. PPT is calling on the Port Authority to immediately pass and enforce its own transit rider and worker mask requirements, because the agency has an obligation and has stated its intention to make its facilities safe for all users.

Requiring masks for all riders and workers is critical to ensuring that public transit is safe and accessible. Mask-wearing has been shown to be effective only when it is universally adopted, and not solely by those who elect “to wear masks for their own comfort and safety.” Many people with disabilities, including those who are immunocompromised, rely on public transit to access essential services. Without a mask requirement and enforcement, these riders must compromise their health in order to go to the doctor, to buy fresh food, to visit with family and more. Children under 5 years old are still unable to access the vaccine.

 “The decision to stop enforcing mask usage on buses doesn’t consider people like me, who are immuno-compromised. This latest COVID-19 variant is more transmissible than any other we’ve seen, and people are still getting sick and dying from the virus. Port Authority’s choice makes me afraid to ride,” says bus rider and PPT Board Chair, Verna Johnson

This decision acts in stark opposition to the agency’s goals around the worker vaccine mandate, which stressed their commitment “to promot[ing] the health, wellness and safety of Port Authority’s workforce… and the riding public.” (from Port Authority’s Jan 10, 2022 news release) The Port Authority’s catastrophic rollout of the transit worker vaccine mandate has caused weeks of unsafe, overcrowded buses and transit riders left waiting at the stop, as hundreds of experienced transit workers were put on disciplinary leave. The rollback of the mask mandate will likely lead to even worse transit service: in the UK, the lifting of mask requirements in public spaces recently led to a significant increase in illnesses among airline employees and the abrupt cancellations of hundreds of flights.  

Pittsburghers for Public Transit will be holding a rally downtown at 1 pm this Friday, April 22nd to highlight how transit service is linked to survival for both individuals and our broader community, to demand service improvements, and to insist on increased safety for transit riders and workers. 

After Years of Organizing and Planning, Mon Valley Communities See Federal Funding Responding to Transit-Oriented Development Needs

Image Description: Ms. Debra Green holds the microphone at a downtown rally surrounded by people standing and sitting in wheelchairs with signs reading “BRT for the Mon Valley”, “No Cuts to 61A”, “Bus Lines are Lifelines.”

A new $565,500 grant to the Port Authority marks the next phase in residents’ successful campaign to extend the East Busway

Transit riders, residents, businesses, and elected officials in the Mon Valley have been working hard to extend the East Busway’s benefits into their communities. After years of organizing to uplift the demand for better transit, we are celebrating the recent Federal Transportation Administration’s $565,500 planning grant award to Port Authority, to evaluate the local development and transit ridership benefits of a busway extension into the communities of Braddock, North Braddock, and East Pittsburgh. This grant award is timely: the 2021 bipartisan federal infrastructure bill will make funding available to realize capital transportation investments, particularly those that will stimulate and revitalize underinvested communities.

Over the last several years, the boroughs of Braddock, East Pittsburgh, and North Braddock (BEN) collaborated on a shared comprehensive plan which centered the importance of an extended East Busway transit-priority corridor into the Mon Valley. During this planning process, these communities identified opportunities to support higher density, mixed income development, and critical amenities around potential new transit stations, in order to welcome new residents, support local businesses, and grow their municipal tax base. The BEN Communities have continued their collaboration through joint participation in the Allegheny Together Program, funded through Allegheny County to provide planning and technical assistance for greater reinvestment into walkable business districts and corridors.

At the same time, PPT hired 16 community leaders from the Mon Valley to survey nearly 600 residents on our Beyond the East Busway campaign to identify key destinations that should be better served by transit, and to make recommendations about which alignment of an East Busway extension would best meet transit rider needs. PPT organizing fellows surveyed a broad range of people living and working in the Mon Valley, including parents, single mothers, older adults, people with disabilities and students. The Port Authority’s decision to focus on this corridor in their long range NEXTransit Plan (Corridor E) and for this FTA planning grant reflects vocal transit rider advocacy and explicit support by the elected leadership in Rankin, Braddock, and East Pittsburgh in the grant application process.

This investment in planning is long overdue.

There is an extremely high and growing percentage of transit commuters in this region. In fact, four of the municipalities with the highest transit usage in all of Pennsylvania are within these corridors: #3 is Rankin (35.5%), #5 is East Pittsburgh (31.6%), #8 is Swissvale (24.9%), and #10 is Braddock (24.4%). In addition, five of the ten routes with the highest ridership increases for Port Authority from FY2019 to FY2020 were in the Mon Valley and Eastern Suburbs (P68 Braddock Hills Flyer, 52L Homeville Limited, 69 Trafford, P67 Monroeville Flyer and 55 Glassport), demonstrating that even during a pandemic, transit is a critical lifeline for riders of these routes. Despite this, transit access is poor for most of these communities: from Braddock to downtown, a bus trip averages 60 minutes even when using the high speed Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway. Due to cumbersome last-mile challenges, a passenger may spend 20 minutes using the busway, but must travel an additional 40 minutes before they enter the borough. A car trip, by contrast, takes 20 minutes from start to finish.

“With support from Allegheny County Economic Development, efforts are in place to revitalize Braddock Ave’s business district, which has always serviced multiple communities. Coupled with the Mon Metro Chamber of Commerce, this region of the Mon Valley is positioning itself for economic growth. A thoughtfully planned transportation system will function as a conduit to support all of our communities. This is our lifeline to jobs, business creation, and economic development,” says Tina Doose, founder and board chair of the Mon Metro Chamber of Commerce.

The FTA-supported Moving the Mon Valley project will specifically study the positive impacts of two potential busway extension scenarios, to provide a detailed understanding of how improved access to high-quality transit service will help Mon Valley communities achieve their equity, access, and economic development goals.  Recognizing, through this study, the transformative potential of public transportation is an important step along the way to building the high quality transit service the Mon Valley deserves. We look forward to supporting the Port Authority’s study by elevating the voices of Mon Valley riders and encouraging strong collaboration with community leaders and transit riders in Swissvale, Rankin, Braddock, North Braddock, East Pittsburgh, and beyond.

Join residents of the Mon Valley and Eastern Suburbs on March 28th, 6-7:30pm to plan the next steps in this campaign to win better service beyond the East Busway

Join the PPT Team: We’re Hiring for a Community Organizer!

Pittsburghers for Public Transit, a project of The Thomas Merton Center, is a grassroots organization of public transit riders, workers, and residents who defend and expand public transit. 

We are seeking a full-time community organizer to start in Summer 2021! The community organizer will work out of our Garfield office, but may work part-time remotely. The primary responsibilities will be to mobilize grassroots action for more equitable, affordable and sustainable transit service. The organizer will directly engage riders, bus operators and residents in community campaigns for expanded transit funding at the state and federal level, for fair fares, and for affordable housing and equitable development that puts people first. The Organizer will report to the Director. 

All applications received by June 30th, 2021, will be guaranteed to be reviewed. However, we will continue to keep the position open until it is filled. We will be conducting interviews on a rolling basis as applications are received.

PPT has a very small paid staff team, and close collaboration is required between all three staff positions.  Primary duties and responsibilities of the community organizer include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Lead PPT base-building and leadership development
    1. Bottom-line the member-driven organizing committee, and recruit, train and support new members
    2. Develop and conduct member outreach plan
    3. Build strong relationships and develop a leadership pipeline for PPT member engagement 
    4. Mobilize members to take action and track participation
    5. Facilitate and lead canvassing days, phone banks, community meetings, events, and demonstrations
    6. Create and distribute fliers and other outreach material
    7. Manage and update the database of contacts and action history for each campaign
  1. Assist with campaign planning and implementation, informed by transit riders and workers 
    1. Assist with strategic planning
    2. Research transit needs, land use projects and policies that affect public transit riders and workers along with the community 
    3. Assist with coalition building, by identifying and collaborating with allied partners 
    4. Communicate with members of the media
    5. Support fundraising efforts and events
  1. Represent PPT in coalitions, meetings and events, and in communication with members of the media


  • Organized, responsible, and independent self-starter with the ability to identify new opportunities, while effectively using existing resources
  • At least 2-3 years of experience in grassroots community organizing or labor organizing
  • Proven ability to work as part of a team and to handle fast paced situations
  • Strong and effective communication skills (public speaking, writing, etc.)
  • Values self-improvement, open to giving and receiving feedback
  • Passionate about public transit, labor, environmental justice, and equity.
  • Believes in the power of collective action to bring about systemic change
  • Experience working in an environment where commitment to justice based on race, ethnic origin, gender, age, sexual orientation and physical ability is an important institutional value
  • Willingness to work flexible schedule, including nights and weekends
  • Willingness to travel throughout Allegheny County, and occasionally throughout the state of Pennsylvania
  • Computer proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Google Drive, and a willingness to develop additional skills as needed.

Although PPT is a public transit advocacy organization, we often work in neighborhoods and with residents who have limited or no access to public transit, and so it is important for applicants to have a reliable means of transportation. 

Please send a resume and cover letter to Laura Chu Wiens, Executive Director, PPT via email at laura@pittsburghforpublictransit.org. To ensure prompt attention make sure to put “PPT Community Organizer” in the subject line.

The Thomas Merton Center, PPT’s fiscal sponsor, is an equal opportunity employer. Women, people of color, and members of other under-represented groups are highly encouraged to apply. 

Salary is $46,000 a year, and includes high quality health care, bus pass, and very generous paid leave time.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES: 2020 Year-End Fundraising Campaign!

We’re in Transit towards Transformation! This year, we handed out more than 2,000 cloth masks to transit riders; we held a statewide Town Hall with PA Senator Bob Casey and more than 300 riders calling for $32 billion in transit funding relief; we won permanent weekend service improvements on the 22, 39, and 93 (among others) and doubled the frequency of the 59 bus! We showed how we can mobilize against unused car-housing (vacant parking garages) and have those resources be allocated towards affordable housing and transit passes at the East Liberty Giant Eagle redevelopment.

Volunteers will get a free t-shirt designed by PPT Coordinating Committee Member, Christina Acuna Castillo!

We’re holding a series of phonebanks that you can participate in from the comfort of your home to connect with PPT’s amazing membership and encourage folks to contribute, as they are able. Volunteers will also get one of our awesome new t-shirts, designed by PPT Coordinating Committee member Christina Acuna Castillo!

Let’s keep up the momentum. Your involvement can help PPT reach our goal of recruiting 250 supporters and raising $12,000.

PA Transit Riders Call for Equity and Racial Justice in the Regional Low-Carbon Transportation Program

Comments Submitted to the Transportation and Climate Initiative from Pittsburghers for Public Transit and Philly Transit Rider’s Union 10/30/20

Dear Governors and Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) Leaders:

Transit rider member organizations have participated in the TCI MOU discussions for several years, and have constituencies that include frontline communities in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh region. We, Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) and the Philly Transit Riders Union (Philly TRU), hope to strengthen the equity language in the MOU, to both ensure that those with the most at stake have a strong voice at the table to determine how the TCI resources are allocated, and to ensure that they will receive a clear and measurable benefit from the cap-and-invest proceeds.

We recognize and appreciate the steps taken to include a minimum investment for “overburdened and underserved” communities, and the need to have state-level equity advisory bodies to oversee implementation. We also appreciate the acknowledgement that complementary policies to the TCI must be deployed, as market-based schemes do not themselves address carbon emissions due to transportation, and may, in fact, increase emissions and create worse outcomes in communities already heavily burdened by power plants.

PPT has been a signatory and collaborator in the Green for All ​Policy Design letter for an Equitable Clean Transportation Program​, the ​TCI equity toolkit​ and subsequent letter submitted in response to the draft MOU in March 2020. We support and echo the Green For All recommendations​ submitted on 10/23 around the equity commitments, and would like to further elaborate on a few specific points.

Our comments regarding the equity commitments for the MOU are as follows:

1. Proceeds must put into a ‘lock box’​ ​not to be raided for general funds. This is a high priority, because TCI runs the risk of becoming a regressive tax on low-income and Black and Brown communities if substantial resources are not protected and set aside to be directed by frontline communities. A TCI MOU approved by the governor by executive order could be modified or overturned by the legislature or subsequent governors. ​TCI without substantial resources allocated to “underserved and overburdened communities” is worse than no TCI at all.

2. The term “overburdened and underserved” should identify a specific and defined community across all the participating states. That might be a term in line with Title VI law, or “Environmental Justice” communities. This definition should encompass BIPOC residents, people with disabilities, low-income residents, older adults, and communities who experience poor air quality due to transportation, power plants, or other manufacturing emissions.

3. The percentage of dedicated investment dollars should be increased beyond the 35%, and the allotment should be determined relative to the percentage of overburdened and underserved communities in the state. We understand that ​PA is looking at the “underserved and overburdened” communities as those defined as EJ communities, which represent about a third of the state. Under that framework, the 35% represents merely an equal share of the proceeds, not a larger or more equitable share to help repair historic and current wrongs. Many other states apparently have an even higher percentage of EJ communities, which would be poorly served by a less-than-equal share of the revenue.​ ​We are calling for the carve out for “overburdened and underserved communities” to be a minimum of 150% of the state percentage of those communities. ​For example: if “overburdened and underserved” communities (defined according to Title VI or EJ standards) represent 35% of the state, then 52.5% of the TCI proceeds should be allocated for that constituency.

4. A significant percentage of TCI funds that are not part of the equity allotment should be dedicated to funding the expansion of public transit​. Funding frequent, affordable, high quality public transit is a critical investment for addressing transportation emissions at the same time that it increases equity in our transportation systems.

Regarding the Community Advisory Body:

1. We believe that those who are targeted for the equity allotment should be the ones at the table to allocate resources and to design metrics to assess their efficacy.​ These Community Advisory Bodies must have the majority of seats filled with representative residents from disproportionately affected communities, who both live in that community and represent the demographics which define them as such. Representatives for the Community Advisory Body should additionally be chosen through an independent selection process, in concert with community-based organizations, and established as​ ​independent, non-political authorities.

a. The role of the Community Advisory Committee should include defining metrics for equitable outcomes, (including air quality monitoring and data tracking, changes to household income, public health impacts and increased jobs/services access). They should also advise on the RFP process and proposal evaluation criteria, and ensure communities are robustly engaged in all proposed infrastructure investments and programs.

2. Community Advisory Members should be paid for their time, local expertise, and reimbursed for travel. Moreover, community organizations should receive capacity grants for community outreach and education on the TCI program and develop their own proposals, including technical assistance. Funds for both of these should not be derived from the equity allotment, but be in addition.

Complementary policies we recommend:

1. At a minimum, TCI must do no harm to frontline communities already suffering from the emissions from electricity generation.​ We are deeply concerned about the disproportionate attention given to electrification as a remedy for transportation emissions, which will necessarily result in greater impacts on power-generation communities, and believe that it is unjust to secure resources for some underserved and overburdened communities at the expense of others. ​States must, in the MOU, commit to enacting, during the adoption of the TCI program and not at a later date, a complementary policy (such as California’s AB 617) that would guarantee significant emission reductions in disproportionately polluted communities.

Workforce development goals:

  1. We uplift the calls for workplace development and job training, especially for workers affected by the transition to cleaner vehicles and for communities who are under-employed. There should be provisions for ensuring that these jobs pay prevailing wage and commit to union-neutrality.The TCI program should include​ ​supplier diversity goals to encourage proposals from women and minority-owned businesses.

Ensuring that the TCI Investments are Equitable and Effective:

1. The Participating Jurisdictions will annually review and report the impacts of each Participating Jurisdiction’s individual program, including with respect to equity. Annual reports will specify how TCI program proceeds are spent by each Participating Jurisdiction and include lists of projects and programs supported by TCI proceeds and the levels of investment received by each. We would especially call for a critical eye towards investments in electric-charging stations, for them to be weighed against investments in transit-supportive infrastructure like bus rapid transit corridors in terms of equity, efficacy in reducing transportation emissions and number of residents served.

Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to on-going conversations around TCI.


Philly Transit Riders Union

Pittsburghers for Public Transit

The Mon-Oakland Connector is a Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Project.

Image Description: Silhouette of Rosa Parks with roses in background, text reading “Transit for People, Not for Profit! Equity, Dignity and the Freedom to Move.” Artist Credit: Christina Acuna Castillo

They’re back at it again: trying to use public dollars to build luxury transportation for wealthy developers.

After a disastrous first attempt at a final public meeting for the Mon Oakland Connector project, the City’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, the Universities and the foundations that own Hazelwood Green are holding a second meeting on Thursday, October 29th, 6-8pm.

Residents who live in Hazelwood, Greenfield, the Run, Oakland, and Squirrel Hill, and any taxpayers in the City of Pittsburgh who understand the importance of equity and efficiency in public investments needs to join.

We are asking stakeholders (City residents, organizational representatives, Mon-Oakland corridor neighborhood residents, transit riders, CMU and Pitt students, renters and homeowners) to speak up during the public meeting Q&A portion or in the zoom chat. We ask that you introduce yourself and share why you are a stakeholder, then lay out your concerns or the needs that you see should be uplifted instead of the MOC shuttle roadway.

Instead of investing millions in the Mon Oakland Connector roadway, the City, Universities, and Foundation Partners should invest in a true community-generated transportation plan.

The project will cost about $25 million that that the city will pay to build the road through the park, then the foundation and university partners will pay an additional $16+ million to operate a short-term shuttle.

Instead of sinking millions of dollars into this ineffective project, these entities should fund the community’s Our Money, Our Solutions proposal to extend the 75 bus service into Hazelwood.

Why is the Mon Oakland Connector so bad exactly?

1. The MOC shuttle fails as a transportation project.

The Mon-Oakland Shuttle is projected to carry 180 passengers a day, primarily to two destinations– Carnegie Mellon University and Hazelwood Green, at an extraordinary cost per trip. The Mon-Oakland Connector will also be obsolete almost at its start: The shuttle’s full daily ridership capacity of 180 riders will hardly mitigate the proposed travel demand to Hazelwood Green, which is anticipated to be 20,413 trips by 2028, and 61,000 trips by 2060. That means no relief for Hazelwood, Greenfield and Oakland residents on the increased congestion and air quality issues that will only worsen as Hazelwood Green builds out.

And City residents don’t just need to travel between Hazelwood Green and CMU! By contrast, extending the 75 bus service would create new, direct connections from Hazelwood to the Southside (read: food, jobs), to the whole of Oakland (read: healthcare, jobs), Shadyside, East Liberty, Bakery Square, Morningside and Aspinwall.

The travel time on the 75 between Hazelwood and Oakland would be just as fast as the proposed shuttle. It could be implemented tomorrow. It would serve thousands of residents rather than a few hundred. And because the service would be run by Port Authority, it would be sustainable, affordable, publicly-run and fully accessible. Almono Partners could even pay for the 75 buses to be electric buses, and it would STILL be cheaper than funding the Mon-Oakland shuttle “pilot” phase.

2. Projects like this cause gentrification and displacement.

Yesterday, The City’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI)’s Director Karina Ricks compared the Mon-Oakland Connector to the Atlanta Beltline and Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago. These projects and similar trigger gentrification and displacement in low-income neighborhoods and in neighborhoods with a majority of people of color.

3. The MOC is the single-most expensive transportation corridor investment that the City is making, while the City is experiencing a record $100 million dollar budget shortfall.

The City does not have the resources to address critical resident needs during a on-going public health and economic emergency, let alone fund a luxury microtransit pilot project.

4. The City’s public process for the Mon-Oakland Connector has been abysmal.

The “final” virtual public meeting on the Mon-Oakland Connector shuttle roadway and the shuttle service will also be the first time that the public has seen the shuttle proposal. And this Monday, DOMI’s Director Ricks said in the Post Gazette that “most of the ‘hard engineering’ for the city work has been completed. The public still can have a say on the landscaping, lights and elements that will be included in park recreation areas.

‘There is certainly much on the table for input,’ [Ricks] said. ‘This is the opportunity the neighborhood has to weigh in.'”

Weighing in on “landscaping and lighting” is not what public engagement looks like. For the last five years, residents in Four Mile Run and Hazelwood have raised concerns and questions about the need, the harm and the benefits about running an autonomous shuttle, building a $23 million dollar bike trail, then building a roadway for a manned CMU to Hazelwood Green shuttle through Schenley Park. For more about the City’s evolving project descriptions, and community opposition, check out this WESA piece from March.

5. Building the shuttle roadway through Schenley Park and Sylvan Avenue will diminish our limited City green space and recreational areas, and will likely reduce the efficacy of the Four Mile Run flood remediation effort.

The project calls for the clear cutting of 900 trees, mostly in the Panther Hollow portion of Schenley Park. There has been no published analysis of how adding the non-permeable surface of the shuttle roadway would affect the desperately needed floodwater relief in the corridor. The Mon-Oakland Connector roadway will also substantially diminish the size of the soccer field in Junction Hollow.

6. Running shuttles along the Junction Hollow commuter bike path and next to the playing field puts users at risk.

Many cyclists consider the Mon-Oakland Connector a degradation of the existing connection between Downtown, Oakland and Southside because the MOC will require cyclists to share the commuter path with motorized vehicles.

There are, however, important pedestrian and trail improvements that residents have fought for and won over the course of the last five years, including the pedestrian tunnel to Panther Hollow Lake, and addressing the dangerous “Chute” connection (the Eliza Furnace trail along Second Ave from Swinburne St. to Saline St). These improvements should not be held hostage to the shuttle roadway. Finally, we need to ensure that members of the Hazelwood/Four Mile Run/Panther Hollow/Greenfield community get to stay to enjoy these improvements, and that they are not pushed out to make way for them.

We are Calling You to Action!

We are asking stakeholders (City residents, organizational representatives, Mon-Oakland corridor neighborhood residents, transit riders, CMU and Pitt students, renters and homeowners) to speak up during the public meeting Q&A portion or in the zoom chat. We ask that you introduce yourself and share why you are a stakeholder, then lay out your concerns or the needs that you see should be uplifted instead of the MOC shuttle roadway.

New PPT Report: Why We Need a COVID-19 Transit Fare Relief Program for Low-Income Riders

Pittsburgh PA – On Tuesday, September 22, Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) published a new report detailing why the Port Authority should immediately implement a transit fare relief program for low-income riders titled “No Greater Need, No Greater Opportunity: The Time for COVID-19 Fare Relief for Low-Income Riders is Now.”

This new report lays out how collecting full fares during the pandemic is disproportionately harming Allegheny County’s low-income and Black residents, and preventing these residents from accessing basic needs including groceries, healthcare and jobs. Emergency fare relief is in line with measures being taken by other public utility providers, to ensure that connections to critical services are not cut off in the midst of an unprecedented economic and public health crisis. 

Port Authority has stated that they are interested in a long-term low-income fare program. There is no better time to pilot its implementation. Transit agencies are facing an existential ridership crisis, with no clear pathway to recovering the 65-70% of pre-COVID-19 ridership that has stopped taking transit. Allowing SNAP-eligible riders to show their EBT/ACCESS cards to board could provide an immediate ridership boost without incurring increased operating costs. 

In May, PPT mobilized 31 riders and organizational speakers to call for this COVID-related intervention at Port Authority’s board meeting, when it became clear that the agency was planning to reinstate full fare collection after a 2-month hiatus. 

19 local and state political leaders followed suit with a letter to Port Authority calling for fare relief for low-income riders, and Allegheny County Council passed a Will of Council advocating for the measure.

Key Findings from Pittsburghers For Public Transit’s new report, “No Greater Need, No Greater Opportunity: The Time for COVID-19 Fare Relief for Low-Income Riders is Now.

  • Black residents and low-income residents represent a disproportionately high percentage of transit ridership during COVID-19.
  • Transit routes serving Black neighborhoods have seen steep ridership losses from the reinstatement of full fares.
  • Port Authority Transit ridership is at an all-time low (down 65-70%), and an emergency low-income fare program could allow PAAC to quickly regain 9% of its ridership.
  • Port Authority can implement the program with little to no increase in operating costs by reallocating service to high-ridership routes (which Port Authority announced it would begin doing in November).
  • Unique revenue sources that could cover the estimated annual fare revenue loss of $4M-$8M include: The $141M in CARES Act Funding received by the Port Authority, Cares Act Funding received by the County and/or State, philanthropic partner support for emergency COVID relief efforts.

60+ PA Organizations Call on Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey to Pass $32 Billion to Keep Transit Moving

On Tuesday, July 21st, 62 community organizations, advocacy groups and unions across the state of Pennsylvania sent an open letter to PA Senators Casey and Toomey calling on them to champion a $32 Billion dollar COVID relief package for transit with the HEROES Act. 

Public transit in Pennsylvania is on the edge of disaster. Transit revenue has cratered during the COVID-19 crisis and PA transit agencies are bleeding millions of dollars weekly. Congress needs to invest the $32 billion to address the projected shortfall nationwide, or SEPTA, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, and dozens of agencies across the state will see fare hikes, service cuts, and shutdowns. PA needs safe, effective transit so that essential workers can continue to provide services to their communities through their jobs in healthcare and grocery stores, and to ensure that our cities have a pathway forward to economic recovery. 

The HEROES Act must include a fair funding formula, so that transit agencies across the Commonwealth will each receive a sufficient allocation of the emergency relief to meet their needs, with no communities left behind. This federal legislation should also provide the resources to ensure transit and other essential workers are given hazard pay to recognize and compensate them for the risk that they assume everyday, along with PPE and federal transit safety guidelines for riders and workers.

Hundreds of PA riders and transit workers will follow up on this letter by participating in a virtual Transit Crisis Talk with Senator Bob Casey on Tuesday, July 28th at 5 pm, and share their stories of why Senator Casey needs to be a #TransitChampion and ensure that transit moves us past COVID-19.

The full letter and signatories are copied below:

July 21, 2020

Dear Senator Casey and Senator Toomey: 

As labor, environmental, business and community advocates, we applaud the decisive action that you took in March to support the federal CARES Act at the outset of the pandemic. The CARES Act emergency federal transit funding was a critical initial investment to help offset the steep revenue decline experienced by our transit agencies. However, $32 billion dollars in COVID-relief funding for transit is still needed in order to address this crisis. We urge you to take immediate action and provide robust transit funding support in the upcoming HEROES Act legislation. We need to have safe and effective public transit to move us through the pandemic and beyond, especially here in Pennsylvania. 

Our transit systems keep our cities alive: essential workers depend on transit to get to work and many are reliant on transit to access essential needs like food and healthcare. Transit is an important economic driver — transit agencies are among the largest employers in PA cities — and these services are vital to stemming congestion and pollution. Transit is also crucial to uplifting historically underserved Black and Brown communities.

There is no economic or public health recovery for our communities without a fully operational transit system. That is why it is so alarming to realize that Pennsylvania’s transit agencies alone are facing a $1.36 billion dollar funding shortfall through fiscal year 2021. 

Pennsylvania’s transit systems will run out of funding by September 2020. 

Nationwide, transit systems need a total of $32 billion dollars in emergency operating support, without which we will inevitably see service reductions, fare increases and transit system shutdowns. The consequences of these impacts will hurt essential workers and our Black and Brown communities the most. We also need the HEROES Act to include a fair funding formula to ensure that transit systems each get a dedicated allocation according to their needs.  

Pennsylvania cannot reopen without full transit service. People can’t go to work if they can’t get to work; 36% of all transit commuters are essential workers who rely on public transit to get to their jobs. Even with the current reduction in ridership, we need to ensure that the system is safe for both essential personnel and transit workers, and that it provides reliable and effective service to move riders to jobs, healthcare, food and other critical needs. Transit workers and many regular riders have been hardest hit by both the economic and health consequences of COVID-19, with one quarter of essential workers in Pennsylvania making less than $30,000 annually. It’s our moral obligation to ensure that Pennsylvania runs enough transit service so that essential personnel and transit workers have sufficient space to ride safely. 

We need to make sure that Pennsylvania’s paratransit service and rural transit agencies are fully supported throughout this crisis and will remain viable into the future. These transit providers take riders without other options to jobs and health care. This is vital lifeline service, not an afterthought. Federal aid must prioritize those facing the most precarious situations regardless of where they live in the Commonwealth.

Federal funding for transit is an investment in good jobs and is a major driver of economic activity for Pennsylvania. PA’s transit agencies are among the largest employers in their cities, and these jobs are at risk. Transit workers continue to provide critical services at great risk to themselves. Over 300 transit workers in Philadelphia tested positive for COVID-19.9 The HEROES Act needs to provide hazard pay to recognize and compensate this essential work. Moreover, capital projects for transit create manufacturing and construction jobs across the country. One study found that over 30,000 manufacturing and 30,000 construction jobs will be lost without additional funding due to the cancellation of capital projects. 

Federal funding for transit will help stem congestion and pollution. If Congress doesn’t act now to keep transit running safely at full service levels, we will see massive increases in traffic congestion, pollution, motor vehicle crashes, along with decreases in productivity, sustainability, and efficiency. PA’s transportation emissions alone account for nearly 1% of the U.S.’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for 29% of emissions in the U.S., and 83% from cars and trucks. To prevent the worst impacts of climate change to our economy, health and environment, we must reduce transportation emissions impacts. We cannot afford to reverse the progress we’ve made by worsening greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.  

Investing in public transit is a concrete way to uplift the public health and economic well-being of Black and Brown communities. We know that emissions from transportation disproportionately affect lower-income people of color, and poor air quality is linked to more severe COVID health outcomes. Over the past several decades, the federal government has consistently neglected mass transit, instead prioritizing investment in roads and highways that disproportionately serve whiter suburban communities. This is part of a pattern of the federal government disinvesting in Black and Brown communities, and the Trump administration has made the problem worse by gutting Obama era investments in mass transit.  

Black workers are disproportionately represented among essential workers and Black and Latinx workers are less likely to be able to work at home than their white counterparts.  Even pre-COVID, Black and Latinx Americans were more than twice as likely as whites to rely on public transportation to get to work. Under the pandemic, Black and Latinx people are even more likely than white people to be riding public transit every day to get to jobs as essential workers. 

As we respond both to the crisis of the pandemic and reckon with our nation’s lack of investment into Black and Brown communities, we call on you, our state Senate delegation, to help lead the effort in advancing solutions that we know work. It is just as important that we see sufficient funding to address the scale of the need. 

We look forward to working with you as you shape relief legislation. 


ATU Local 85, Pittsburgh PA

ATU Local 164, Wilkes-Barre PA

ATU Local 168, Scranton PA

ATU Local 568, Erie, PA

ATU Local 801, Altoona PA

ATU Local 956, Allentown PA

ATU Local 1241, Johnstown PA

ATU Local 1279, Ebensburg PA

ATU Local 1345, Reading PA

ATU Local 1436, Harrisburg PA

ATU Local 1496, Williamsport PA

ATU Local 1595, Plum Borough PA

ATU Local 1738, New Castle PA

ATU Local 1743, Pittsburgh, PA

Transport Workers Union (TWU)

5th Square

350 Philadelphia

Allegheny County Transit Council (ACTC)

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) Pittsburgh Chapter

Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia

Bike Pittsburgh

Bloomfield Development Corporation

Casa San Jose

Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE)

CKG Architects

Clean Air Council

Connect the Dots

Consumer Health Coalition

Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers

East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association (EPX)

Economy League of Greater Philadelphia

evolve environment::architecture

Green for All Dream Corps

Green Party of Allegheny County

Izaak Walton League of America, Allegheny County

Just Harvest

Nationalities Service Center

Neighborhood Bike Works

Olivia Bennett, Allegheny County Councilmember District 13

One Pennsylvania




Philadelphia Climate Works

Philly DSA

Philly Transit Riders Union

Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG)

Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers

Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance

Pittsburgh Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)

Pittsburgh United

Pittsburghers for Public Transit

Put People First! PA

Reclaim Philadelphia

Restaurant Opportunities Center of Pennsylvania

SEIU Healthcare PA

SEPTA Youth Advisory Council (YAC)

Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization

Sunrise Philadelphia

Sunrise Pittsburgh

Thomas Merton Center

Transit Forward Philadelphia

Transport Workers Union

Tuesdays with Toomey Philadelphia

Urban Kind Institute

Make sure YOU are counted in the 2020 census

Public Transit relies on you taking the census!

Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) has joined the Keystone Counts Coalition to help ensure a fair and accurate count of the upcoming 2020 census, which is data that guides many decisions for the upcoming decade. There is a lot at stake in this Census, and historically-marginalized communities have been undercounted in the past. Ensuring a proper count has enormous impacts:

Why your participation in the 2020 Census is critical

ON RESOURCES: Federal programs allocate funding based on census data, so an undercount could drastically reduce the resources coming to Pennsylvania for education, healthcare, housing, Public Transit, veterans, seniors, and much more.

ON REPRESENTATION: Because U.S. House of Representatives is apportioned according to census data, Pennsylvania could easily lose one or more representatives after the 2020 census, especially with an undercount. Because state legislative districts are also drawn based on census data, communities that are undercounted would go underrepresented for the next decade.

ON COMMUNITY SUPPORT: Aside from funding and political representation, local government, philanthropic, and community leaders also rely on census data to know where to fund, build, or invest. Not being counted literally means becoming invisible to these decision-makers.

Now more than ever, you MUST do your part and take the 2020 Census

During this pandemic, the people who are now deemed invaluable to our country are often under ordinary circumstances the first of us to be forgotten. They are our grocery store tellers, meat packers, those who clean and sterilize our hospital. We have always known that these are the folks who should be heard, counted, and seen. Now is our opportunity to do that. 

Beyond the East Busway! A Campaign Planning Meeting

On March 12th from 6 pm to 8 pm, PPT will hold a community meeting to plan next steps on the Beyond the East Busway Campaign. We want you and your neighbors involved!

Pittsburghers for Public Transit is working with communities on a rider-led campaign to extend the East Busway through the Mon Valley to McKeesport, and the Eastern Suburbs to Monroeville. Over this past summer, we rolled out a community-driven transit planning tool and organizing fellowship in order to solicit input from the community on what they wanted the future of their transit to look like. With the help of our fellows, we surveyed over 500 residents in the corridor. On March 12th, we want to share the data with you, and make the plan to win.

Beyond the East Busway Campaign Planning Meeting
March 12, 6-8pm
Pittsburgh Mennonite Church
Easy access via East Busway routes, 61A, 59, or 61B. Shoot an email if you need help with a ride: info@pittsburghforpublictransit.org

Volunteer to help PPT Phonebank on 3/5 to turn out advocates

We’re reaching out to all 500 neighbors who live in the Mon Valley & Monroeville to invite them to the planning meeting on 3/12. Help us call through these numbers – and get some FREE PIZZA too! We’ll meet at the Thomas Merton Center, 3/5, from 5pm to 8pm. Please bring a cell phone and computer if you have it.