Contact County Council Members to Fund Public Transit

At the county council meeting on Dec. 2, Heather Heidelbaugh put forward an amendment to the operating budget that allocated 3 million dollars from the county’s transit support fund balance (from drink tax and car rental revenue) to Port Authority’s operating budget. These funds would allow Port Authority to add more transit service. This amendment was supported by Councilmembers Heidelbaugh, Hawkins, Daly Danko, and Robinson. The 11 other council members voted “no.” 

Action steps you can take:

Please call or write Heidelbaugh, Hawkins, Robinson, and Danko to thank them for supporting the amendment. (Heidelbaugh is the Republican rep of the whole county. Hawkins is District 13, Robinson is District 10, and Danko is District 11).

If you are not in District 10, 11, or 13 (see map here: please call to express your disappointment that your council member did not support this.

Below are the numbers and emails of the councilmembers. And here is the letter PPT sent to the council on Dec 10, which also highlights additional revenue that will be coming in this year


Dear Allegheny County Council Members,

Pittsburghers for Public Transit is writing to thank and acknowledge the council members who proposed and supported the amendment to the county operating budget that allocates 3 million dollars from the transit support fund’s balance to be used for Port Authority’s operating costs. These members are: Ms. Hawkins, Ms. Heidelbaugh, Ms. Danko, and Mr. Robinson. We deeply appreciate your recognition of the serious problem of transit deserts, and while we understand that the money cannot be designated to specific routes, any additional operating money that allows Port Authority to add service is a boon to our county and its residents. For example, in 2014, 2.7% of service was added for approximately 4 million dollars. This has made a huge difference for transit riders.

We are disappointed by the council members who chose to vote “no” to this amendment. This allocation would not have to be a “one time thing.” The transit support fund (drink tax and car rental tax revenue) has grown by close to 10 million dollars in just 4 years, and the county can afford to designate a few million every year to operating costs. We cannot wait 10 more years for the state to come up with matching funds. The county has decided to fund capital projects without matching state money, so why can’t it fund operatingcosts without matching state money?

A few council members were concerned about what the Port Authority would do with the money. We want to clarify that the Port Authority is working on developing their “service guidelines” which lay out the process for how and where they add transit service. They have indicated that increasing ridership is their primary concern (especially due to the performance-based state funding formula), but they are also working to address the needsof riders throughout the county. The county is in a position to help them improve our transit system, and they should use their resources to do so.

We recently learned that the county transit fund will be collecting 650,000 additional dollars due to an error from a car rental company. Based on demonstrated need and ridership potential, this revenue should be allocated to Port Authority’s operating costs so that they can grow our transit system in the most equitable ways. We expect our council members to support using the county’s resources to the benefit of their most vulnerable constituents.


Contact info for council members:

County-wide Representatives
John DeFazio: jdefazio@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6516
Heather Heidelbaugh: heather.heidelbaugh@alleghenycounty.us412-638-8165

District 1: Thomas Baker, thomas.baker@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6525
District 2: Jan Rea, jrea@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6530
District 3: Edward Kress, edward.kress@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6535
District 4: Michael Finnerty, mfinnerty@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6540
District 5: Sue Means, sue.means@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6545
District 6: John Palmiere, jpalmiere@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6550
District 7: Nicholas Futules, nfutules@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6555
District 8: Charles Martoni, cmartoni@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6560
District 9: Robert Macey, rmacey@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6565
District 10: William Robinson, wrobinson@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6570
District 11: Barbara Daly Danko, bdanko@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6575
District 12: James Ellenbogen, jellenbogen@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6580
District 13: Amanda Green Hawkins, agreen@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6585 

Here is a video of the heated discussion of this topic on Dec 2 (you can watch it here starting at 2:50, it goes about 50 mins):

Giving Tuesday!

Support from you will help us continue our campaigns for transit service! Click on the donate button above.

***MEDIA RELEASE***                                                               
Nov 21, 2014
Contact: Molly Nichols
    (412) 216-9659
Amendment to County Drink Tax Allocation Proposed
At the County Council Budget and Finance committee meeting on Thurs Nov 20, Councilwoman Green Hawkins and Councilwoman Heidelbaugh put forward an amendment to the proposed county operating budget for 2015. Co-sponsored by Councilwoman Danko, the amendment allocated 3 million dollars from the county’s transit support fund (revenue from the car rental and drink tax) to Port Authority’s operating budget. This is in addition to the 15% county match of the state subsidy for operating provided to the Port Authority.
Ms. Green Hawkins stated that various communities have been indicating their needs for transit service, and while the funds cannot be specifically directed, this additional money being provided each year would allow Port Authority to implement and sustain additional service.
Ms. Heidelbaugh stated that the “most vulnerable” members of our community cannot get to work or health care. She acknowledged that the 3 million will not solve the problem altogether, but if the county has this money and does not spend it, it is a disservice to county residents.
Ms. Danko acknowledged that the growth of the drink tax fund from 32 million in 2009 to 42 million in 2013 indicates that the money could be allocated for Port Authority’s operating costs each year.
The amendment failed with a vote of 3 to 6. Voting in favor were: Green Hawkins, Heidelbaugh, and Daly Danko. Those opposed were: Rea, Means, Futules, Macey, Palmiere, and Finnerty.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit commends the efforts of Council members Ms. Green Hawkins, Ms. Heidelbaugh, and Ms. Daly Danko to designate these funds for adding much needed transit service and expect the rest of the Council to work to find a solution to the inadequate service throughout the county.

Keeping up the pressure for improved public transit

PPT has been busy these past few months, supporting community campaigns in their efforts to get service to their neighborhoods and ensuring that decision-makers make providing service to transit deserts more of a priority.

Here is PPT’s op-ed highlighting the issue of transit deserts:
Don’t leave transit deserts high and dry

Here is a report from WESA 90.5 where PPT asks questions about the allocation of county transportation funds: PennDot pedestrian bridge uses PAT funding

PPT presented at County Council on Sept 23 and Oct 30. For our testimony, click here, and here.

On Oct. 30, council members articulated their concern about transit deserts to Port Authority, insisting that a solution needed to be found.

PPT hopes that Port Authority and the County work together to begin to address this serious problem.

Over 100 Baldwin residents and supporters Walk for Transit!

Watch video here

Over 100 Baldwin residents and transit supporters came out Saturday morning to walk one mile up and down the steep hills of Churchview Ave, just half the distance many residents must trek to get to the nearest bus stop. They walked with their own handmade cardboard bus, to highlight the need for service restoration. Participants in the walk included bus riders, drivers, maintenance workers, high school students, members of the Boy Scouts, Borough council members, and other elected officials, including Sen. Jim Brewster.

The walk ended with a rally at the Baldwin Borough building, where people spoke about the high demand for bus service in the area.

“We are here to show decision-makers and the public how difficult it is for residents in Baldwin to get to a bus route. Many of us need to walk significant distances in all weather conditions, including up and down steep hills, just to get to the bus stop to go to work or school,” said Terry Breisinger, a visually-impaired resident who cannot drive. He often treks on roads without sidewalks to catch the 51 on Brownsville Rd to get to his job in town.

The 50 Spencer route was cut in 2011, and Baldwin residents have been reeling from the effects ever since. In collaboration with Pittsburghers for Public Transit, they have been building a campaign to restore transit service in their community. Since May of 2014, 540 surveys have been completed by Baldwin residents; 97% indicate that public transit is important for their community. Residents have attended community meetings, spoken at Port Authority board meetings, sent letters to decision-makers, and met with Port Authority staff and board members. To date, 1225 petition signatures have been collected.

“We appreciate Port Authority’s willingness to listen to our concerns, and we will continue to push for immediate restoration of our bus service. Act 89 may not provide adequate funding to restore all the service that has been cut in Allegheny County, but this is not a reason to refuse to restore service anywhere. Baldwin has an exceptional gap in service, and this issue must be addressed,” said Karen Smith, Baldwin resident and lifetime bus-rider.

Port Authority is currently using funds provided by Act 89 to “enhance existing service” by adding frequency on overcrowded routes and extending routes. “Allegheny County and the public transit authority should also prioritize the needs of people in communities badly damaged by transit cuts,” said PPT member, Jonah McAllister- Erickson. “There are 9.5 million dollars of surplus revenue in the county’s transportation fund (funded in part by the drink tax). According to Judge Olson’s court ruling in 2009, these funds could be used for operating costs.”

The residents of Baldwin and PPT thank the Baldwin Borough elected officials, the Police, and the EMS for their support for the walk.

Press coverage: Trib article

Baldwin Walk for Transit

  • News coverage in advance of the walk: Baldwin residents campaign for return of bus route
  • Please join Baldwin residents, transit supporters, and community leaders on a walk to highlight the need for restored bus service. We are inviting elected officials and the Port Authority board and staff to walk a mile in our shoes–just half the distance many residents must trek to get to the nearest bus stop on Brownsville Road. 
    • WHEN: Saturday Sept 6th. Walk at 10 am. Rally at 11 am.
    • WHERE: Participants will gather at Churchview Garden Apartments (3783 Churchview Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA) and walk one mile to the Baldwin Borough building (3344 Churchview Avenue). At a rally outside the building, residents and local leaders will share why restoring transit service to Baldwin should be a top priority for Port Authority and Allegheny County.
    • Here is a full-page flier to share.

Baldwin Community Day a Success for the Transit Campaign!

12 volunteers helped to staff a transit booth at community day on Sat, Aug 2, 2014. Neighbors learned about the campaign, completed surveys, signed a petition, and entered a free raffle for a gift basket!

By the end of the day (when we had to close down early due to the torrential downpour) we had collected 300 petition signatures! Residents in Baldwin want their buses back! Shout out to everyone who helped make this day a success.