The reinstatement of fired transit workers will provide some immediate relief to our current service crisis. But in order to create public transit that gets us to more places, more quickly, with more reliability, PRT must show us how they plan to treat existing workers with dignity and hire more.
Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) celebrates the reversal of the vaccine mandate, which opens the door for the 80 experienced transit workers who were fired 1.5 years ago to return to their jobs. This is an important step towards addressing our regional transit crisis of on-going service cuts and unreliable transit schedules, and a step towards improving workforce morale at PRT.
Riders and workers deserve both quality service and safety on public transit. Although PRT claimed to be uplifting rider safety, the March 2022 decision to abruptly terminate 80+ seasoned transit workers came at the expense of both service quality and safety. The result has been years of buses overcrowded with riders (who vastly outnumbered drivers on any bus, and were vaccinated at a far lower rate than operators), and ghost buses that left riders at the curb.
It added insult to injury when Pittsburgh Regional Transit lifted the masking requirement on public transit– likely the most effective COVID-19 preventative measure– just a month after firing dozens of frontline workers for not being vaccinated. The harm of the vaccine mandate terminations have been compounded by the fact that hundreds of transit workers have reached or are hitting retirement age this year and next, creating a predictable frontline workforce gap that now numbers over 200 employees.
We need more and better transit service in Allegheny County. But to have more access to more places and better quality transit service means that PRT must get serious about the hiring and retention of transit workers. Show us the plan.
Transit workers are heroes; we need to treat them with dignity and we need more. Our region’s economic prospects rely on it. Our region’s climate prospects rely on it. Our transit riders and the grocery stores, doctors’ offices, schools, parks, libraries and families that they visit demand it.
The reinstatement of fired transit workers will provide some immediate relief to our current service crisis, but will not be enough on its own to restore and expand service to pre-pandemic levels. And we demand a plan from PRT.
This Spring, ATU Local 85 President Business Agent Ross Nicotero laid out several policies that PRT could implement now to grow our region’s transit workforce; we urge our County leadership to listen to his expertise.