Re-posted from Pitt’s University Times:
The Port Authority of Allegheny County will cut its service by 15 percent, including some service to Oakland, beginning March 27.
The plan, approved last week by the Port Authority board, will eliminate 29 routes and cause 180 employee layoffs. The plan amends a scheduled 35 percent service cut that was set to go into effect in March, prior to a $45 million infusion of emergency state funds announced by outgoing Gov. Edward G. Rendell in December. (See Jan. 6 University Times.)
Under the revamped plan approved Jan. 12, weekday service cuts will be made on 37 routes instead of 79; 63 routes will remain unchanged. Service to about half of the ridership will be affected, Port Authority officials estimated. The new plan is expected to produce an estimated 5 percent weekday ridership loss, that is, about 12,000 fewer passenger trips each weekday. The transit company’s average weekday ridership is 240,000.
The transit company also will close its Harmar garage.
The 15 percent reduction allows the transit company to stretch the emergency funding from the commonwealth over 18 months, through June 30, 2012.
Port Authority CEO Steve Bland said at the Jan. 12 public board meeting, “We want it to be absolutely clear that this is only a temporary solution and a painful one at that. We’re going to work very aggressively with the state legislature to find a sustainable transit solution. We’ve only bought some time.”
Absent a permanent fix to the chronic budget shortfalls, Bland said the Port Authority likely will reinstitute the 35 percent service cuts approved under the previous plan, although he did not specify when such cuts might occur.
The March cuts will be the fourth phase of service reduction, which began last April, followed by cuts in June and September.
Under a five-year contract with the Port Authority that runs through June 30, 2012, Pitt is paying $5.91 million for the current fiscal year (2010-11) for free bus rides for its valid ID holders. Pitt riders account for about 6 million rides annually, according to the Port Authority.
The contract includes a re-opener clause wherein either party with 60 days’ notice prior to the end of a contract year may demand a renegotiation of the fee for the following year. Pitt is contracted to pay $6.8 million for the year July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012, an increase of 15 percent over the current year.
Eli Shorak, associate vice chancellor for Business, told the University Times, “The University’s agreement with the Port Authority does include language acknowledging that the compensation paid by the University is in consideration for a certain level and type of service. The University does plan to consult with the Port Authority regarding service modifications and the impact these may have on our riders. These discussions may also include recommended compensation adjustments if it is determined that service modifications have a significant impact on the University’s overall ridership levels.”
The contract also calls for a renegotiation of the annual fee to be triggered by the installation of “smart card” technology on all Port Authority vehicles, a process that has been slowed by technology glitches, Port Authority officials have said.
That program will change the way Pitt riders are counted, with fare boxes that scan Pitt ID cards replacing the system of drivers manually tracking the number of Pitt riders. The new system is expected to eliminate human error and catch invalid IDs, thus yielding a more accurate count of Pitt rides, Port Authority officials noted.
The University’s payment to the Port Authority is subsidized in part by the $90 per term security, safety and transportation fee that Pittsburgh campus students pay. (The balance comes from the auxiliary operations budget of the Office of Parking, Transportation and Services.)
John Fedele, Pitt associate director of news, said that students will not face an increase in fees in the near term.
“There is likely no need for student fee increases in the near future. Once Port Authority has the smart card put on all transportation, we will review this,” Fedele said.
Among the Oakland service cuts starting March 27 are:
• 42 Mt. Lebanon-Oakland bus will have weekday service eliminated (there is no weekend service on this route).
• 54C Northside-Oakland-South Side will see service increased on Saturdays and decreased on Sundays; weekday service remains unchanged.
• 58 Greenfield will have service reduced on weekdays and weekends.
• 61A East Pittsburgh-Wilkinsburg is being rerouted (ending the route sooner at the Wilkinsburg end); the 61B Braddock-Swissvale will be rerouted to serve North Braddock in lieu of the 61A.
• 65 Squirrel Hill will have service reduced on weekdays (there is no weekend service on this route).
• 67 Monroeville will have service reduced on weekdays and weekends.
• 67E Greensburg Pike will be eliminated on weekdays (there is no weekend service).
• 67J Lincoln Highway will be eliminated on weekdays (there is no weekend service).
• 69 Trafford will have service reduced on weekdays and weekends.
• 71A Negley will have service reduced on weekdays and weekends.
• 71C Point Breeze will have service reduced on weekdays and Saturdays, with no change on Sundays.
• 71D Hamilton will have service reduced on weekdays and Saturdays, with no change on Sundays.
• 75 Ellsworth will have service reduced on weekdays and eliminated on weekends.
• 81 Oak Hill will have service reduced on weekdays and weekends.
• 83 Webster will have service reduced on weekdays and weekends.
• 84B Oakland Loop will be eliminated.
• 93 Lawrenceville-Oakland will have service reduced on weekdays and eliminated on weekends.
• EBA will be renamed P1 East Busway-All Stops. Service will be reduced on weekdays and weekends.
• G Greensburg Pike Flyer will have service reduced on weekdays (there is no weekend service on this route).
• G2 West Busway-Oakland will have service to Oakland eliminated and the route will be renamed G2 West Busway-All Stops.
• P3 East Busway-Oakland will have service reduced on weekdays (there is no weekend service).
Service to Robinson Towne Center via the 28X Airport Flyer, which had been eliminated last April, will be restored.
Transit fares were raised Jan. 2 to help counter a budget shortfall for the current fiscal year, Port Authority officials said. By law the transit company must balance its budget. Passenger fares cover about a quarter of the Port Authority’s expenses.
Details of the 15 percent service reduction are available at www.portauthority.org or by calling customer service at 412/442-2000 or the TTY number, 412/231-7007.