#VoteTransit County Executive Candidate Q&A: John Weinstein

image description: graphic with a photo of John Weinstein superimposed over a PRT bus and a yellow/red background.

The Allegheny County Executive is the most powerful person in Southwestern Pennsylvania when it comes to public transit – so it is vital for transit riders to elect a #TransitChampion into the position. The County Executive controls the majority of appointments to the Pittsburgh Regional Transit Board of Directors which control the transit agency’s $500+ million Operating Budget and $200+ million Capital Budget. Additionally, the County Executive controls board appointments and hundreds of millions of budget dollars at numerous County entities that directly impact the public transit system and its riders, such as the County Housing Authority, the County Department of Human Services, and the County Economic Development agency. Good people, robust budgets and progressive policy at all of these entities can transform transit in Allegheny County.

To ensure that transit riders are educated on where these candidates stand on public transit issues and what their vision is for our system, Pittsburghers for Public Transit issued a candidate questionnaire to all of the candidates running for our county’s top posiiton. Check out the answers that this candidate gave to our questionnaire below.

There’s big potential for having a #TransitChampion as the next County Executive, so transit riders are making some big demands. You can read the demands that riders are making for our next County Executive and sign-on to support below:

John Weinstein’s Answers to the #VoteTransit County Executive Candidate Questionnaire

1. What is your vision for restoring and expanding transit service frequency, span and coverage in the County?

John Weinstein: An accessible Allegheny County is how we grow Allegheny County. One of my greatest priorities has and always will be to grow this region to the greatest extent possible, and an important part of that is comprehensive transit coverage that enables our neighbors to readily access work, schools, stores, physicians, and all of life’s daily needs. Accomplishing that goal requires a proactive effort to seek out public input. We must engage at all local levels to determine what those local needs are in order to build plans that are not only efficient but also effective.

2. If you were the County Executive, would you commit to ensuring that the Department of Human Services discount fare program pilot becomes a permanent zero fare program for all SNAP/EBT households in Allegheny County? How would you ensure that DHS has sufficient resources to sustainably run the full program?

John Weinstein: I think this program is so important. It’s empowerment. It’s how we help to build people and families up. I want to help this community match its great potential, and means ensuring all have the ability to access their needs. Opportunities exist to utilize private-public partnerships to fund this program, to help people, and to make sure our residents can get to where they need to go. I look forward to the chance to build those bridges.

3. As County Executive, how will you ensure that developers in Allegheny County are building more affordable housing near great public transit?

John Weinstein: Public transit is an incredible resource for Pittsburgh, for Allegheny County, and for this entire region. It is imperative that we maximize its utility. That begins with talking with community leaders, neighbors, and developers and translating their feedback into a cohesive strategy that lead to thoughtful plans and tangible results. The trend of population loss locally is a problem, and while we have succeeded in many other ways, one we can clearly improve on in order to retain local and attract external talent is to regularly listen to those that rely on these systems and adapt as necessary. Rebuilding our infrastructure for better reliability, stabilizing routes, and accounting for usage all must be seriously evaluated, and done so quickly.

4. How will you ensure that transit riders have a meaningful voice and decision-making power at the highest level of Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT)?

John Weinstein: This is one of the most critical factors facing our public transit system. The reality is that many charged with developing plans do not utilize them on a regular basis, and so cannot wholly appreciate the existing situation. That is why we must emphasize the voices of local users, and why we must come to them. We need listening sessions that identify systemic problems and coverage gaps. The best voices to speak those concerns are those that use the system for their everyday needs, and I plan to go far and wide to hear those concerns.

5. What ideas do you have for increasing the amount of regional funding going to PRT?

John Weinstein: One main driver is to continue identifying means to promote internal efficiencies so as to maximize the reach of operating revenues, such as expanding the fleet’s transition to electric buses. Additionally, I would call for an allocation increase from the Allegheny Regional Asset District.

6. As County Executive, how will you ensure that corporations and large employers in Allegheny County provide more funding for our transit system?

John Weinstein: As the County Treasurer for more than two decades, I’ve had the great fortune to develop relationships throughout this region and the country. We have companies looking to build right here, but they need the requisite infrastructure to attract employees. Accessible and efficient transit is one of the things topping that list. I can draw on those relationships to make sure that as we build back our infrastructure, public transportation is one of the top priorities.

7. As County Executive, how will you ensure that both language access and disability access are central considerations in all the programs and agencies that they are overseeing?

John Weinstein: Every person deserves dignity. Whether you are a new neighbor in our community or require physical accommodations, you must be able to access vital public resources such as transit and many others. We’re a melting pot. We invite and welcome individuals of all backgrounds, which is a large part of what allows it to excel. Promoting inclusivity has been and always will be a staple of my role as a public official.