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Public Transit Fare Hikes, Service Cuts and Lay-Offs to start on February 1st
by david Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004 at 12:24 PM
david@indypgh.org

Today, December 16th, the Port Authority Board of Directors settled on a proposal that will raise fares and cut service. It goes into affect on February 1st.

Public Transit Fare ...
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As any Indymedia reader probably knows, public transit riders in Alleghany County have been engaged in two-year struggle to save the region's public transit from fare hikes, service cuts and lay-offs. That battle reached a crescendo today, Thursday, December 16th when the Port Authority Board of Directors met to decide how it was going to resolve the $75 million dollar shortfall in its 2004 and 2005 fiscal year budgets. As many as 130 public transit riders and their supporters packed the Port Authority Board room in Downtown Pittsburgh to hear the long awaited decision.

As promised, the Port Authority board settled on a proposal that goes into effect on February 1, 2004.

The fate of Alleghany County's public transit has involved a staggering array of players, including the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Governer Ed Rendell, the Alleghany County Council and the Port Authority Board. But both County and Port Authority officials have repeatly claimed the crisis could only be avoided with extra money being delivered by the state legislators.

Three weeks ago, however, the General Assembly adjourned without passing any legislation necessary to save the statewide public transit crisis. Then, two weeks ago, the County Council Budget and Finance committee in an exceptionally roudy meeting decided against allocating *any* money for Port Authority in the budget they were recommending to the County Council. As a consequence, none of the State's matching funds would be available for the Port Authority. However, some County Council members say they may be willing to provide a county supplemental budget depending on whether the State comes through with any money.

The State bail-out seems possible only if Governer Rendell dips into emergency funds to provide stop gap funding. Save Our Transit member Stephen Donahue told Pittsburgh Indymedia that the Governer is appealing to the Federal Department of Transportation in the hopes that the *Feds* would bail out the state-wide crisis by diverting funds from the highways budget.

On Tuesday the Board announced they were considering three different scenarios to be decided on at today's meeting. One proposal was to cut weekend and night-time service, shut down 70 routes, layoff 525 employees and also raise the base fare to $2.50. A second, slightly less draconian proposal, would raise the base fare to $2.50, eliminate and restructure numerous routes, cutback on nighttime service and lay-off 500 employees. A third proposal was to maintain present fares and service levels until Port Authority goes broke next next March. Port Authority Board of Directors had to chose between several rocks and a hard place.

This morning, in chilling 20-degree weather, members of Save Our Transit gathered at 9am in Mellon Square for brief rally before marching to the Port Authority Board room.

The meeting began with several public transit riders, activists pleading to the Board to maintain service and fares at their present levels. Denise Edwards, a Wilkinsburg Council member, pointed out that that fare hikes would be devasting to her community as many Wilkinsburg residents earn less than $10,000. Marjorie DeAngela, a Save Our Transit member spoke into the microphone "I don't have any more words" before kneeling in front of the Board members platform in prayer. Fred Brown of the Pittsburgh Transportation Equity Project argued that service cuts would increase the number of unauthorized vehicles on the road, which, in turn, would increase the cost of insurance as well as increase crime. He also pointed out that Blacks would be especially hard hit by the cuts, since the median income for Blacks is $20,000 less than Whites. Another Save Our Transit member, Eve Goodman said, ironically, that she chose to move to Pittsburgh because it had a decent public transit system. Linda Warman, a low-wage employee at McDonalds, held up a drawing and exclaimed "this will be my new set of wheels" if fares are raised and service is cut. To the State Legislators she said "you can all rot" and that she was thinking about not paying state taxes.

Port Authority CEO Paul Skoutelas then took the podium and laid out the history of the Port Authority's struggle to balance the budget and placed the blame squarely on the feet of the State Legislators. He expressed remorse, but in the end, he said that cutbacks are necessary because the Port Authority is required by law to operate a balanced budget and because they have a fiduciary responsibility to their creditors.

He then detailed a fourth proposal that the Board came up with yesterday. The Board promptly voted unanimously in favor of it. The two-phased plan consists of the following:

Phase I. On February 1, 2005, the base fare will increase from the current $1.75 to $2. On March 6, 2005, a number of service cuts will go into effect, including 25 weekday routes, 35 Saturday routes, 23 Sunday routes, and service after 9 p.m. on 8 other weekday routes.

Phase II. "On or about July 1, 2005," the base fare will go up from $2 to $2.50. 43 more weekday routes, 32 more Saturday routes and 29 more Sunday routes will be eliminated. Service will stop after 9 p.m. on 69 weekday routes.
The Harmar Bus Operating Division will be closed.

About 500 employees would be laid off as a result of the combined service cuts.

(The entire resolution detailing the cuts can be see here: http://portauthority.org/live/pgChanges.asp)

The vote was thoroughally anti-carthetic. Nary a boo nor a cheer was to be heard from the many public transit activists who lined the walls and filled the hallways. But the reaction of most Save Our Transit members was that the proposal which the Board passed as about the best that they could have hoped for given that the state has failed to deliver the needed funds. They pledge to fight even harder to get the state funding to avoid further cuts.

Port Authority Board Chair, John Brooks, also said in his statement that they will "continue to press hard in Harrisburg for an immediate and long term solution to funding public transportation in Allegheny County and across the state." In fact, the Board hopes that Phase II can be avoided if the state comes to the rescue with a $20 million. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's share in paying for the war on Iraq is $120 million and climbing. Alleghany County's at least three times that amount.

Tonight the Philadelphia-based Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority will also meet to decide on a base fare increase to $2.50 and eliminating weekend service to solve its budget shortfall. That same day in Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority will meet to decide on similar far-hikes, service cuts and layoffs to address its budget crisis.

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march to the board meeting
by david Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004 at 12:24 PM
david@indypgh.org

march to the board m...
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filled room
by david Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004 at 12:24 PM
david@indypgh.org

filled room...
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linda's new set of wheels
by david Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004 at 12:24 PM
david@indypgh.org

linda's new set of w...
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lined the walls
by david Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004 at 12:24 PM
david@indypgh.org

lined the walls...
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seated
by david Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004 at 12:24 PM
david@indypgh.org

seated...
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Port Authority CEO Paul Skoutelas details the plan to cut services and raise fares
by david Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004 at 12:24 PM
david@indypgh.org

Port Authority CEO P...
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The Board votes unanimously in favor of the proposal.
by david Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004 at 12:24 PM
david@indypgh.org

The Board votes unan...
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Steve does a zillion interviews.
by david Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004 at 12:24 PM
david@indypgh.org

Steve does a zillion...
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Another Strategy...
by PJD Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004 at 2:07 PM

It is a shame that PAT won't consider a "run at full service then shut the doors" strategy.

Forcing the gradual curtailment of service throught continuously declining funding has been the heart of the neoliberal strategy against against public services for the last 20 years! It is the frog-im-a-gradually-heating-pot of-water strategy. By imposing these these cuts in service/raise fare strategy, PAT is just playing their game. They should wake up and see through this game!

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Look to Chicago for guidance
by daniil kharms Wednesday, Jan. 05, 2005 at 12:34 PM

Chicagoans organized a coalition of both transit workers and riders in a fare strike that has, at least partially, succeeded in winning some concessions staying the fare hikes and 1000 layoffs. Here's a link to their website
http://www.midwestunrest.net/farestrike/
You can do it, too, Pittsburgh, when the people unite, THEY HAVE THE POWER!

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