Issue Summary (Updated May 2012)
A Big Year for PAT
A budget shortfall, service cuts and layoffs, an expiring labor contract, and the opening of a major extension of the light rail system present themselves to the Port Authority in 2012.
What We Know:
The Port Authority (PAT) is facing a $64 million shortfall. The agency wants dedicated and growing revenue from the state. The Governor has indicated he wants to see major savings from PAT when it puts together its contract with its largest bargaining unit. The contract for that unit expires just as the fiscal year begins.
Failing to find revenue--whether new or just a temporary "flex" that occurred in years' past to tide the agency over--PAT is prepared to slash service and layoff employees in September of 2012. This would follow reductions that came in March of 2011 when PAT permitted a private vendor to operate two routes that were discontinued by the agency.
At the same time the agency cut the ribbon on the North Shore Connector, a $520 million 1 mile extension of the light rail system under the Allegheny River to the North Shore. Soon after its opening it was met by public criticism of train frequency and capacity, especially on weekends.
Rather than coming up with temporary or permanent funding, the state needs to address the key issues regarding PAT: its monopoly status, its power to allow workers to strike, and whether bankruptcy would deal with the legacy cost problem.