What seemed to be a clear and straightforward agenda at the Port Authority (PAT) board’s March 25th meeting turned into a much longer and drawn-out affair after the transit union made a last-ditch concession proposal in order to avert the 15 percent service cut necessitated by a revenue shortfall.
Tomorrow is decision day for the Port Authority board: facing a 15% service reduction that is scheduled to go into effect on March 27th, the board will have to approve or deny of an application by a competitive provider who wants to run fixed-route service from the North Hills to Downtown, five says a week. Under the law that created the Port Authority it has exclusive jurisdiction over fixed route bus service but can determine the most efficient and effective way to operate service, including contracting out to other providers.
Part of the opposition to the proposal is the argument that the competitive provider is not taking up all of the discontinued routes and people in other parts of the County will be left without service. In the Mon Valley there is a proposal by a non-profit to increase its job-based service as a result of the cutbacks. A quick search shows that the service has been around since at least 2005. One official of the non-profit was quoted as saying "when we were looking at what the Port Authority service cuts were going to do to the Mon Valley, we saw that several major employers were no longer going to have transit services, and we felt that many people in the Mon Valley who are low-income may have no other choice than to lose their job".
Sounds like the same rationale as the North Hills proposal. The question arises: why does this service not need the approval of PAT the same way the competitive service provider does? After all, here is a service that is ramping up what it offers in light of the void in service. According to officials at PAT, the Mon Valley service is not fixed route, does not charge a fee, has a specific destination on the trip (work, school), and is mostly Federally-funded. Therefore it lies outside of the traditional jurisdiction of the transit authority and does not need the board’s approval to expand its service offerings.