There is talk of a transit strike in the region; yes, we have already heard what the head of the Amalgamated Transit Union that supplies labor to the Port Authority has said about the opening contract bid from the agency, but this strike is a little further north in Beaver County. The Beaver County Transit Authority (BCTA) is a bit smaller than PAT: the former has a service area of 440 square miles and directly operates 20 buses while the latter covers 852 square miles and directly operates 711 buses and several other modes of transportation.
But both are able to be bitten by the strike bug. Pennsylvania is one of a tiny minority of states where transit workers can go on strike.
How do these agencies compare on the efficiency of their bus service? In a Brief earlier this year we calculated the bus passenger cost by taking each agency’s operating and capital costs divided by the number of unlinked passenger trips. PAT had a passenger cost of $5.24: higher than the average for the group ($4.02). Using the same calculation for BCTA the passenger cost is $5.09, slightly lower than PAT. With a base fare of $1.75, taxpayers are covering $3.34 of a BCTA trip (for PAT this is $3.24). In 2008 when BCTA members protested working without a contract, it was reported that drivers were making between $10.55 and $11.88 per hour, considerably lower than the average PAT driver wage.
A strike affecting the BCTA might not get as much notoriety or affect as many riders as one involving PAT or SEPTA might, but it still points out the problem of permitting transit strikes.