Here is a guest post from Patrick Singleton, who attended the transit meeting and has shared his thoughts with us. In addition to being Secretary of the Allegheny County Transit Council, Patrick is also the PHCA’s incoming vice president.
Last night, I attended a meeting of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) where the commissioners narrowly voted 27-22 to accept $45 million to help maintain Port Authority’s transit operations. The money comes from a discretionary account for economic development controlled by Gov. Rendell. Out of the dozen people who provided public comment, only one was opposed to the “bailout,” although there were several vocal SPC members who also spoke in opposition.
How does this emergency funding impact the proposed transit fare increases and service cuts? As Port Authority’s Steve Bland mentions in a Pittsburgh Tribune article about the meeting, it looks likely that the $45 million will be spread out over the next 18 months rather than the original 6 (basically, to cover two fiscal years instead of just the current one) to give the new Governor and Legislature more time to deal with the statewide transportation funding crisis. As a result, it is likely that the January fare increases will still take effect, there will still be a 15% service cut (rather than 35%) in March, and another 10% service cut may need to be made sometime Fall 2011 or Spring 2012. However, nothing is set yet.
An article in the Post-Gazette also mentions a rally taking place this Thursday at 11am, meeting at Rodef Shalom on Fifth Avenue in Shadyside. A convoy of cars as well as a bus will carry passengers to Downtown. Transit supporters and groups like the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group and the Allegheny County Transit Council will try to raise awareness of the need to find dedicated sources of transit funding.