What would you do if you didn’t own a car — not by choice, but because you couldn’t afford to — and you relied on public transportation to get you to and from work? Then you heard the news that the Port Authority is proposing to eliminate 46 of 102 routes completely, increase fares and reduce service on the remaining lines1 come this September? And if the bus you take is one of the routes they propose to cut? I know that I would be panic-stricken.
This panic is being felt by thousands of people. Every day nearly 230,0002 people use public transit. Many don’t have cars. Many Port Authority riders are already struggling to pay for the current bus fares, but without a way to get to work they’ll be struggling with a lot more than bus fare.
Many of these people are clients of JF&CS. They are the working poor who receive assistance from our Food Pantry or have recently been resettled by our Refugee Services department. They might be disabled adults receiving services through our Special Needs department. Or low-income mature workers who found employment with the help of our Career Development Center.
People will lose their jobs because they lack the means to get to work. And it’s not just the working poor who will be affected by the proposed transportation cuts. Many senior citizens and persons with disabilities reply on the Port Authority’s ACCESS paratransit service to get them to medical appointments, rehabilitation services and/or work. It’s their lifeline to an independent life. ACCESS, too, is on the chopping block.
You can do something to help them:
•There are public hearings happening all over Pittsburgh. Check local listings, attend one or more of these and let your voice be heard.
•A public comment period began on February 5 and ends on March 9. Concerned residents can register their concerns on the Port Authority website or mail them to the Port Authority at Port Authority Fare & Service Proposals, Heinz 57 Center, 345 Sixth Avenue, Floor 3, Pittsburgh PA 15222-2527.
•Contact your state legislators and demand they support the transportation funding bills proposed by Representatives Dan Frankel (Squirrel Hill) and Mike Hanna and Senator Jake Corman that provide a solution for generating some of the revenue needed to avert the transportation crisis.
•Let Governor Corbett (ultimately funding for PA’s transportation systems come from the Governor’s office) know that funding public transportation is the difference between independence and public assistance for hundreds of thousands of PA citizens. You can call his office at 717-787-2500 or send a letter to Governor Tom Corbett, 225 Main Capital Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120.
Whatever you do, please don’t do ‘nothing.’ We witnessed what the collective voice accomplished with respect to the recent Koman/Planned Parenthood issue. Please use your voice to help those who will be most affected by these cuts: the people who most need the service.
1 Jon Schmitz, “Transit contract talks more crucial than ever.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3 March 2012.
2 Port Authority website