Transit Problems and Possibilities in Pittsburgh

Transit funding in Pittsburgh, PA is in a perpetual state of crisis. With no dedicated revenue, the Pittsburgh Port Authority relies on state, federal, and county money to fund its system year after year.

Recently, Pittsburgh transit riders were faced with another round of devastating service cuts to their bus and rail service. Due to large operating budget shortfall the Port Authority was slated to slash service by 35% in September 2nd of this year. The Republican Governor of Pennsylvania stated he would commit $35 million dollars only if labor made significant concessions to their contract. A concessionary labor contract was signed that saved $60 million dollars over the next four years and the state has committed to kicking in extra funds to close the gap.

 

It is good news that drastic cuts have been likely averted for a year, but this is a band-aid solution to a long-term transit funding deficit in Pittsburgh. This only stops the massive cuts for one year and if something doesn’t change Pittsburgh transit riders and advocates will be back at square one in 12 months time.

Jonah McAllister-Erickson and Molly Nichols, members ofPittsburghers for Public Transit, recently wrote an Op-ed titled, “Public Transit Still Needs to be Saved.” It nails the issue on its head and is well worth a read:

Reliable funding is the only way to solve the seemingly permanent budget deficit crisis in Allegheny County public transit. We demand that the state stop making cuts to the Port Authority’s budget. Stop placing the burden for public goods and services on the backs of workers and riders. Start making the wealthiest and the corporations pay their fair share instead.

Their organization is also close to launching a rider organizing campaign focused on the transit funding crisis. I had the opportunity to visit Pittsburgh earlier this week, and the energy of advocates and riders who are working on the future of transit there was simply inspiring. Securing sustainable funding for transit Pittsburgh is a monumental task, but it can and has to be done. Stay tuned as we track and continue to work on this critical transit funding crisis.


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