State budget cuts could affect Port Authority transit commuters

Written By Derek Malush

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According to the Port Authority Transit (PAT) officials of Allegheny, half of the bus routes in the Pittsburgh region could be eliminated if cuts are made from the city’s transit budget to cure a statewide budget shortfall.

The state of Pennsylvania is currently in need of $357 million to aid state funding; approximately $80 million of that would come from cutting the transit budget.

Senior psychology major Ray Reinecker is one of many Point Park students who rely on the PAT buses every day. Reinecker has used the buses for transportation since his freshman year.

“It would be a huge blow to the commuting students like me, especially living in the South Hills,” Reinecker said. “Getting down to class would suddenly become a nightmare.”

If the proposal passes, PAT will need to cut 40 to 50 bus routes along with permanently removing weekend and evening service for all routes. They may also have to increase the current customer fare rate on the transits. These negotiations are still ongoing.

“It would be devastating for the mass majority of our riders,” PAT spokesperson Adam Brandolph said. “It’s suffering would extend beyond our transit system and would impact the city as a whole not just for us.”

Brandolph said such cuts would be dramatic, affecting “hundreds of thousands of people [who] use Port Authority on a daily basis, so it would be a huge blow to economy as well.”

According to the Port Authority website, over 100,000 people use the public transit each day.

Business owners feel if the proposal were to be passed, businesses will face a large hit in sales and countless vehicles will flood the city streets during their morning commute.

Business owner Behrooz “Bruce” Rahimzadeh, of Mama Lucia’s Pizzeria on Wood Street for over 34 years feels that the route cuts would be devastating to his business.

“The majority of my customers are commuters who stop in every week to get a quick bite for lunch,” Rahimzadeh said. “If we lose more than half of the bus routes, I lose half of my daily customers. It’s just that simple.”

Rahimzadeh feels cutting nearly half of the bus routes would result in a ripple effect throughout the city of Pittsburgh, not just the commuters themselves.

“It sucks because there is nothing we can do to stop it,” Rahimzadeh said. “We are just the little man in this equation.”

Keith Elias, a PAT bus employee for 17 years, said that these cutbacks would be very demeaning to PAT employees. Despite his seniority, Elias says he would need to bid for his job back.

“If half of the routes would be cut, that means I would have to start all over again as if I were an entry-level employee,” Elias said. “I would be the little man again.”

The state of Pennsylvania is expected to announce their decision this upcoming week.

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