Public Comment Period: PAAC proposed transit service cuts and fare increases

Public Comment Period: PAAC proposed transit service cuts and fare increases

Sunday, February 5, 2012 through Friday, March 9, 2012 at 4 p.m.

Comments on the proposals will be accepted online through our public comment form or by mail at:

Port Authority Fare & Service Proposals
Heinz 57 Center
345 Sixth Avenue, Floor 3
Pittsburgh PA, 15222-2527

The deadline for receipt of public comments is Friday, March 9, 2012 at 4 p.m.

Gary Denese's picture
Gary Denese (not verified) Wed, 2012-03-07 00:31

The source of the Port Authority's financial problems stem from decades of labor contracts containing excessively generous pay and benefits-especially retirement related benefits. Legacy costs are crippling the transit agency. Unfunded liabilities for non-pension retiree benefits surpassed $800 million in 2011. In FY 2012, PAT budgeted $33 million for pensions and $34.3 million for retiree health benefits, almost 20 percent of total spending. Ironically, the recent and pending bus service and employee cuts simply raise the legacy costs as a share of total spending

Board membership and management failed to take into account the inevitable extreme financial burden the contracts being signed would produce. But more importantly, the excessively generous contracts reflect the unions' outsized bargaining power arising from their right to strike. No public sector employees can create a bigger negative economic and societal impact on the community than transit workers who refuse to drive the buses or operate the light rail system. Thus, the threat of a walkout gives them enormous bargaining leverage with PAT management and the Board. Consequently, it's simply been easier for the Board to give in to union demands for many years than to take a massively disruptive strike. Notwithstanding the service cuts in recent years, PAT still cannot bring its retiree benefit costs under control!!

There are two meaningful long term solutions - bankruptcy, to get relief from the legacy costs, or have the state continue to increase funding every year simply to cover the rise in unavoidable benefits. The first option requires the state to change the law to allow PAT to file for bankruptcy,something it seems very reluctant to do even in the face of the insurmountable difficulties piling up owing to PAT's legacy costs. The second solution, having state taxpayers continue to pour ever increasing amounts of money so PAT can maintain its generous benefits to retirees while simply holding service levels steady or slowing their decline(!) makes no sense.

There is a third option, however. The Governor and Legislature should offer to find $30 million in additional funding for PAT in the coming fiscal year in exchange for an agreement by the unions and their legislative advocates to support legislation to eliminate the right of the transit workers to strike with stringent criteria on any arbitration process to protect taxpayers' interests(!) By eliminating the right to strike, the future of contract negotiations would be carried out in an environment wherein transit users could not be used as hostages to gain a very generous settlement for the unions!

Admittedley, $30 million still leaves a big funding gap for PAT, but in combination with voluntary concessions by employees and retirees before July1, the situation could be much less threatening than it will be if the status quo is allowed to continue.

In the meantime, government should be working to shift to a land value tax to fund transit. Land Value Taxation(LVT) is a method of raising public revenue by means of an annual tax on the rental value of land. This would not be a tax on real estate, for real estate includes improvements made to the land. Nor is it a tax on land, because only land having a value irrespective of its improvements would be taxed in proportion to that value. In fact, if Properly applied, LVT would support a whole range of social and economic initiatives, including all transportation, housing and other infrastructural investments.

A good mass transit system increases land values by between four and ten times the cost of running the transit. If transit were funded from an LTV, The Port Authority would not need state funding, drink taxes, or car rental taxes. Fares could be reduced or eliminated and urban service could be improved.

The transit routes could be changed to be more economically rational. Rather than extend service out into sprawling suburbs where it is barely used, and where it has minimal effect on land values, PAT could increase urban transit so much that people urban areas would be able give up ownership of their own cars, renting on occasion and using
mass transit for routine travel.

From an economic perspective, landlords and home sellers advertise proximity to transit. Transit is even more crucial commercial real estate values. When businesses fear that workers will be unwilling to fight a city’s traffic, they become more likely to locate elsewhere. The increased value of land served by transit vastly exceeds transit’s building and operating costs. Conversely, eliminating well used transit causes highway congestion and lowers land values. Funding transit from a land value tax benefits land owners, and has the added benefit of discouraging idle speculation. State and federal subsidies from income and sales tax cost ordinary people far more than paying for their own transit through a land value tax would cost them. Land value tax does not drive away economic activity but does drive away idle speculators who inhibit economic activity.

From a political perspective, transit has been overextended into suburbs rather than improved in the cities to win support for subsidies from suburban legislators. Local elected officials are inherently more accessible to citizens and less dominated by special interests than state officials. Locally funded transit is therefore more rational and less political.

Speculators who will be enriched by their land’s proximity to a new highway are the biggest lobbying force to build it. If they had to pay for local highways through local land value taxes, they probably wouldn’t want them built. Urban legislators get votes for transit subsidies only if they agree to vote for a host of other subsidies at the expense of urban taxpayers. The hidden cost of these trade-offs makes state funding more costly than local funding. A good transit policy adopted by a few localities will demonstrate
the wisdom of that policy. Local funding is far more stable and dependable than state or federal funding. Land value tax costs local taxpayers less than any other broad-based tax.

For more, see and

Thank you for your attention.


tiffanyl thomas's picture
tiffanyl thomas (not verified) Tue, 2012-03-06 21:36

Port authority should be forced to put all these bus routes back on that they took off in MARCH of 2010 or give back the millions of dollars that the govenor gave them before he left to keep the buses running up until JANUARY of 2011

Janet's picture
Janet (not verified) Tue, 2012-03-06 08:51

Pittsburgh needs public transportation.    Please do not make any more service cuts.   

Sue Link 's picture
Sue Link (not verified) Mon, 2012-03-05 17:36

to whom it may concern:   Thiose who propose these cuts obviously do not take public transportation. Unlile these people who make these decisions, I do not make the 200,000 /300,000 a year salary, and cannot afford to buy a car and keep up the expense owning one. I live in the city and depend on public transportation to get to my job and also to do my grocery shopping. My partner of 30 years is now in a nursing home which I also take public transportation to get to(service of which you are planning to reduce)

You want people to use public transportation, but then you take away the service. You have taken away our neighborhood transportation already the 84 loop was one many Oakland elderly residents depended on to get groceries & get to doctor's appointments, and now you want to discontinue more services that we all depend on.

You want people to have jobs, but you discontinue the method we have to get to them. You want to raise fares as well. I wouldnt mind paying a higher fare IF I RECEIVED THE SERVICE!!!!!!!!!!  None of the big wigs I have heard are willing to give up their fancy salary. WHY IS THE LITTLE PERSON THE ONE TO SUFFER?!?!  As usual, you ask for feed back but go on your merry way with disregard to the people who help to pay your salary. If you cut more buses, you are putting the Port Authority out of business. MORE people will not be able to get to stops or have a bus to take  & more will stop using a service that will be non existent.

David Norsen's picture
David Norsen (not verified) Mon, 2012-03-05 15:23

We need to expand public transportation services, not reduce them.  Are we considering the impact to downtown businesses when access to basic services is removed for a subset of the communiity?  If everyone decides to drive into Pittsburgh instead of taking the bus or train, is the city prepared to deal with the additional congestion and cost?  Reduction of services is taking us in the wrong direction.   I'd be really curious to see some projections on the overall impact this will have on Pittsburghs economy as people struggle to get around with all the reduced services.  Reducing services now, might very likely might cost a whole lot more in the long run.

Rick Graca's picture
Rick Graca (not verified) Mon, 2012-03-05 14:36

The cuts being will have a devastating effect financially and emotionally on the disabled clients we serve - specifically, our ACCESS riders. Not only will their ability to travel be compromised, but their ability to earn a check and be a tax contributor as opposed to being/feeling like a tax burden. The dignity and self-worth that comes along with earning a paycheck will be robbed of our clients.  The ripple effect will impact parents who may have to leave their jobs in order to care for their loved ones and agency employees who may find it difficult or impossible to get to work.

Please preserve our clients' ability not be or feel confined by their disability!



vmolter714's picture
vmolter714 (not verified) Mon, 2012-03-05 12:13

I am unable to drive due to an anxiety disorder. I depend on Port Authority to get me to/from Uptown every weekday for work (41 Bower Hill). What if I cannot get a bus to get me to work on time???? I also visit my mom every weekend and I depend on Port Authority (41 Bower Hill/51 Carrick) to get me to Carrick. Now my main bus is being terminated on the weekends, which means I will literally have to relocate back to Carrick to be close to my mom, who is in bad health. How can this happen? So many people depend on Port Authority. How are you not making enough money? Please, do something. I am even okay with yet another fare increase, just don’t cut service!!

Leonard S. Kisslinger's picture
Leonard S. Kisslinger (not verified) Sun, 2012-03-04 15:44

The service reductions and fare increases would damage the Pittsburgh region and be a disaster to many

who rely on public transportation for work, health care, etc. The Port Authority should demand that the State

provide funding to avoid this disaster.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified) Sat, 2012-03-03 20:40

I'm a student at CMU. 28X is for now the ONLY way we can get to the PIT airport! If it is cut, how are we supposed to get to the airport? Call a taxi every time?! PLEASE! DO NOT CUT IT!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified) Sat, 2012-03-03 20:33


Please do not cancel 28x bus. It's the only way for people without a car to reach the airport.


BPC's picture
BPC (not verified) Sat, 2012-03-03 13:55

It seems to me that the main focus of the Port Authority, in tight budget times, should be on routes with high ridership.  It's unfortunate that cuts are being made at all, but if there are routes with few riders, it makes sense to cut these or reduce them, as opposed to cutting routes with high volumes, such as those that go through Oakland and other suburbs close to downtown, such as Greentree, Mount Lebanon, the West End, North Hills etc.  Well, if there's any good to come out of the cuts, maybe more of us will need to walk a bit further to get to the bus -- good for our health.  Not entirely enjoyable during bad weather, but moving more is a good idea.