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County Executive Makes Case for Transit Funding to Lawmakers

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald followed the well-worn path to Harrisburg this week to talk to lawmakers, department heads, and the Governor about the transit funding crisis. Governor Tom Corbett is expected to release his transportation funding plan within the next couple of weeks, and Fitzgerald said he wanted to talk to the governor ahead of that announcement.

Fitzgerald said he emphasized some key points in his meetings. He noted that while the county has shown resilience throughout the recession, and occupancy in downtown offices is higher than it's been in decades, a 35 percent cut, paired with last year's 30 percent cut to the Port Authority would put a stranglehold on downtown commerce.

He said at least 50 percent of workers in downtown Pittsburgh use public transit to get to their jobs. Fitzgerald also highlighted the role the county's economy plays in the financial health of the state.

"The state budget gets a lot more money from the taxpayers of Allegheny County than the taxpayers of Allegheny County get back from Harrisburg. So the fact is that if our economy goes down in Allegheny County, with less people working, it's going to impact Harrisburg's budget in a big way," cautioned Fitzgerald.

He said the trip to Harrisburg to push for funding for the transit system differs from previous trips by other local lawmakers because of the substantial changes, cutbacks, and efficiencies made at the Authority. Fitzgerald said the reforms build a stronger case by showing PAT is doing its part to trim costs in a tough economy.

According to Fitzgerald, PAT has the fourth lowest number of administrative and management positions among 23 similar transit agencies nationwide, including Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Cleveland.

Last week the County Executive, State Representative Dan Frankel (D-Lawrenceville), and others called for legislation to increase funding for transportation, and changes to state law that would give the Port Authority more autonomy in addressing its own financial dealings.