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No end in sight for Pittsburgh Regional Transit service cuts and no-show buses

A blue Pittsburgh Regional Transit bus parked on the side of a road downtown.
Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Regional Transit CEO Katharine Kelleman addressed service cuts and no-show buses and trains at a meeting of the agency’s board on Friday.

“Likely the reason your bus didn't show up is not because we didn't have a vehicle, but because we did not have somebody to drive that trip,” she said.

Kelleman said that PRT is “not unique”: Transit agencies across the country have been grappling with a labor shortage that began with the COVID-19 pandemic. While other systems have seen service cuts of 10 percent or more, Kelleman said PRT has tried to ease through the problem by making gradual cuts: 2 percent in April, 4 percent in June, and 0.5 percent in September.

“We thought it would be solved by now,” she said of staffing shortages. “As you know it has not been.”

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Unless PRT can hire more staff, Kelleman said, further cuts are possible.

In the most recent round of schedule adjustments, which will take effect on Nov. 20, PRT reduced service by another 2 percent, or 488 hours of operation per week.

Missed buses and trains are wreaking havoc on the lives, and work schedules, of riders. More than 30 people signed up to address PRT’s board on Friday morning, and called on officials to restore service to pre-pandemic levels. In a press release, Pittsburghers for Public Transit described the cuts and lack of reliability a “crisis.”

Meanwhile, Spanish speakers have urged Port Authority to make language accommodations forpeople who rely on the Red Line. Those riders have also borne numerous service changes and closures as repair work has been done along the route.

Transit agencies must provide information in languages spoken in at least 5 percent of homes before federal regulations require the agency to act, Kelleman said. She noted that no language other than English is spoken in more than 2 percent of Allegheny County households, but said PRT recognizes the need.

“We know we have friends who use different languages at home, and they just want to get information on where their bus is going to be,” she said, and added that PRT will first focus on Chinese and Spanish speakers.

It is not clear when the materials will be available.