In 2011, 29 Port Authority (PAT) bus routes were eliminated due to lack of funding, and some residents are questioning why the 2015 Allegheny County budget allocates PAT funds to build a PennDOT pedestrian bridge, instead of working to reinstate the old bus routes.
In 2009 a court ruling stated that the drink and car rental taxes could only be used for PAT expenditures , yet the $1 million bridge will be paid for with those taxes and built by PennDOT.
“It is a bit of a gray area, because it is serving Port Authority pedestrians. So that people who get off the T station can walk to Heinz Field via this bridge rather than having to walk across the street, but to us the language of the ruling says all of this money has to go to Port Authority projects,” said Molly Nichols, a community organizer for Pittsburghers for Public Transit.
Nichols wants to know why if the county has enough money to build this bridge, why they can’t restore more of the routes and build the bridge. She says that PAT usually has about $9 million extra a year from the drink and car rental taxes.
“We don’t understand why some money from that drink tax and the county transportation fund can’t go to put more service on the road. So we purpose $3 million dollars from the county transportation fund each year should go to the port authority’s operating costs which could help them run more buses in places that are most needed,” said Nichols.
Nichols and the Pittsburghers for Public Transit will meet with the county council to address these issues October 30th.
“People have a right to mass transit. They need to get to their jobs, and schools, and shopping, and cultural events, and our county and port authority need to make getting service in these communities with the most need a priority,” said Nichols.