Port Authority buses and trains arrive on schedule less than 70 percent of the time, according to a new report from state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. While there’s room to improve, DePasquale acknowledged that the agency has come a long way.
In 2014, his office released an audit that covered 2007 to 2012. Port Authority’s fiscal house was really out of whack, he said.
“What gets me rolling is when you’re giving a former executive director free housing, a free car, while cutting routes,” DePasquale said. “That gets my blood boiling.”
DePasquale was referring to an unnamed employee racked up nearly $20,000 for relocation and rental car costs in 2009. Around that same time, between 2007 and 2011, Port Authority cut service by 30 percent and laid off more than 100 employees.
Port Authority has become a better fiscal steward, and even improved its on-time performance while the auditor general’s office crunched the 2016-2017 data. But more people need to be able to rely on transit, and one way to do that is ensure Port Authority shows up on time, said DePasquale.
“It may be [they] need more buses, it may be more work with transit operators, or it may mean more truth in advertising, meaning you can’t get to that location at the time you’re putting. So let’s let people know,” he said.
Waiting five or ten extra minutes for transit may not seem like a big deal, but it can be the difference between keeping a job or not, DePasquale added.
The agency agrees wholeheartedly, said Port Authority spokesperson Adam Brandolph.
“We know that public transit should be reliable, accessible, and a pleasant experience,” he said. “That absolutely includes being on time.”
In addition to measuring on-time performance, the audit found that the process of requesting a service change is overly complex, and suggestions are rarely implemented because of budget constraints. Fundamentally, it may come down to not having enough money, said DePasquale. He urged Harrisburg to better fund Pennsylvania transit.
Brandolph said the agency won’t argue with a call for more funding.