‘We Need Your Dreams’: Port Authority Wants Rider Priorities To Inform Agency’s Future

Jan 29, 2020

In the next few years, Port Authority of Allegheny County is preparing to make changes to its fare policy, its infrastructure, and how it connects to communities. But first, it wants to hear from residents. The agency launched its listening tour on Wednesday with three public meetings at the David Lawrence Convention Center. Each session began with brief presentations from Port Authority officials.

The agency wants to adjust its system to the growth and change that’s happened in Allegheny County as well as prepare for the future, said David Huffaker, who presented an overview of Port Authority’s long-range plan.

“We need your feedback, we need your creativity, we need your dreams,” said Huffaker, and urged people not to hold back. “Give us something to reach for.”

During question and answer sessions, attendees asked about the authority’s bus stop consolidation program, the bus rapid transit proposal, extending service hours, and fare policies.

Lots of riders have said the current fare structure unfairly burdens low-income riders and Chief Financial Officer Peter Schenk said they’re taking that to heart.

“We are definitely cognizant of the equity and aware there are those in the community most vulnerable that could be impacted by any change,” he said.

Schenk said the agency is open to any suggestions, and is looking at everything from free transfers to expanding university partnerships to fare capping. That’s when individual trips add up and automatically convert to a pass, whether that’s daily, weekly, or monthly.

Phillip St. Pierre, who directs Port Authority’s service planning and scheduling. He discussed how the agency adds and adjusts routes, and talked about improving on-time performance across the system. DeAnn Rozier has worked as a Port Authority operator for 24 years. She said the agency has to help the public help Port Authority improve service and vice versa.

“If I got 10 people at the stop paying with cash, I’m still going to be late,” she said. “If I have ConnectCard machines there and they don’t work … we’re never going to have on-time performance.”

Rozier urged the agency to fix the problems it has right now before it gets too far into the future.

Ann Johnson of Uptown said at 82, she couldn’t care less about long-term planning; she’s more concerned about what the Port Authority can do right now. Particularly, she’s worried about safety around her bus stop on Centre Avenue.

“There’s a shelter further down that’s not being used … when it snowed you didn’t know if you were going to fall,” she said. “The sidewalk has, they’re not cracks, they’re huge craters.”

St. Pierre said he would look into it.

More meetings will be held throughout the county in the coming months. More information can be found at port authority.org.