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Port Authority To Start Hiring For Equity And Inclusion Team

Ryan Loew
90.5 WESA
For the first seven weeks of the pandemic, the Port Authority of Allegheny County did not collect fares.


On today's program: The Port Authority of Allegheny County is looking for a Director of Equity and Inclusion; and City of Asylum has a new executive director. 

Port Authority ridership remains down during the pandemic
(00:00 — 9:08)

Before the pandemic, about 230,000 people usedPort Authority buses and light rail service each day. Now, ridership remains down by two thirds. The Port Authority received federal assistance to help close the financial gap caused by low ridership, including $141 million in CARES funding to help with safety precautions and expenses related to COVID-19.

During the first seven weeks of the pandemic, the agency did not collect fares. Port Authority CEOKatharine Kelleman says while they continue to consider reduced fares, the CARES funding cannot be used to offset losses caused by lower fares.

Amid the changes to ridership, the county is looking to create a new department of equity and inclusion and hire a Director of Equity and Inclusion. The movement against racial injustice has influenced their search, says Kelleman. 

“It has definitely informed what that job description will look like and where we as an agency will be going.”

The new department of equity and inclusion will address service, employment and even land use.

“So we’ll be looking to lay out a broad plan. How do we focus on increasing the inclusion that we have as an employer? How do we make this holistic and what is our community telling us that they need?” Kelleman says. 

City of Asylum welcomes new executive director
(9:09 — 17:48)

Andres Franco has worked with Pittsburgh’sCity of Asylum for years, coordinating performances by Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra artists for City of Asylum while he served as resident conductor for the PSO. In October, he became City of Asylum’s newest executive director.

“So even though I am new in a way, my connection with City of Asylum goes back at least 3 years,” Franco says.

He says his experience as an artist puts him in a unique position to work with and understand the artists City of Asylum serves.

“Coming from a musical organization and having worked with many orchestras, as you say, not only in the U.S. but internationally, gives me a network of artists—and it’s not just musicians, but artists in general—but also an understanding of how that side of things works,” he says.  

City of Asylum operates the world’s largest writer sanctuary program and celebrates creative expression, but, like most other arts organizations, it had to switch to online events at the beginning of the pandemic. Franco says moving online allowed City of Asylum to reach international audiences as well as local audiences.

“In about 4 months they presented 79 programs with 20 different presenters. It was amazing how City of Asylum was able to adapt to the new circumstances,” he says. 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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