Pittsburgh PA - Two samplings of the coverage of the first route cut hearings for the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. It wasn't a pretty sight and left transit and Allegheny County officials squirming in their chairs.
There were the typical sob stories that accompany every public hearing for route cuts and fare hikes however, this time there were also pointed statements directed at the management of the system, the County as well as the method used to come up with the route cut plan.
The big issue at the first public hearing is the fact that the PAT route cut plan will literally isolate entire neighborhoods that do rely on public transit. I have maintained from the first time I saw the proposed route cut list that PAT was performing a hack and slash to the service rather than a structured attempt to "right size" the service as they were claiming.
PAT and County officials have claimed that these cuts are needed to "right size" the system and should have been done all along for the past 20 years. While I agree that PAT should have been on top of their routes and weeding out the non performing routes, what they are proposing is to eliminate many routes that do perform decently. What PAT and County officials fail to understand is that you can't do 20 years worth of service cuts overnight and you can't use the "as the crow flies" type of distance measurement which they did in coming up with this poorly conceived plan.
Many things which I have long said should be done were brought up in the first public hearing. Items such as extending running times on routes so that instead of running every 20 minutes, you run every 40 minutes as well as trimming non-performing trips from routes as well as dealing with the core issues within PAT's management structure.
It is interesting to note that Allegheny County Chief Executive, Dan Onorato, failed to attend the hearing and sent a representative instead. Given that Mr. Onorato has been so vocal about that these cuts will happen even if the State gives PAT all the money they need, I find it interesting that he didn't attend. Onorato should be required to attend these hearings given that he personally is pushing for this hack and slash plan to go through as is.
PAT and County officials will get more of an ear beating as 7 more public hearings are scheduled through February 7. Hopefully, PAT will see the error of their hack and slash plan and go back to the drawing board and come up with a more structured plan to deal with the situation.