Why Mount Washington?
That was one of the questions asked at a community forum held on Feb. 16 by the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation. More than 100 people attended.
The topic was the Port Authority's proposed route cuts, involving the elimination of the 43 Bailey, 40 Mount Washington and the 44 Knoxville and reduction in service for 48 Arlington, 51 Carrick and the 51L Carrick Limited. The Mon Incline will not be affected by the cuts. The 54 North Side-Oakland-South Side will have service reductions.
The transit cuts "were a series of ‘Sophie's Choices.' I don't want to see any of these routes eliminated," said Port Authority CEO Steve Bland. He was a panelist answering questions on cards submitted by attendees. Elected officials who were panelists were: County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, State Senator Wayne Fontana and State Representative Dan Deasey.
Another panelist was Chris Sandvig of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, a nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing urban neighborhoods. One of the organization's goals is to bring the community's voice to transit planning.
The routes eliminated or reduced received less than stellar ratings on productivity, ridership and cost recovery.
Mr. Bland said attendees at a recent meeting in Monroeville asked a similar question: Why Monroeville?
Panelists spoke about the terrible impact of the proposed cuts.
"I don't want to scare anybody but we can't lose major employers here," Mr. Sandvig said.
"If this happens, businesses will lose employees and shifts. How will Eat'n Park run a late shift?" asked Mr. Fontana.
"This is about our city's survival. You don't want to live in places that don't have transit systems – like Detroit!" Mr. Sandvig said.
Some attendees proposed solutions on their cards but these did not seem viable to the panelists.
One suggestion was: Why doesn't the Port Authority charge senior citizens?
"I get that a lot," said Mr. Bland. "This comes from nice seniors who say ‘I can pay something.' But these seniors who can afford to pay would probably ride less…Also there are stipulations from the State Lottery. ..The end result could be our sending lottery money to Philadelphia. And we don't want to do that."
Another idea was: Why not privatize the Port Authority?
"It seems like an easy way out. But it lost money when tried recently by another company," Mr. Deasey said.
"Transit needs to be subsidized. It is not profit making. Private companies don't work. This was recently proven," Mr. Fontana said.
"The privatization of transportation is one of those popular bromides. It has not worked in any part of the country," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "With privatization these companies would pick the lucrative routes. The poor neighborhoods would fall by the wayside."
Also, he said, "every transit system in the country is subsidized by private dollars."
"There's a reason for that. None pay for themselves," Mr. Sandvig said.
Mr. Fitzgerald pointed out many of the people who work in the city of Pittsburgh do not live in Allegheny County but still regularly use transit and the park n ride lots. "They can't say, ‘I don't live in Pittsburgh, so I don't care.'"
"These two guys (Mr. Deasey and Mr. Fontana) need more votes," Mr. Fitzgerald said. Attendees were asked to send emails to local legislators and to also have their friends, relatives and neighbors do it.
"Clog the lines up," Mr. Deasey said.
They were told to write personal messages about their own situations instead of sending form letters.
Port Authority will also accept comments by mail at Port Authority Fare and Service Proposals, Heinz 57 Center, 345 Sixth Avenue, Floor 3, Pittsburgh, PA 15222-2527.
Comments can also be made about proposed changes to the ACCESS paratransit fares and service.
Frank Valenta, past MWCDC officer, made comments during part of the meeting allotted to open discussion.
As part of his remarks he read a letter written to a daily newspaper by a soil scientist who maintained the McArdle Roadway landslide was caused by the city's cutting of trees under the overlook. Mr. Valenta noted other experts disagreed with the theory and said he didn't know who was right.
Mr. Valenta expressed hope for and concern about the future of McArdle.
Jon Lusin, president of the MWCDC board of directors, who chaired the meeting, referred questions about the native hillside habitat restoration to Park Manager Ilyssa Manspeizer by phone or email.