Beltzhoover residents consider ‘60s style protests over bus cuts
The proposed plan by Port Authority Transit (PAT) to eliminate the 44 Knoxville bus drew about 60 Beltzhoover residents opposed to the action to the Beulah Baptist Church on June 26.
An upshot of the meeting was the scheduling of two additional meetings on the topic: on July 24 at the South Hills Baptist Church, 200 Chalfont St ., Beltzhoover; and on July 31 at St. Paul AME Church, 400 Orchard Place, Knoxville. Both are at 7 p.m.
Last week's meeting began with lifelong Beltzhoover resident Jackie Wilson, who conducted the meeting, decrying that there were not more attendees.
It "should be overflowing" she said of the room.
The lack of presence and voice makes people do what they want to us, she said.
Seniors, such as her 88-year-old mother and school children, ride the 44 Knoxville bus on a regular basis, making it an important part of life in Beltzhoover. Even if there is only one rider, it is needed, she said
The 35 percent service reductions, along with hundreds of layoffs, are due to a projected $64 million deficit in PAT's 2012-13 budget.
The target date for cutting service is Sept. 2 unless a solution to the shortage is forthcoming.
"As taxpayers we pay for transportation. We want it in Beltzhoover or give me my money back," Mrs. Wilson said.
There are two options from PAT for Beltzhoover residents: walk a mile to Mt. Oliver and catch the 54C bus or the 51 Carrick bus; or walk to South Hills Junction. Mrs. Wilson said both are safety concerns, especially for seniors and youngsters, in the dark at night and in bad weather.
She met with state Rep. Jake Wheatley on the issue, who said she was only the third person from Beltzhoover to express concern on this matter to him. She said she received much mail from him at election time, and that her goal is to make him accountable to neighborhood residents.
As there is no school in the area, and may soon be no bus, no one will be moving here, she said, as education and access are important to homeowners.
To revitalize the neighborhood, residents have to stand united and say "enough is enough," she said.
As for what action could be taken, she distributed the addresses of Governor Tom Corbett, PAT chief executive officer Steve Bland, Allegheny County Councilwoman Amanda Green Hawkins, and Rep. Wheatley.
Letters, even of a few sentences, should be written by individuals and mailed to officials. Form letters should not be used as they are not as effective. As an option, she will mail any letters given to her.
Letters may also be dropped off at Beulah Baptist Church or St. Paul AME Church for those who live in Knoxville.
Mrs. Wilson will also distribute the addresses at Beltzhoover Community Days on July 13-14.
Another strategy is an "Action Alert" on Wednesdays and Thursdays in which residents email or telephone officials, including County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and state Sen. Wayne Fontana, to let them know Beltzhoover deserves bus service.
"They need to hear from us," Mrs. Wilson said.
She asked for volunteers to take the 26-name petitions she drafted to different streets for signatures from Beltzhoover and Knoxville residents.
She will also look into securing permits for a protest at the PAT building in the form of a peaceful march.
"I think we need to bring back the ‘60s," she said.
Mrs. Wilson will also make up flyers for distribution.
Attendees agreed the July 24 meeting should be similar to that evening's meeting with an update of the situation and future plans of action.
For the July 31 meeting, PAT officials, state legislators, local officials, and the media will be invited.