The devastating cuts facing ACCESS riders will not occur in September, thanks to a special funding arrangement made possible by PennDOT and two federal programs that benefit transit riders with disabilities.
The Port Authority Board of Directors unanimously voted to accept the funding and rescind plans that would have reduced ACCESS service hours and service area starting on September 2, 2012. Talks focused on resolving the broader transportation funding issues and the 35 percent Port Authority service reduction in September are ongoing and involve officials from the state, county, Authority and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85.
The ACCESS cuts would have been devastating to those riders throughout Allegheny County who rely on the shared-ride program that serves elderly and disabled riders. Some ACCESS riders have no other direct means of transportation.
The funding was made available through the federal Job Access and Reverse Commute, and New Freedom programs, both of which are matched by the state. This agreement follows calls for solutions to public transportation funding by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who is leading a broader effort to find lasting solutions to protect Port Authority bus and light rail service.
Also, members of the Allegheny County delegation in the State Senate and House supported efforts to maintain viable transportation options for seniors and riders with disabilities throughout the county.
The Authority Board voted to amend its current budget and accept $3.65 million from the state and federal sources, ensuring ACCESS service will remain stable through September 1, 2013.
"This will make a tremendous difference for people with disabilities, living outside the Port Authority service area who depend on ACCESS," said Lucy Spruill, an ACCESS rider and the Public Policy Director for UCP/CLASS. "This will allow those riders to leave their homes for work, health care and to enjoy meaningful lives.
The funding is a temporary solution for ACCESS riders. If no long-term solution is in place by September 1, 2013, ACCESS service reductions may take effect.