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Transportation law credited with support for 31 new jobs, more T service

Thursday, May 15, 2014, 11:21 p.m.

Port Authority officials on Thursday released the agency's $390 million budget for fiscal year 2015 that includes a 6.25 percent spending increase and plans to hire 31 people.

Officials credited the state's $2.3 billion transportation funding law with allowing them to avoid cuts and add a small amount of service, including more weekend T service.

“Now that we have some stability we can tweak some routes as well as improvements on the T,” said board chairman Robert Hurley, senior deputy director of Allegheny County Economic Development. “This really maintains what we have.”

The base fare of $2.50 will not change.

Hurley said the agency had as many as 3,100 employees before cuts in previous years. The new budget brings the 2015 total to 2,516.

Schedule changes for the T will go into effect on June 15. Specifics are not yet available. Part of the reason for the increased weekend service is to make the required employee shifts part of the regular schedule. Currently, when more T service is needed for weekend events, drivers typically work overtime, officials said.

Bus service will not change until September. Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said buses could be added to overcrowded routes or to increase the frequency of some routes.

“Act 89 allows us to maintain the service on the street,” Ritchie said.

Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean has said money from the transportation law will cover the agency's deficit for years, allowing it to focus on long-term capital projects.

Using data from PennDOT, the transit agency projects it will receive more than $557 million through fiscal year 2019 from revenue generated by increased gas taxes and vehicle-related fees.

Funding from the transportation law will total $91 million for fiscal year 2015 and $99 million for fiscal year 2016 for Port Authority. The law passed by the Legislature in November is expected to generate $2.3 billion for mass transit and crumbling roads and bridges across the state.

The financially troubled Port Authority has made several rounds of route cuts and layoffs. In 2001, Port Authority had 235 routes; today it has 102. The most recent cutbacks were made in 2007 when officials reduced service 15 percent and in 2011 when they cut service by 15 percent and laid off 180 workers.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.




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