Port Authority buses run late one-third of the time, auditor says
Port Authority of Allegheny County buses run five or six minutes late about one-third of the time, according to a state audit released Thursday.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Port Authority’s on-time rate of 67 percent was the biggest problem auditors found in a review of the agency’s operations from Jan. 1, 2016 through December 2017. DePasquale said the authority has improved since 2013 when buses ran on time 63.8 percent of the time, but still lags behind other similar public transit agencies.
“The Port Authority’s 67 percent on-time rate for its 97 bus routes lagged behind those of other, what we consider comparable metropolitan systems, such as Minneapolis, which has an 84 percent on-time rate, and Baltimore that is 74 percent,” DePasquale said. “That five or six minutes late can be a huge impact for people being able to make work on time, especially when you also throw in bad weather, people standing outside and even kids trying to get to school. It is a major issue.”
Port Authority spokesman Adam Brandolph said the authority agreed with the audit findings and is working on improvements. He said CEO Katharine Kelleman made the timing of buses a top priority when she was hired in January 2018.
“Changes are already underway to improve not only on-time performance but the overall experience that riders get when they board a bus or light rail,” he said.
DePasquale also criticized the authority for its response to customer service requests. Port Authority staff approved 76 service requests, which basically amount to changes in bus routes, but only two were implemented because of budget constraints, he said.
Brandolph said the authority is giving drivers more time to prepare buses at the beginning of their shifts so they leave on time. He said the authority is evaluating the way it responds to customer requests.
Laura Wiens, executive director of the activist group Pittsburghers for Public Transit, said the authority should consider infrastructure changes such as additional bus lanes to ensure buses run on schedule.
“If people can’t depend on their bus coming on time a third of the time you’re going to lose ridership and also riders will not have access to critical needs,” she said.
The group rallied Downtown on Friday and presented the Port Authority with petitions containing the names of about 2,500 county residents calling for “equitable fare polices which will grow transit ridership in the region.” Demands included the elimination of a cash penalty, a cap on fares and free transfers.
DePasquale said the state should provide more funding for public transit to address that issue.
“I’m sure that anyone that’s ridden it would like the cost to be lower, but I think considering the funding stream in Harrisburg, (Port Authority) is between a rock and a hard place on that,” he said. “I get their point, and they’re not wrong, but the Port Authority is in a tough position on this because if they don’t have the fares where they are you’re just going to have less routes.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @bobbauder.