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Port Authority riders sound off on proposed cuts, fare increases

Tom Fontaine
| Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010, 12:00 p.m.

About 200 people registered to speak out today against proposed Port Authority service cuts and fare increases that could take effect next year as a result of budgetary shortfalls.

The authority is having a marathon public hearing on the proposed cuts through 8 tonight at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

"It seems you relied on money that wasn't there," Katrina Kilgore, 27, of Mt. Washington told Port Authority CEO Steve Bland and other senior staff and board members.

Kilgore, who suffers from epilepsy, said she never has driven and maintained that Port Authority's move "will hurt seniors, students and the working class."

Port Authority said last month it would raise fares across the board and dramatically cut service and jobs unless the state helps it close a $47 million budget deficit. Plans include going from 129 to 85 routes, laying off 555 employees, raising single-trip fares and transfers by 25 cents and charging $4 premium fares on the T and longer suburban express routes.

Bland blamed the would-be changes on a federal decision to block tolls on Interstate 80, which would have generated $472 million for transportation projection across Pennsylvania.

"We know riders will suffer. We know employers will suffer. And we know businesses, schools and all types of community institutions will suffer," Bland said.

About a dozen speakers who took the podium through 9 a.m. illustrated that.

"What little I make, half of it already goes to fares and parking. I feel fare raises should be put on hold," said Moses Hart, 47, of Bellevue, a retired government worker who attends classes at CCAC.

John Tague of Greenfield said the cuts would "have such a severe impact, we might not recover from it," particularly people with disabilities like him. Tague, who uses a wheelchair, said he often watches three to four packed buses go by before one stops with room for him to board.

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