You’ve probably read about the proposed route cuts and fare hikes in Port Authority’s bus service. If they happen as announced, Cranberry residents who currently commute to Pittsburgh from nearby Warrendale – which is at the outermost fringe of Port Authority’s Allegheny County service territory – would be shut out altogether starting in January. And so would a bunch of other communities.
If it sounds familiar, that’s understandable; similar deep slashes in service and fare hikes have been announced in the past, only to have some last-minute deal save most of what had been threatened with elimination. So a certain amount of route-cut threat-fatigue has begun to set in, and there is a lot of scepticism about whether this is for real or if someone’s just crying wolf.
I don’t have any special insight into how this will ultimately unfold. But I do know that there’s a huge gap in Pennsylvania’s transportation funding, which had counted on tolling I-80 to generate revenue before the feds shot that idea down. And it seems unlikely that the General Assembly will find the missing $450 million tucked away in its well-padded sofa between now and January.
Adding insult to injury, those of us who use the Turnpike frequently will now be paying some of the highest tolls in the nation. At one time, those rates were pegged at the cost of maintaining and improving the Turnpike itself. Now they’re being used to pay for transportation projects all over the state. So since state officials won’t do what’s right by distributing PennDOT’s costs fairly across the Commonwealth, we’re being forced to pay extraordinary heavy Turnpike fees to cover holes in state funding. Maybe that’s why the Feds turned down the I-80 proposal, which seemed to do the same thing in the northern part of the state.
In the meantime, Port Authority is required to give public notice of any potential rate hikes or service cuts. So what you’ve heard about proposed changes has actually been mandated by the state. And, in all fairness, Port Authority has made a number of changes over the past few years to get its house in order and Allegheny County enacted some unpopular taxes to help fund it. But if worse comes to worst, and the service stops, is there anything Cranberry can or should do about it?
For the record, Cranberry has been consistently supportive of public transit. Over the years, we have worked closely with regional agencies and Butler County agencies to introduce service to, through, and around Cranberry Township. We’ve received awards, participated in studies, made financial pledges, and received various grants in support of that effort. We still think transit will be an important part of our future. And we will continue to be advocates for it.
At the same time, like everyone else, we’ll be keeping a close eye on developments that affect transportation funding, including public transit. And we’re hoping for the best. But also like everyone else, if those cuts really do materialize, we’re preparing to endure some major travel headaches