The Pirates and Steelers laid an egg on the field Sunday, but Port Authority knocked one out of the ballpark, at least in the eyes of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
He held a news conference Monday at Steel Plaza Station in Downtown Pittsburgh to praise the transit agency's performance in moving the sellout crowds that attended the afternoon baseball and night football games.
"It went very smoothly. People were able to get to where they had to go. It was really terrific, and we can be very proud," said Mr. Fitzgerald, who stayed behind for nearly an hour after the Steelers game to observe Light Rail Transit operations on the North Shore.
It wasn't that long ago -- May 2012 -- that the county executive took to the platform of a different subway station to tear into the authority for poor performance after major events.
Since then, the agency has added trips and used two-car trains -- which typically operate only during rush hours -- after big sporting and cultural events. But never before had it faced the test of back-to-back Pirates and Steelers games.
"The light rail system was put at a level it had never been at before," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "The public had a lot of confidence that even though the system was really challenged, they were going to get on that train and make it home."
Bill Miller, the authority's operations officer, estimated that the system moved 5,300 riders after the baseball game and 10,000 to 11,000 after the football game. The authority brought in 20 extra operators to drive and to staff off-board fare collection booths that are usually out of service except during rush hours.
Local 85 of the Amalgamated Transit Union "really went above and beyond and served the public very well," Mr. Fitzgerald said.
Officials could not estimate the added personnel costs but acting authority CEO Ellen McLean said "for the quality of service I think it's a very low number."
Since the North Shore Connector opened last year, "the Port Authority has really done a terrific job ... at gauging and meeting the needs of the specific events that we have, the big sporting events and concerts," Mr. Fitzgerald said.
He didn't stop there, praising the agency for a 12 percent increase in advertising revenue in the fiscal year that ended in June and for beginning to implement real-time bus arrival information for riders with smart phones.
It was a far cry from the May 2012 news conference at Gateway Station, Downtown, when Mr. Fitzgerald said, "The failure of the light rail system to provide adequate service this past weekend is inexcusable and cannot happen again."
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic.
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