PA: Allegheny County Could Revive Some Transit Routes

Jan. 24--The Port Authority of Allegheny County plans to add bus routes, possibly new park-and-rides, or restore some of the routes that were slashed in recent years using new revenue from the state transportation bill.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said that extra revenue from the state as well as increased advertising and sponsorship money prompted the transit agency to examine where routes could be added.

"Any kind of revenue we can generate will be put right back into service to expand and bring back some of the routes that had been cut with those two big cuts we had," Fitzgerald said Thursday. "We'd like to restore some of those cuts."

Fitzgerald said decisions on which routes would be added have not been made but mentioned the potential for large-scale park-and-rides with 300 to 400 cars, including one in the North Hills.

"There's a lot of demand for an enhanced park-and-ride in the North Hills," he said.

Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said the agency is in the midst of talks with PennDOT to determine how much money is earmarked for the Port Authority.

Route additions will be based on "what makes the most sense. Where is there the most opportunity to grow ridership and where is there opportunity to benefit economic development projects? Those are the kinds of things we're looking at," Ritchie said.

Jim Boltz, chairman of the Pittsburgh North Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he would welcome additional bus routes.

"It's good for the community. One of the biggest problems with the area is transportation for people to get to jobs," Boltz said. "And not just to have routes to the city but the other way, too. There's a lot of companies here that have a hard time getting employees because of a lack of transportation."

The Legislature in November passed a $2.3 billion transportation funding plan to fix the state's crumbling roads and bridges and fund public transit. The law hikes wholesale gas taxes and vehicle-related fees. Port Authority is expected to receive 22 percent of the money slated for transit.

Board Chairman Robert Hurley said in 2001 the agency had 235 routes compared to 102 routes now. Hurley said decisions on route additions will be done through "a deliberate and strategic process."

The largest cut in the last few years came in March 2011 when service was slashed by 15 percent.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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