PA: MMVTA Rate Hikes, Route Cuts Looming

May 21--A modest rate increase and minor service adjustments are planned by the Mid Mon Transit Authority beginning July 15.

But major changes to transit service may be coming by 2015.

On Tuesday, the authority held public hearings at midday and in the evening to gauge public ridership feedback to a proposed 15 cent fare hike to any routes connecting the Valley communities with downtown Pittsburgh.

In addition, some unprofitable runs are facing the ax.

While Tuesday's hearings were held in the transit authority's Charleroi office, this summer authority officials will be going out in the community to seek public input.

That will even include riding the bus to talk with one-on-one riders.

"The next public comment period will be intense," said Mark Roncone, executive director of the Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority.

"We will engage you."

The authority is planning a transportation development plan, potentially for implementation in mid-2015, Roncone.

"It will look at every single route," Roncone said. "Do we need to adjust times? We will go out and talk to the customers so we can meet their needs."

Depending upon the results of that research, and plan, the public could see a completely different type of service, Roncone said.

"We're here to provide as much service as we can with the money we get not only from you but from the state and federal agencies," Roncone said. "If we have an empty bus, we have to move that service to some other time."

The goal is to make sure the schedule realistically reflects the time it takes to complete a route, taking into account traffic and possible road delays for construction, Roncone said.

Roncone said when the Charleroi-Monessen Bridge was closed Feb. 19, 2009, transit lines were drawn to account for driving around the closed span. Although the bridge was rehabilitated and reopened as the J.K. Tener Bridge last June, transit buses have still not used the new span. Roncone said, "I'm not saying every bus will use it, but it's an opportunity," Roncone said.

"The idea is to drive the same number of miles and hours, but adjust the schedules to better serve the public," Roncone said.

"The real challenge is after the commuters leave downtown, the ridership is sparse, but we have to keep those services for the folks."

The first changes, though, could come this summer. In addition to comments collected Tuesday, the public can also provide feedback online at www.mmvta.com. Feedback forms will also be available on all vehicles. The deadline for comments is June 2.

All public comments will be provided to the authority board for review. They are expected to take action at a June 26 meeting.

If approved, the rate for one-way trip between Pittsburgh and the 21 Valley communities the transit authority services would rise from $3.50 to $3.65.

Full-fare unlimited monthly passes for the Pittsburgh service would increase by $5 a month -- from $112 to $117.

The local unlimited monthly pass would remain at $64.

One rider, Patrick Lowe of Donora, asked why the rate hike was not proposed for a more round figure like a quarter.

Cindy Bartolotta said the odd figure could have riders searching for 15 cents, holding up loading at bus stops.

"We thought a quarter might be easier (for riders) to find, but we wanted to look at the percent increase," Roncone said.

"We wanted to come up with an increase for the demographics of the valley.

"We wanted to make sure not to out price ourselves."

The last rate adjustment came in 2010. Prior to that, the rate varied from one community to another for all transit service. During that rate consolidation, most communities experienced a slight drop in the fare.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

Copyright 2014 - The Valley Independent, Monessen, Pa.

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