Van Service Tries to Plug Port Authority Gaps in Mon Valley

Nov. 26, 2018
A once-supplemental transportation service in the Mon Valley soon will be the only resource a few hundred residents will have to get to work.

A once-supplemental transportation service in the Mon Valley soon will be the only resource a few hundred residents will have to get to work.

Heritage Community Initiatives plans to modify its WorkLink van system in seven communities to pick up passengers who will be left behind when Port Authority of Allegheny County cuts 15 percent of its public bus service on March 27. The vans will transport riders to active Port Authority bus stops and business centers.

"When we learned that Port Authority was going to be making massive cuts in the Mon Valley, we went back and had a conversation with ourselves of how that would impact our mission," said Michele Atkins, president and CEO of the Braddock organization. "We want to make sure no one loses a job because of all these cuts."

Heritage Community Initiatives provides the service for free to residents of the Mon Valley for jobs, job training and other work-related activities. Its WorkLink van service has an annual budget of about $1 million and is primarily funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the federal Job Access and Reverse Commute program.

Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said he did not believe the agency would need to approve the service. Port Authority regulates transit in the county.

Under the plan, three WorkLink vans would traverse a single route each hour from East Pittsburgh to North Versailles, McKeesport, Port Vue, Glassport, Clairton and Jefferson. The vans would operate 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, said Carol D. Uminski, Heritage Community Initiatives' transportation manager. The vans, which transport 15 passengers at a time, don't run on Sundays.

WorkLink's service to Braddock would end because the borough will continue to be served by Port Authority, Uminski said.

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman said he understands that is a necessary but "unfortunate" choice.

"Any time you cut back, it's really unfortunate, but I understand their motivation for it," Fetterman said.

Patrick McMahon, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, which represents Port Authority employees, did not return calls seeking comment.

The union has opposed Lenzner Tour and Travel's proposal to operate four daily round-trip routes from Franklin Park and Marshall to Pittsburgh. Charles Lenzner, president of the Ohio Township company, said he never planned bus service in the Mon Valley, calling it "not viable" because of the distance from his bus garage.

Glassport resident Dante Hendricks, 44, said he may use the free service once Port Authority buses make less frequent stops in his neighborhood.

"I have to get to work somehow," Hendricks said.

For more information on Heritage Community Initiatives' WorkLink van service, call 412-351-0535.