“No service, no survival” were the words dozens of bus riders and workers chanted earlier this afternoon during a rally in Downtown Pittsburgh. The group marched their frustrations directly to Port Authority headquarters to demand better transit service.
On Friday, a small but mighty crowd gathered downtown taking over 6th and Wood Street demanding more reliable transit services.
“Transit service has been the worst that it has been in the entire pandemic, with riders left stranded at their stops,” said Laura Chu Wiens, the Executive Director for Pittsburghers for Public Transit.
Frustrated riders shared horror stories of having to wait hours for a bus, often at night in the cold, that never arrived, one passenger using an electric scooter to travel more than two miles.
“The path is not suitable for my electric scooter, and if the bus does not come, I have to go up a hill,” said one woman.
From missed hours at work to missed doctor’s appointments, one woman we spoke with said her daughter has regular appointments and relies on the bus to get there.
“My daughter stays at the bus stop to go to the hospital all the time. She is waiting on a kidney transplant, and she must ride a bus and if the bus doesn’t come, she is late for her doctor’s appointment,” Tieaira Collins, a transit rider.
In recent months, the Port Authority has experienced low staffing numbers, compacted by their vaccine mandate which has also taken drivers off the road.
“We have upward of 100 people being held off [work], and it directly impacting service, we told them that six weeks ago and they decided to implement their position anyway,” said Ross Nicotero, the union president for ATU local 85.
“You are penalizing these people because they are upholding their constitutional right, and it is not fair,” said Collins.
And while transit riders are frustrated with the current unreliability, organizers are fearful of what could come next for the Port Authority.
“Port Authority is planning for cuts to mirror the kind of service outages that we’ve seen, and we can’t stand for it. It affects people’s lives at an individual level and on a global level,” said Wiens.
Port Authority said in a statement to Channel 11 News, they are not planning to make additional cuts and, in a statement said,
“We plan to change how we assign trips so that we’re better able to fill gaps in service that riders, unfortunately, are experiencing today,” said James Ritchie, Port Authority.
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