Fare hikes, layoffs, shutdowns possible for Pa. mass transit without billions in funding, advocates say

Fare hikes, layoffs, shutdowns possible for Pa. mass transit without billions in funding, advocates

PITTSBURGH — People who rely on mass transit are concerned because their means to get around – as well as their jobs – could be in danger if critical funding isn’t provided quickly.

Workers and riders are calling on Pa. Sen. Bob Casey to help push for adequate public transportation funding.

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“COVID-19 has pushed public transit to the brink of extinction,” said Bill McDowell, of Pittsburghers for Public Transit.

Downtown Pittsburgh is desolate, buses are seemingly empty and so is the T. As the pandemic lingers, downtown offices are empty.

Every day, millions in fare and tax revenue is lost in Pennsylvania. And Yasha Zarrinkelk, of Transit for Philadelphia, said that fare hikes, layoffs and shutdowns are “on the horizon if Congress doesn’t pass the $32 billion necessary for transit.”

If this public service isn’t fully funded, community leaders and advocates argue the outcomes disproportionately affect essential workers, those with disabilities and people of color.

Lish Danielle, a representative for One Pennsylvania, said 60% of public transit riders are African-Americans.

Workers said adequately funding public mass transit also means keeping those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and their families safe. Union leaders shared tough stories of thousands of front line transit workers nationwide that contracted coronavirus, with hundreds that died from it.

“This doesn’t account for the members who took it home and passed it on to family members who die,” said Willie Brown, president of Local 234.

Some workers said they don’t even have access to adequate PPE, and that nobody should die from doing their job.

Port Authority said it is committed to keeping public transportation operating smoothly to get essential workers to their critical jobs.

Masks are required on-board, and strict sanitation methods are in place to keep everyone safe.

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