Auditor General releases report criticizing Allegheny County Port Authority

Auditor General releases report criticizing Allegheny County Port Authority

Author: Atiya Irvin-Mitchell/Thursday, December 13, 2018/Categories: Pittsburgh

A week after organizers rallied for lower fares and better access, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released an audit levying a number of criticisms at the Allegheny County Port Authority Thursday.

While DePasquale praised the authority for addressing the fiscal and contractual concerns raised in previous years, the report released said the authority’s buses have a long way to go service wise. 

According to the audit buses within the county only run on schedule a third of the time. Although the report noted that the authority’s on-time rate has improved in recent years, it’s lagging behind other major cities such as Baltimore and Minneapolis. This, DePasquale said, could be a detriment to the working people who rely on public transit to get them to work. 

“Making sure transit services are available where and when they’re needed helps to support job creation and workforce development in a region that’s changing, and changing fast,” DePasquale said. “Transit services help to provide opportunities to those who might otherwise be unable to accept a job outside of their own community.”

Additionally, the report alleged that the authority relied too heavily upon altering bus schedules as opposed to improving its timeliness. DePasquale believes the additional wait to be unfair to the nearly 200,000 people who depend on public transit. 

“Five or six minutes may not seem like a long wait, but those minutes can feel like an eternity when you’re standing in the elements and trying to get to work on time,” he said. 

Other concerns within the report were that the authority lacked proper documentation of formal policies in the hiring process and failed to have adequate documentation with regard to applicant’s driver and possible criminal history. Also, the authority failed to enact riders’ input through their service request process.

While Laura Wiens, Executive Director of Pittsburghers for Public Transit, had no comment on authority’s hiring practices, she agreed the authority’s tardiness had a negative impact on riders. 

“Riders can't afford to be late or miss the bus because the bus schedules don't match when the buses are arriving; employers, childcare centers, and healthcare appointments are not forgiving of riders who are tardy one-third of the time,” she said.

Wiens added that she faults not the drivers, but the authority.

“The low on-time performance is not due to bus operators, because both the scheduling and traffic conditions are outside of their control,” Wiens wrote in an email. 

Although the authority didn’t directly comment on the documentation concerns, in response to the audit a spokesperson for the authority said the authority had long been aware of the timeliness issue and agreed with the auditor's assessment. Furthermore, he insisted there were efforts being made to address the concerns.

“Changes already are underway to improve not just on-time performance, but the overall experience our riders have when they board a bus or light rail vehicle,” he said. “We know the changes that are in motion now – including staff and management moves – will improve this experience for our customers.”

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell a staff writer for The PLS Reporter based in Pittsburgh. Have a question, comment or tip? Email her at atiya@mypls.com.

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