FTA grant needed to maintain Pittsburgh airport transit

If the Port Authority of Allegheny County doesn’t get the same money it has been relying on since 2000, airport public transportation could be in trouble

Transportation Management News Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. January 30, 2012
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If Allegheny County, Pa., doesn’t receive a grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) this year, the Pittsburgh International Airport could be left without a public transportation option, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Since 2000, the FTA has subsidized the 28X Airport Flyer, which runs between Oakland and Pittsburgh International via downtown and the Robinson commercial area, with about $1 million a year.
The federal funding has come through the FTA's Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) program, which provides assistance in getting urban residents to suburban jobs. Port Authority of Allegheny County is expected to apply next month for another round of JARC funding. Recipients would be announced this year.
"If we got $1 million, we'd likely be able to continue serving the airport," said Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie.
The grant program is competitive, meaning there is no guarantee that Port Authority will receive money, said Kathy Stefani of the downtown-based Accessible Transportation & Workforce Interagency Cooperative, which oversees the region's JARC program.
"You can't just assume that because you got (money) last year, you're going to get it next year," Stefani said, noting Port Authority's funding covers about one-fifth of the 28X's operational costs.
The uncertainty of the funding forced the agency to prepare for a worst-case scenario with proposals to cut service by 35%, including the 6 miles between Robinson and the Findlay airport.
Last week, Port Authority proposed erasing a $64 million deficit for next fiscal year by cutting routes, laying off up to 500 workers and raising fares 25 cents to 50 cents on all routes that run outside downtown.
John Grim, founder of airportgrounddirectory.com, said a move to cut an airport bus route would be against industry trends.
"There seems to be a national trend going on right now to make the link between the airport and downtown stronger," Grim said, pointing to a recently completed light-rail airport project in Seattle and ongoing ones in Miami and Washington, D.C.
He identified the top four airports without public transportation as Norfolk International in Virginia, Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International in Alabama, Hawaii's Kona International and Colorado Springs Municipal. They had 1.6 million to 3.2 million passengers in the 12-month period ending in October. Pittsburgh had 8 million, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

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