As a longtime bus rider and activist, Jonathan Robison knows how important mass transit can be.
But it's also a personal thing. At 67, the president of the Allegheny County Transit Council relies heavily on Port Authority buses to help him and his motorized wheelchair travel around town from his Oakland apartment.
Robison has had multiple sclerosis for about 20 years. The degenerative nerve disease affects his walking, and more recently his vision; he is unable to drive. For the past 10 years or so, Robison has used a scooter or power wheelchair to get around.
"With the power chair and buses, I can go anywhere," he says.
But if proposed Port Authority cuts go through in January, Robison's routes will be affected, with some of them completely eliminated. Though his wife, Mary, 71, drives, Robison notes, it can be a nuisance to do so in the city. So they rely on buses to travel to appointments, meetings, the ballet, symphony and cultural events. Robison also grocery-shops for the couple.
He believes overcrowding on the remaining routes will make it even more difficult to have a driver stop to pick up a wheelchair-bound rider.
"I have already had the experience of having to wait for another bus because the first one was too full," he says.
Route reductions also require more planning for travel, which could be a nuisance to riders. Robison doesn't even refer to a schedule when he wants to travel to main arteries like Forbes and Murray in Squirrel Hill. "I just go out to the street and get on one of the buses."
Robison is forming a legislative committee with the ACTC to lobby for more transit funding.
"People are going to be marooned," he says. "There's no good way to make 35 percent service cuts."