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Traveling Money

The cost of commuting is about to go up

Customers of the Port Authority of Allegheny County are used to change — much of it for the worse, as service reductions and other cutbacks have dramatically reshaped the system. But the region's transportation picture could face even more drastic changes on Sept. 2 if the authority goes through with plans to cut service by 35 percent — moves intended to prevent a $64 million budget deficit. Nearly 46 routes would be cut, and there would be severe cuts to ACCESS, the county's paratransit service. 

The cuts would be the steepest in the agency's history, and while they may balance the Port Authority's budget, others will find their own costs increasing as a result. According to a study conducted by GoBurgh, an initiative of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, the transit cuts would cost commuters and public agencies $328 million a year or more. 

 "These are costs that will be incurred by anybody who goes anywhere," says Chris Sandvig, regional policy director for PCRG. Former transit riders, for example, will have to buy gasoline for their cars. Public-works agencies will have to fill more potholes as wear-and-tear on roads increases. And commuters will also face added "congestion costs" — increased fuel consumption from longer traffic jams, as well as losses in productivity as they spend more time in traffic. 

Sandvig says that "in a time people are looking to move to Pittsburgh," issues like transit cuts could change their minds. Here's a look at the increased stress — on commuter wallets, parking lots, and regional traffic patterns —the transit cuts may bring. 

— Lauren Daley

Calculations of Cost and Traffic Impacts from Pending Port Authority Cuts


 Transit Ridership Reduction: 15,000 riders per day

Additional traveling cost borne by former transit riders: $60.4 -$137.4 million

"Congestion costs" to drivers: $268 million

Total added commuting costs: $328.4-$405.4 million

Projected increase in demand for additional parking Downtown: 4,550 spaces

Total it would cost to build parking spaces for those additional vehicles: $50-$90 million

Projected increase in demand for parking in Oakland: 1,000 spaces

Project increase for parking in the rest of the city: 1,700 spaces

Effect on Daily Auto Trips

Change in number of daily auto trips for region: +23,400

Change in number of daily auto trips to Downtown, one-way: Increase from 157,600 to 169,900

Change in number of auto trips to Oakland, one-way: Increase from 114,500 to 116,700

Change in length of rush-hour commute in Allegheny County: Increase from 26 minutes to 37 minutes

Sources: GoBurgh; Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission

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