FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Chelsa Wagner
Wagner PAT reform bill advances unanimously
HARRISBURG, May 24 – A proposal authored by state Rep. Chelsa Wagner, D-Brookline, to add balance and accountability to the board of directors of the Port Authority of Allegheny County today advanced unanimously through the Transportation Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Wagner has been urging reform of the PAT board for more than four years, authoring legislation in each of her three terms in the state House. She said the continuing funding crisis PAT faces has made the need for reform acute.
"As transportation dollars become more scarce across the board, it is essential for the state to play a more active role in ensuring all local governments are using funds to best serve riders," Wagner said. "We cannot allow the authority to operate the way it always has and expect new funding to materialize. State government, which provides greater than 60 percent of the Port Authority's funding, cannot ensure true accountability, efficiency and equity in the system unless it is at the table."
Wagner's proposal would expand the board from nine to 11 members, adding five members appointed by state leaders while retaining a majority of members appointed by the county executive. All members of the board would be required to be Allegheny County residents.
Wagner's proposal was approved unanimously as an amendment to H.B.1304, which was also then approved unanimously.
"Multiple independent analyses have cited the need to balance appointments to the PAT board between the county and the state," Wagner said. "A diversity of viewpoints on the governing body is essential for any organization, and especially one as vital to the well-being of our citizens and our region as the Port Authority."
Wagner said discussions with colleagues in Harrisburg over transit funding have only reinforced her belief in the need for reform.
"State leaders are no longer willing to plow more funding into an agency over which they have no say and whose stewardship is repeatedly questioned," Wagner said. "Only when county residents and state leaders alike have faith in the authority can we begin to move toward the transit system our region needs."
A recent study by the Brookings Institution rated transit service in Pittsburgh as below average even before the latest round of service cuts in March.
"The need for reform of the PAT board has never been clearer. I will continue working to see this bill enacted into law this year so we can stop cutting into the bone with our public transit, and instead look to expand and strengthen with rail to Oakland and the airport," Wagner said. "No metropolitan area can thrive without a healthy public transit system as its foundation. This bill is a wise investment in our future."