On the heels of the landmark agreement to save transit in Allegheny County, County Controller Chelsa Wagner released her report (.pdf download) detailing immediate action steps for growing the region’s largest transit system.  Controller Wagner’s “Taxpayer Alert” details how the Port Authority can generate million a year in additional revenue by getting up to speed with similar transit agencies across the country.

Recognizing the need for new, diverse revenue streams for the system, Controller Wagner’s report outlines ways for the Port Authority to increase earned revenue from selling more advertising and sponsorships; licensing Busway access for limited private use; charging nominal fees for Park & Ride lots; and improving fare collection.

“For too long, the Port Authority has been in a state of managing decline,” Wagner said, “The time has come for the system to modernize its practices and increase its bottom line without raising fares or cutting service. We must take advantage of the relative stability given the recent deal with the Commonwealth and move forward.”

Transit’s long-term success depends on attracting new ridership and adding service such as improved links between the major employment centers of Downtown, Oakland and the Airport, Wagner pointed out. Port Authority ridership has increased despite higher fares and cuts to routes. Wagner said this shows the public’s desire to use transit and the need to prioritize increasing access and lowering the overall cost for riders.

“Transportation costs in this country have exceeded the cost of food for most families. For our region to compete, we must expand access to affordable, reliable public transit,” Controller Wagner emphasized. “By following my recommendations, the Port Authority can generate new revenue without creating more barriers or costs for riders.”

Wagner commended state and local leaders for their work to avert a 35 percent service reduction scheduled for Sept. 2. The cuts, if imposed, would have eliminated 46 of PAT’s 102 routes.

“The transit deal struck last week stabilizes an already damaged system but it is just one step in a long process of making the Port Authority more reliable and its long-term viability certain,” Wagner said. “The next step for PAT is to become the system this region deserves.”

Controller Wagner’s Taxpayer Alert calls on the Port Authority to:

  •     Increase advertising revenue in line with higher-earning benchmark transit agencies to generate an additional .4 million annually.
  •     Pursue sponsorship opportunities similar to those of benchmark agencies on “T” and Busway stops and other physical assets to bring in an additional .5 million a year.
  •     License private use of the Busways to airport taxis and other companies to bring in more than million annually and improve public access to connect more potential riders with transit.
  •     Charge a nominal fee at Park & Ride lots, to generate million annually.
  •     Improve fare collection to reduce non-payment – generating 5,000 a year from each additional 1 percent collected – and incentivize use of the new ConnectCard by charging a premium on cash fares.