As usual, a bus was ready to take commuters at the park-n-ride lot at BladeRunners in Marshall Township to Pittsburgh Monday morning, but there was one big difference.
It wasn’t a Port Authority of Allegheny County bus.
Despite that was continued from Friday, the Port Authority on Saturday voted to move forward with plans to cut public transit service by 15 percent and lay off 180 employees.
The cutbacks, which went into effect Sunday, eliminated 29 bus routes, including the in Marshall, which many Cranberry residents used to commute daily to Pittsburgh. The reduction in service and layoffs were made in an effort to stretch $45 million in highway funding approved by former Gov. Ed Rendell.
Also at Saturday’s meeting, the Port Authority board approved an application from Lenzner Coach Lines, which is based in Sewickley, to provide private service from the park-n-ride lot in Marshall and two other stops in Franklin Park to the city.
The move restored some options for Cranberry residents who depended on the 13K Marshall Express for transportation to and from the city.
Despite the uncertainty of the weekend’s meeting, which featured last-ditch contract proposals from Local 85 of the Amalgamated Transit Union and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, Coach Lines owner Charles Lenzner said his company was prepared to start service to the North Hills on Monday.
“We were ready on Friday,” he said. “It was our job. We initiated it, and we were ready to go.”
While service went smoothly on Monday, Lenzner said he was surprised the BladeRunners lot wasn’t packed with more commuters eager to ride into the city. He said the events surrounding the weekend’s Port Authority meetings might have confused some commuters.
He was confident the service would become more popular as people learn about it.
“I think we just need to give people time to readjust,” he said.
The bus company offered free service this week to commuters who bought monthly bus passes for April. The private service operates Monday through Friday, and commuters must purchase a monthly pass to board the bus. The pass costs $10 per day for a total of $200 per month.
In comparison, the Port Authority charged $6.50 per round-trip for the 13K Marshall Express.
The Coach Lines departs at 5:40, 6:10, 6:40, 7:10 and 7:40 a.m. from BladeRunners. Buses leave Pittsburgh at 3:45, 4:15, 4:45, 5:30 and 6 p.m. from Penn and Fifth avenues; and 3:48, 4:18, 4:48, 5:33 and 6:03 p.m. from Penn and Sixth avenues.
Despite the Port Authority’s approval, Lenzner warned that an injunction sought by the transit union could halt services. For now, however, “We’ll keep the buses running,” he said.