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Latest News - January 2011

January 7, 2011
Union denies deliberate slowdown by light-rail operators
Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette
By: Jon Schmitz

The president of the union representing Port Authority drivers today denied that his members were deliberately causing delays on the Light Rail Transit system.

Patrick McMahon, president of Local 85, Amalgamated Transit Union, instead accused the Port Authority of adopting unrealistic schedules that cannot be met without violating speed limits.

"It absolutely is false. Our employees are not intentionally delaying service. There are safety rules, speed limits, operating procedures that our employees are required to follow to safely operate those vehicles. That's exactly what they're doing," Mr. McMahon said.

He said Port Authority has been closely monitoring vehicle speeds in the past month, including the use of undercover personnel in unmarked cars, following a PennDOT field audit that raised concerns about light-rail vehicle speeds.

At least two operators have been disciplined, and the authority is investigating whether drivers caused long delays on the Red Line during evening rush hours this week to retaliate.

Mr. McMahon said the authority's push to increase efficiency has led to cuts in scheduled travel times on buses and rail cars that make it impossible for drivers to adhere to schedules without speeding. "The entire system is unsafe, due to the lack of running time required to make the trips," he said.

"They are so caught up in downsizing and making the system efficient that they've made it unsafe. Our citizens deserve better. We intend to do what's right by the law," Mr. McMahon said.

He said he welcomed Allegheny County Council President Rich Fitzgerald's call for a council investigation of this week's service delays. He also said he would notify the Federal Transit Administration of what he believes is a violation of federal regulations that prohibit motor carriers from adopting schedules that require drivers to exceed speed limits.

Mr. Fitzgerald will introduce a resolution Jan. 18 authorizing council to investigate allegations of a deliberate slowdown.

In a statement released this afternoon, authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said the agency "continues to investigate the cause of the T delays that disrupted transit service for riders earlier this week. The authority obviously welcomes any effort to help identify and resolve the issues.

"We have not significantly altered the T schedule for more than two years, since mid-2008. And at that time, we added time into the T schedule."



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