You think Saturday night was bad at the new trolley stations on the other side of the North Shore tunnel? Wait until Steelers season.
The Port Authority claims it doesn't have the funding to run extra trolleys after big events anymore, which in part led to embarrassing transit failures over the weekend, wherein marathoners visiting from around the country and Pirates fans were stranded due to few buses and trolleys.
The failures angered county exec Rich Fitzgerald (illustrated via Avengers tie-in above), who appoints the PAT board. If he thought the half-billion connector project was a PR loser before, wait until voters start releasing the transit agency can't even use it effectively during the very events associated with the North Shore in the first place.
"This problem is going to get solved. If it can't get solved by the people who are here, we'll find people who can solve it," Mr. Fitzgerald said in a phone interview.
He clearly was irate about reports that large numbers of riders waited 45 minutes or longer on crowded station platforms after the Pirates game on Saturday night, when Light Rail Transit service was plagued by a shortage of operators and trips were missed.
He also said the authority needs to redeploy service to better accommodate large crowds after events. Jim Ritchie, authority spokesman, said this week that the agency cannot afford to add service after major events as it has in the past.
"I'm certain there were empty buses running somewhere in the county on Saturday. They have to redeploy," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "We need to adjust to the marketplace. They certainly get paid enough to know when the crowds are going to require this service."
Pirates games on Saturday typically draw crowds of 30,000 or more, and having inadequate service at the ballpark after more than $500 million was invested extending the T there is "unacceptable," he said. "It's one of the reasons we sold this to the public years and years ago."
To be fair, PAT has been saying for months that the tunnel project was built more for daily commuting than the eight regular season Steeler games or other big-turnout events through each year. Here's the agency's former rail operations/engineering officer Wayne Simmons to Jon in March:
After stadium events, authority police and personnel will control access to the North Shore stations to prevent overcrowding on the platforms. That may mean some lines forming on the sidewalks outside the stations. The system can move a maximum of about 6,800 people per hour with two-car trains operating every three minutes after a major event, Mr. Simmonds said.
Asked what he will say when he is inevitably asked why the authority didn't build bigger platforms, he replied, "You don't build the church for Easter Sunday."
UPDATE: Fitzgerald issued the statement below:
"The wait time and lack of service provided by the Port Authority this past weekend to residents and visitors alike is absolutely inexcusable. This agency must be responsive to its customers, and the recent problems indicate to me that it is not the focus of the management.
"There is absolutely no valid explanation for why there was no planning or preparation for this past weekend's influx of people into the city. It's not as if the Pirates' schedule, the Stage AE concert or the Pittsburgh Marathon were a surprise to anyone. A few call offs due to illness should have had little impact on service if planning had been done appropriately. Beyond the service, the basics of providing information on when to expect the next train or signage directing people to the subway remains a missing part of this equation.
"This will be fixed – either within the existing structure, or with changes from the top to the bottom."