Manager: Frozen funds may impact bus service

River Valley Transit bus service is facing a loss of $300,000 next year because of frozen state mass transit funds, a city official said.

“It’s a huge loss,” said William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director and general manager of River Valley Transit, the bus service at 1500 W. Third St.

Transit agencies across the state are facing budget shortfalls because of pending litigation by associations and organizations affiliated with truck drivers and drivers, he said.

Each year, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission sends $450 million to the state Department of Transportation to support mass transit.

“The funds are frozen and there is no increase in state dollars for mass transit,” Nichols said after receiving a letter from PennDOT in Harrisburg.

It means River Valley Transit will have limited amount of money for its capital projects, he said. That goes to maintenance facilities, renovations, bus replacements, he said.

It translates to River Valley Transit management making choices such as looking at adjusting fares, which remain the lowest in the state, Nichols said.

Pennsylvania’s transit agencies rely on state money for capital projects, with most of the funding sent to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Both SEPTA and Port Authority of Allegheny County whittled their capital budgets this year, and have been told to prepare for further cuts.

“We are in better shape than those but it’s still really bad,” Nichols said adding the dependency has been on Act 89, which created the $450 million annual payment to PennDOT in 2007.

The act directed PennDOT to send that money to support public transit and multimodal projects across the state.

It’s estimated that the state will have to find $400 million in the general fund to support mass transit in three years.