Public transit users in Pittsburgh say they are tired of delays and disruptions they say linger long after the initial shock of the pandemic.

More than 15 riders and advocates described their frustrations with getting around the city during an Oct. 28 meeting of the Pittsburgh Regional Transit Board. Some also urged the board to meet the needs of the growing number of Hispanic transit users whose needs are not being met.

Many riders told the board they are often late for work or other important appointments because their buses are late or don’t come at all.

“We need to do better and we need to do more,” said one of the speakers, Andrew Hussain. “Whatever it takes to put operators behind the wheel because the situation has become intolerable and unfair.”

PRT CEO Kathryn Keleman addressed the floor before the meeting, where she acknowledged the challenges but said they largely reflected the country’s labor shortage.

“Reliability has been an important issue for us throughout the pandemic, especially in 2022,” Keleman said. “Maybe the bus that was supposed to pick you up never showed up; maybe it was the reason for being late for work; it may have cost you time and money.’

Keleman said that while many regions have cut service by 15 to 20% since the pandemic, PRT has roughly halved, and done so in manageable steps.

Keleman said her team has formed an internal task force to help address the issue, but warned that further cuts could be on the horizon.

“We’ve tried to maintain as much of our services as possible while addressing issues, national issues and staff shortages,” Keleman said. “We thought it would be resolved by now, but as you know, it wasn’t. This is the number one problem [PRT] now.”

Cheryl Stevens, a community organizer for Pittsburghers for Public Transit, dismissed Kelleman’s characterization as a national problem, saying it was a consequence of management.

“How can the PRT maintain a workforce when operators are faced with so many challenges?” Stevens said.

For those who don’t speak English, especially those from Pittsburgh’s growing Latino community, service disruptions are compounded by a lack of language accommodations, some at the meeting said.

Ricardo Villarreal, a regular PRT light rail user, said that when the Red Line was out of service for most of last winter, many Latinos waited for hours in the freezing air until they got word of the news about replacing the temperamental shuttle.

“I don’t understand how a city that has achieved so much in the past, that has pioneered so many advances, cannot address and resolve this sense of hopelessness that we feel when our transit doesn’t arrive on time or at all or because we speak in another language and we don’t understand,” said Villarreal.

Crystal Knight, a community organizer at the Thomas Merton Center who described herself as a “proud daughter of Mexican immigrants,” also called for more to be done to meet the needs of the region’s growing Latino community.

“Public transportation is a human right, and we need to support the growing Hispanic population that needs the T and buses to get to work.”

Keleman said the PRT is looking at how to respond to those needs in accordance with federal guidelines, noting that the district has more Mandarin speakers than Spanish speakers.

“Language accessibility is definitely important to us,” she said. “We want to make sure that the changes are meaningful and thoughtful, not just thrown together in a hurry to solve today but not worry about us for years to come.”