PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Protesters are turning up the heat as the next deadline approaches for major Port Authority service cuts and layoffs.

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Squirrel Hill on Saturday calling on the transit system to stop the cuts.

Community groups, Port Authority employees and bus riders gathered at the corner of Beacon Street and Murray Avenue carrying protest signs and chanting slogans.

On March 27, the Port Authority is set to lay off 200 employees.

“It’s going to hurt the city tremendously; [a] 15 percent service reduction is very high,” said Jim Bonner, a Port Authority bus driver. “It’s going to mean crowded buses and longer commute times.”

The agency is also planning a 15 percent cut in service, eliminating 29 routes and reducing 37 others.

“It’s a serious attack on working people in this city,” said Mel Packer, of Pittsburghers for Public Transit. “How are people supposed to get to work? How are people supposed to see their doctor? We’ll see whole communities without bus service.”

Some of the protesters are blaming the state of the transit system on Port Authority management and local political leaders.

“Mr. Onorato you need to realize why you lost the gubernatorial race is because you sold us out with the drink tax. That drink tax money, you lied and told the public it was for mass transit; that money is not coming to mass transit,” said Sasha Craig, a Port Authority employee.

The protesters marched down Murray Avenue to Forbes Avenue where they held a rally on the steps of a church.

Back in December, then-governor Ed Rendell came forward with $45 million in funding from the state.

Pat McMahon, of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, says the Port Authority could wait until next year before making the cuts.

“Give the legislature and Gov. Corbett the time, which is plenty of time next year, January, to make a decision and hopefully fix transit once and for all,” said McMahon.

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