PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Port Authority Board of Directors voted to approve drastic service cuts and fare hikes during a meeting Wednesday morning.

Even with a modest but vocal crowd outside and a fired up board inside the meeting, nothing could stop the unanimous vote on fare hikes and a record 35 percent service cut.

The cuts would start in March, and the fare increase would go into effect on Jan. 1.

“Today’s a very dark, dark day for the Port Authority and all those who benefit from public transportation in our region,” said Steve Bland, Port Authority CEO.

With the agency facing an almost $47 million deficit, the board says it’s the only way forward.

“Many of our residents are elderly, disabled, working families, and with these proposed cuts, it will be devastating on those people’s lives,” said George Moses, of the Hill District.

“This is not a new issue, this has been going on since the beginning of the public agency of the Port Authority,” added Transit Union Director Patrick McMahon. “We have never, ever had reliable funding that we could depend on to plan for the future and keep a viable system running.”

With the failure to fund transit and other road projects through Act 44, all eyes are now on Harrisburg to step in. However, Bland was not optimistic.

“The prospects are pretty grim given the legislative turnover and what we’re hearing out of Harrisburg, but the thing our board repeated over and over is it isn’t too late if Harrisburg can act,” said Bland. “If the legislature – the out-going governor, the incoming administration – can get together and come up with a solution, we can absolutely reverse the action, but right now it doesn’t look good.”

There is a long list of neighborhoods that would lose service with the cuts, including East McKeesport, North Versailles and White Oak. There would also be drastic changes on weekends.