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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Meet Katharine Eagan Kelleman — just named the new chief executive officer of the Allegheny County Port Authority Transit.
“It’s a public servant’s dream come true, to come to such a fantastic environment,” said Kelleman at a press conference called by Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald on Wednesday.
Fitzgerald introduced Kelleman as a dynamic transportation leader for the future.
“We know the importance of transit. It might be as important today as it’s ever been in our history, and to have a dynamic leader who can take us to the next level is something that I’m really excited about,” said Fitzgerald.
Kelleman is no stranger to public transit.
“I have 20 years in transit. I chose to get into transit because it makes a difference in our communities,” she said.
She comes to Pittsburgh from Tampa, Florida, where she has been CEO of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), having previously worked in Baltimore, Dallas, and San Angelo, Texas.
Kelleman says she’s ready for a new challenge.
“Who wouldn’t want to be in the Pittsburgh region right now when you talk about what’s going on nationally, doing things differently, blowing it up, being disruptive, but doing it on such a bedrock of amazing community involvement, civic support and strong leadership.”
At age 44, married with two young sons, Kelleman took the Tampa transit agency from a $5 million deficit to a $3 million surplus, while launching the nation’s first transit-agency operated ride-share program.
KDKA money editor Jon Delano asked Kelleman, “What excites you most about coming to Pittsburgh?”
“Wow, what a great question,” she responded. “I haven’t met anyone here who hasn’t said, ‘welcome to Pittsburgh,’ hasn’t said, ‘how can they help’ and that we should move to Pittsburgh. There’s nowhere else in the country like that. So to be able to be professionally successful in that kind of city, it’s very exciting for us.”
But listen carefully.
It’s clear Kelleman is coming to Pittsburgh to change the Port Authority.
A change artist is exactly what Fitzgerald has been looking for.
“To have a dynamic leader who can take us to the next level is something that I’m really excited about,” he said.
A new CEO for the Port Authority means a new chance for change.
So what kind of change would the people who ride the buses and the T prefer? KDKA went to the bus-stops to find out.
“More service to some of the areas that really need it. They took some off, but they need more. They need to look into more,” says Mary Anne Lawhead of New Kensington.
More bus routes and more frequent service are common suggestions.
“They run pretty slow. I think they should run faster,” says Taylor Barlow of East Liberty.
“More buses on Sunday because I think that’s when everyone is available, and I think more people would take public transit if it was easier to take on Sundays,” adds Tom Cornell of Beechview.
And then there’s the price.
“Lower the bus fare, because with the Connect Card, you are still paying a lot,” says Eric Kennedy of Clairton.
“For people like me who are low income it’s hard to get around. Cancel appointments because you don’t have the money. If you don’t have it on the Connect Card, you are basically screwed,” says Colleen Bronowicz of Northview Heights.
Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce president and Airport Authority board member Matt Smith wants greater collaboration between PAT and the airport.
“The degree to which the Port Authority and the Airport Authority can collaborate, work together, it’s all the better to improve the region,” says Smith.
For her part, Kelleman says the community will be a part of any change to come.
“We just can’t do this job without being out in our communities. We hire from our communities. We do business, but the community owns the service,” notes Kelleman.