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Deadline Day Arrives As Port Authority's COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Takes Effect

By: Jessica Guay and Jennifer Borrasso/KDKA-TV News

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The deadline for Port Authority employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine is 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

"I've had to leave like an hour and a half earlier just to get to work on time because the bus schedules are running a lot shorter," said Chris McAbee.

Commuters are trying to stay patient with longer-than-usual wait times or no-shows at T and bus stops in Allegheny County. Hundreds of unvaccinated Port Authority employees could face termination Wednesday, and some workers have been taking sick time in response.

"It's definitely a struggle. I have to get up earlier, I have to adjust my day where I have three hours extra in my day waiting on buses and stuff just to catch them to get home," McAbee said.

On Tuesday morning, the Port Authority's customer care on Twitter said it was experiencing an "incredibly higher than normal amount of out of services," which a spokesperson said is measured in hours, not trips.

Watch: Jennifer Borrasso reports

The Port Authority spokesperson said, "At this time, it's impossible to tell how many hours of service they have at this point, and they can't confirm if it has anything to do with the vaccine requirement at this time."

Many commuters told KDKA that they experienced long wait times or no-shows on Tuesday. Some said they plan on looking for other ways to get around or continuing to adapt to delays.

"I waited a whole hour for a 54C yesterday and even now, all the buses are coming to go. Across the North Side, it's incredible. You have to wait like 15, 20, half-hour, it's really bad," said Taylor Williams.

The president of ATU Local 85 said the union does not condone a work shortage and this could be avoided. Meanwhile, the Port Authority said employees who don't get vaccinated will be suspended with pay starting Wednesday. Disciplinary hearings will begin next week.

"I just hope everybody would consider getting the vaccine to be safe for themselves and everybody else. So, hopefully, that works out," said Mary Wroniak, who was waiting for a T on Tuesday.

"I'm hoping that they can just come to an agreement. I support the drivers. I am vaccinated myself, but I do support the people who don't want to get vaccinated," McAbee said.

The Port Authority said 500 employees are unvaccinated, but the union said about 250 are not vaccinated and around 130 have one shot.

According to the Port Authority, 800 sick hours were used on Saturday. Normally, that number is about 20 hours. A spokesperson said the Port Authority won't know how many sick hours employees used on Tuesday until Wednesday.

Pittsburgh Public Schools said about 2,400 students use Port Authority buses, and the district also provides roughly 2,700 students to charter, private and parochial schools. The district added that it is monitoring the impact of trip cancelations.

In the meantime, the Port Authority suggests checking your routes before heading to the stop.


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