Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Advocates Planning for Better Transit Service to Some Suburbs

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Advocates Planning for Better Transit Service to Some Suburbs

Article excerpt

Pittsburghers for Public Transit's effort to design a cheaper alternative to expand public transit service in the eastern suburbs and Monongahela Valley begins in earnest this month.

The advocacy group has developed a website to solicit ideas from residents on where transit service is needed, starting from suburban areas such as the Port Authority's McKeesport transit center and the UPMC and Allegheny Health Network hospitals in Monroeville. It will deploy a pair of two-member teams with laptop computers in each area this month and next month to interact with the public and show people how to use the internet tool to design the type of transit service they need.

The goal of the project, called "A Roadmap to Economic Opportunity," is to develop an affordable plan to restore service lost a decade ago in some of Allegheny County's poorest communities when the Port Authority had financial problems. Some residents in those communities reacted harshly two years ago when the authority proposed additional cuts to help pay for its proposed Bus Rapid Transit system between Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland.

The authority canceled those cuts, but the outcry from residents who said they needed better service caused PPT to set improving transit in that area as a priority. The group likely will propose a system similar to Bus Rapid Transit that uses special queuing lanes and priority at traffic lights to improve travel times, a method far less expensive than extending the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway to East Pittsburgh, which an authority consultant estimated at an unlikely-to-be-funded $549 million.

Through the protests over potential cuts for the Bus Rapid Transit system, many transit riders came forward with tales of how they needed to travel for hours taking two or three buses one way to get to child care and their low-paying, part-time job or jobs. That is where PPT is trying to help.

"The point is, how do we get people into the transit network more quickly from where they begin," said Laura Wiens, executive director of Pittsburghers for Public Transit. …

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