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Development & Transportation

Should Buses be Downtown? The Debate Begins


Opposition is starting to pile up for a recently revived proposal to keep buses out of most of the Golden Triangle. 

At the behest of some business owners and a few elected officials, the Port Authority of Allegheny County has been searching for years to find a solution to the congestion caused by buses passing through the heart of downtown.

Most recently, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and City Councilman Bill Peduto proposed that routes be pushed to the edges of downtown, forcing some riders to walk a few extra blocks to get to work. 

The transit watchdog group Pittsburghers for Public Transit has come out against the proposal saying it has “grave concerns” about the new routes. Community organizer Helen Gerhardt believes the needs of the users of the system are being sacrificed for the desires of downtown business owners.

Gerhardt thinks more input needs to be taken from riders and drivers.

“Many times outside consultants are hired and the people who are most effected by the system, those with the most firsthand experience such as drivers, are not involved in gathering the information that decisions are then based on,” Gerhardt said.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit is urging the Port Authority to take more public input.

“I would just say that they don’t know … the human needs of our very diverse communities in the same way that our drivers and riders do,” Gerhardt said. 

Pittsburghers for Public Transit is calling for “a diligent public process and the inclusion of diverse communities from across Allegheny County.” Gerhardt stressed that many of the system’s users that do not have cars are also on the “other side of the digital divide.”

The head of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, which represents PAT drivers and mechanics, has also come out against the proposal. “Taking public transit out of downtown, would be like taking the "P" out of Pittsburgh.”

Fitzgerald said no plans have been finalized but he believes moving the routes would easy congestion on the streets and the sidewalks.

In the past, PAT has experimented with moving buses straight through downtown rather than looping them back out the same way they came in to the Golden Triangle. In 2008, routes were redrawn to keep buses out of Market Square.

Any route changes would not be made until at least January.