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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

PAT Board Asked To Increase Service To 3 Communities

Mike Richards
90.5 WESA

Dozens of students and retirees joined residents of Garfield, the North Hills and Penn Hills on Friday urging the Port Authority of Allegheny County to restore some bus routes in those communities. 

“A lot of people talk about providing transportation and or right-of-ways for people from 8 to 80 to get around," said Robert Hurley, chairman of the Port Authority Board. "This helps us because it’s a broad spectrum of our populous, and anything that helps us inform a good decision is good to hear.”

More than 25 speakers explained their plight. Getting to jobs, school, libraries and places of worship is a continual struggle, they said.

David Barkovich, dean of students at North Hills High School, helped represent two seniors concerned about how graduates will reach classes at CCAC without a car.

“I don’t understand how our county does not have a bus that goes past one of our community colleges,” Barkovich said, referring to CCAC North. “It boggles my mind. I don’t understand how the Port Authority can claim to have adequate service when there’s not a bus that goes past Northland Library.”

He'd planned to teach his 6-year-old daughter about the public transit system this summer, he said, and remembers being “very embarrassed” when he discovered that his plan to walk a mile to Perry Highway and take a bus to the North Shore to see the Pirates game couldn’t happen. There wasn’t a bus to PNC Park, he said.

Charlotte Foster of Penn Hills said lack of access extends beyond students and workers.

"It’s the elderly in Penn Hills who have given their time and their lives to the upkeep, really, of our neighborhood,” she said.

Jimmee Greene, another Penn Hills resident, said she can’t go to church without access to a car. To get to the bus that takes her past Giant Eagle, she has to walk more than a mile, she said.

“I understand that ridership is important, but everybody should have access to get out of where they live,” Greene said. “They should not be held hostage because there is no way to get out.”

Penn Hills residents petitioned Port Authority for midday service along the P17 route, noting the few trips available at rush hour fail to meet the community's needs. Representatives from Garfield asked the board to restore weekend service on the 89 route, which connects Garfield Common and other hilltop neighbors to the Penn Avenue corridor and the East Busway.

Chairman Hurley said the board has heard from several different communities, but it would be premature to suggest that any one route takes precedence over another. He said the board will likely reassess these and other issues in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2016.