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Pittsburgh’s BRT Plan Could Mean Faster Transit To The Airport

Kaily Love
90.5 WESA
The Bus Rapid Transit improvements planned for Fifth and Forbes Avenues will improve travel times for the 28X.

The region’s elected officials, civic leaders, businesses and residents can all agree on one thing: there has to be a better way to get to Pittsburgh International Airport than spending hours on the 28X.

“Everyone is universally aligned with having better transit to the airport,” said David Huffaker, the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s chief development officer, noting that it’s the first thing he hears from just about everyone he meets.

Huffaker is new to Pittsburgh; he joined the agency in September and relocated from Seattle.

“[It] seems like very low-hanging fruit when we’re looking at improvements to the existing network," he said.

Huffaker put together a 20-year plan for the Port Authority that lays out aspirational investments and how to make them happen over time. In the long run, the Port Authority hopes to run a train to the airport or a bus line entirely separated from traffic.

In the near term, improved service on the 28X is expected to be one of the benefits of Pittsburgh’s proposed bus rapid transit plan.

BRT will run from the East End through Oakland to Downtown. Buses will be less affected by traffic jams because they’ll travel in their own lanes or be ushered through stoplights faster. That will immediately improve the reliability of the 28X airport bus, said Amy Silbermann, the Port Authority’s manager of data and evaluation.

“That’s really a significant portion of the route that will have BRT-like improvements,” she said. “Really it’s just that last connection on the highway once we get out closer to Moon that becomes the area that isn’t prioritized for BRT.”

Huffaker said there are three main sticking points on 28X: traffic in Downtown, traffic when connecting from Downtown to the west busway, and traffic on the highway between the west busway and the airport.

“Each of those provides unique challenges and while we’d love to have a comprehensive solution … we can eat that elephant one bite at a time,” he said, meaning they can phase the work and continually improve service.

Other changes are expected to include more frequent service and luggage racks.

In September, the region resubmitted a federal funding application for roughly half the cost of the proposed $200 million BRT system. Officials expect a decision in the spring.