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Development & Transportation

Port Authority of Allegheny County rebrands as Pittsburgh Regional Transit

Pittsburgh Regional Transit_Port Authority_bus_city bus_PRT_PAT_kk.jpg
Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
A bus retrofitted with the new Pittsburgh Regional Transit design.

The Allegheny County Port Authority is entering a new era. The transit agency announced Thursday that it will now be known as Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT). The new brand also includes signage at bus and light rail stops and a new look for the agency’s 720 buses.

“This is more than a new name and a new logo. It’s a new direction,” said PRT CEO Katharine Kelleman. “And we want you to go with us.”

But Kelleman knows many Pittsburghers are not fond of name changes. “I know we’ve had a lot on social media, ‘Why don’t you just go back to PAT because everyone’s going to call you that anyhow?'” she laughed. “While we joke about that, if we want to show we’re going in a new direction, it’s time to have that conversation.”

It’s the first name change for the Port Authority in decades. When choosing a new moniker, the agency wanted to do away with the word “port” because it implies riders were heading to the rivers or a port that doesn’t exist, Kelleman said. She pronounces PRT as “part.”

“Our new name acknowledges that we’re not just part of the community; the community is a part of us,” said Kelleman. “Our goal moving forward is to be a reflection of our incredible, vibrant community."

The logo, which features the letters PRT in yellow circles, was chosen because it mimics transit signs found in other major cities. “It lets us have a unified umbrella,” said Kelleman.

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Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
Crews remove signs that read Port Authority from Gateway Center. They will be replaced as part of the transit agency's transition to the name Pittsburgh Regional Transit.

When asked whether the agency is concerned about PRT being confused with West Virginia University’s Personal Rapid Transit, also shortened to PRT, Kelleman argued that transit agencies across the country share name similarities.

“In transit, there’s a bunch of DARTs. There’s a bunch of regional transit districts. There’s a bunch of metros,” she said. “I do not think anyone’s going to confuse us with [WVU], and clearly, our website will be a different address.”

Riders can already find evidence of the new brand making its mark in Pittsburgh. New signs will begin appearing at bus stops this week. The upgraded signs will feature QR codes that provide route information on a rider’s phone. “A bus stop says more than ‘bus stop,’” said Kelleman. “If you go to a park and ride, the signs match everything else, so you know you’re in the right place.”

Riders will also begin to see more buses retrofitted in PRT’s color scheme: steel blue with Pittsburgh gold circles. Buses will change gradually — over three to four years — to keep costs down, but according to a Port Authority spokesman, all new buses will come wearing the new design.

The agency’s current array of bus colors, including red, gold, green and blue, will become a thing of the past. That’s a good thing, according to Kelleman. “You don’t have to guess what color bus means what,” she said, arguing that so many different colored buses can be confusing to people not from the region.

The work to rebrand the Port Authority began in 2018 when the agency contracted Red House Communications. The process included interviews with riders and focus groups to determine what riders expect from a regional transit system and how to meet those expectations.

The plan was ready in 2020, according to a Port Authority spokesman. But it was shelved after the coronavirus pandemic obliterated ridership numbers — something the agency is still working to recover from. Officials estimated Thursday that the total cost of the rebrand was about $720,000.

Pittsburgh Regional Transit_Katharine Kelleman_Rich Fitzgerald_Gateway_kk.jpg
Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
PRT CEO Katharine Kelleman speaks with PRT board chair Jeffrey Letwin and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald after a press conference announcing the new brand Thursday.

PRT officials were joined by board members and the Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald to announce the change at a press conference downtown at Gateway Station.

“It’s really been a level of collaboration over these last couple of years as the Port Authority and their team have reached out throughout the region to many community groups, neighborhood groups [and] the business association,” Fitzgerald said.

Jeffrey Letwin, chair of PRT’s board of directors, called Thursday a monumental day for the agency, known as Port Authority for more than 60 years. “This is more than just a new name and a new look. This marks the start of a new era and a new direction for our agency and our region,” Letwin said.

According to Kelleman, PRT is also launching new training for employees to better engage with riders and community members. The agency has been suffering from a bus driver shortage during the pandemic and even more so after a COVID-19 vaccine requirement took effect. PRT is more than 100 drivers short of its full staff capacity.

Later this month, the agency will carry out its quarterly schedule adjustment, which Kelleman says will cut service by about 4%. The new schedule is based on current ridership and aims to improve reliability for PRT’s most used routes.

Then later this summer, PRT will begin part of a network-wide route study designed to help the agency direct its resources where riders need them most.

Updated: June 9, 2022 at 3:11 PM EDT
This story has been updated.