Pittsburgh-area residents concerned over the possible impact of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system addressed the Port Authority Board Friday morning with complaints include feeling left out of the planning process and fears over access.
The Port Authority of Allegheny County will submit a BRT proposal to the federal government in September. Braddock and Duquesne residents say the current plan would make commutes into the city more expensive and less convenient. One of the major concerns was lack of community input from their region.
“[Port Authority Interim CEO] David Donahoe just spoke," said Nickole Nesby, mayor-elect of Duquesne, addressing the board. "He said you had 19 meetings. None of those meetings were in the Mon Valley, were they?”
There were a few headshakes from the board in response. Interim CEO Donahoe said the comments will be taken into account, but emphasized what is being submitted in September is not the final plan.
“The application is strictly to get in the pipeline for the federal funding,” said Donahoe. “If you don’t do that, you’re another year before you can do it, that’s why it’s moving ahead.”
At issue are the 61 A, B, C, and D routes, which currently go straight to downtown and don’t require a transfer.
Donahoe said changes to the plan can be made after it’s submitted and moves along in the process. Donahoe recognized that about 3,000 Braddock and Duquesne residents would be impacted by the BRT plan, but said they wouldn’t be losing service.
“Their routes will continue, the change in the plan as it exists right now is that on certain routes, if you want to go to Pittsburgh…into downtown, there would be a transfer required. There were issues raised about having to pay for a transfer, none of those final decisions have been made, so the input of these folks as well as others will be looked at as this project moves forward,” said Donahoe.
The group Pittsburghers for Public Transit said its members recognizes that BRT brings some benefits to riders and commuters, such as better traffic flow and improved pedestrian and bicycle routes. But, in a release the group said it “stands along with the Committee for Accessible Transportation and City of Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Task Force on Disabilities in opposing the BRT plan as long as concerns around accessibility and equity are not addressed. Riders and disability advocates have highlighted how the proposed BRT bus-only lanes prevent para-transit vehicles from complying even with ADA minimum curb drop-off standards.”
Donahoe acknowledged that access is a concern in the plan, but again emphasized that the plan would likely change. The current BRT proposal would connect 24 neighborhoods and serve 31,000 people.