There are more than 7,000 bus stops in the Pittsburgh region, some nicer –and much safer — than others.
The Port Authority of Allegheny County plans to study them all and make sure each stop is easy to find, safe and well maintained for the system’s nearly 200,000 daily riders.
“The goal is to improve the customer experience,” says David Huffaker, the Port Authority’s chief development officer. “Everyone who uses the system has stories of stops that are less than desirable — whether it’s in an exposed position or there’s no sidewalks. Hopefully, we can provide a more comfortable place to wait for the bus.”
Any changes to the stops will have to be a collaborative effort: the Port Authority doesn’t own all the land where bus stops are located.
“We have to work with the underlying municipalities or PennDOT to improve accessibility, adding sidewalks in certain cases, and helping residents and visitors get a safer experience,” Huffaker says, but the aim is to bring the entire system up to a higher and more consistent level.
The basic standards for Port Authority bus stops are laid out in a document you can find here.
All stops are meant to have clear signage and a “landing pad” that provides a safe place to stand while waiting for a bus. If a stop is used frequently, it may also include benches, a shelter, additional signage, lighting and real-time information about arriving buses.
“There are places that only warrant a basic concrete pad and a sign. Others might look a little fancier, depending on use,” Huffaker says. But even at the most basic stops, “there are a number of things that can be improved.”
Plans for the new upgrades include adding bus shelters where needed, as well as more “street furniture” such as benches, bike racks and trash cans. Some stops will also get improved lighting to make sure people feel safer at night, and electronic signs noting when the next bus will arrive.
The hope is also that bus stops will be easier to spot.
“I’d love to see a Port Authority brand for a bus stop,” Huffaker tells NEXTpittsburgh. “You’d be out walking or riding your bike and recognize it immediately as a bus stop.” It would look the same as the next bus stop along the way.
Right now, he says, “you may not even know where to look for a bus stop sign. We’d love to have something a little more consistently applied so people know what to look for — ‘Okay, I know that if I wait here, a bus will come.’”
Distance between stops will also be reconsidered.
“Fewer stops would mean a little bit faster service,” says Huffaker. “We might identify stops that are too close together … It could be that we remove some of those stops if we can provide improved amenities at the remaining stops.”
The primary consideration, however, is customer experience.
“Every transit trip begins or ends with a pedestrian journey,” he says. “We want the first and last contact to feel safe and make people feel valued, so they’ll want to come back and ride Port Authority in the future.”