Construction is set to begin in the summer or fall on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system between Downtown and Oakland, but Pittsburgh Regional Transit is planning to institute some of the routing changes before it is completed, forcing some riders to switch buses in Oakland for commutes Downtown.
Amy Silbermann, director of planning and service development for Pittsburgh Regional Transit, says the reason for the route changes is twofold:
First, the construction of the lanes and the new bus stops Downtown is going to hold up traffic, so sending fewer buses Downtown will alleviate some congestion and route delays.
And second, Pittsburgh Regional Transit has been struggling with driver shortages, so for routes that are cut in half, the drivers can drive them twice as often.
The proposed changes will be the subject of a series of public hearings taking place this week at the Pittsburgh Regional Transit office Downtown.
The changes primarily impact city residents of Bloomfield, East Liberty, Friendship, Garfield, Highland Park, Homewood and Shadyside as well as Homestead, Swissvale and Wilkinsburg.
Among the major route changes will be shortening four East End bus routes, the 61D and the 71A, C and D, so that riders who start on those buses will have to transfer to another designated Bus Rapid Transit route to head Downtown.
For instance, the 61C will be designated as part of the BRT system, and its route will not change. The 61C travels outbound from Downtown over the Homestead Grays Bridge into Homestead and down Route 837 to McKeesport then back the same way through Squirrel Hill and Oakland heading all the way Downtown.
But, the 61D, which currently follows essentially the same route (except that instead of going to McKeesport, it exits the Homestead Grays Bridge into the Waterfront, and circles around to get back on the bridge heading inbound), will experience changes. With the route change, the 61D inbound will only travel as far as Craft Avenue in Oakland. A rider getting on the 61D at the Waterfront, or along the inbound route, will have to switch buses along the BRT route to the 61C or another BRT bus if they want to make it all the way to Downtown Pittsburgh.
The shortening of the bus routes will also affect riders on the 71A, 71C and 71D routes, which will each head down Fifth Avenue in Oakland and turn left at Craft Avenue before heading back outbound on Forbes Avenue.
The P3 will have two changes to its route. Outbound, the route will be shortened. Instead of the bus traveling all the way to the Swissvale Station, trips under the new route will end at the Wilkinsburg Station.
Heading inbound, the P3 route will be extended all the way Downtown instead of terminating at Fifth Avenue and Robinson Street.
The BRT buses will also all have a new route Downtown. They will all follow Fifth Avenue all the way to Liberty Avenue, where they will turn right and then take another right onto Sixth Avenue, which goes up past the Wood Street Station and Steel Plaza Station to loop over to Forbes Avenue. Buses will take Forbes Avenue back toward Oakland.
David Huffaker, chief development officer for Pittsburgh Regional Transit, says the changes are expected to take place possibly as early as June, but more likely in October.
Anyone who has to change buses will not be changed to transfer if they are using weekly or monthly passes or a ConnectCard to pay their fare. However, riders who pay their fair in cash will be charged $2.75 each time they enter a new bus.
Last summer, PRT announced that the construction of the BRT would only be completed through Oakland. Other signal changes and lane modifications that had been proposed beyond Oakland have been put off to a “future phase,” Silbermann says.
Those changes would have taken place in Squirrel Hill on Forbes and Murray Avenues; in Shadyside on Fifth Avenue and South Highland Avenue; in East Liberty and Highland Park on North Highland Avenue; along route 837 to McKeesport; and for the 61A and B along Forbes and into Wilkinsburg through Regent Square and into Braddock, Rankin and North Braddock.
PRT is also proposing some minor changes to bus routes in 2024, shifting some routes by a block or two. For the 67 and 69 routes, the plan is to move the inbound trip off of Fifth Avenue after Craft Avenue and have the buses use the Boulevard of the Allies to get Downtown.
The public hearing on the route changes will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at the Pittsburgh Regional Transit Board Room (345 Sixth Avenue, 5th floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222). The two in-person/online hearings will be held from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m. An online hearing will be held from 6 to 8 p.m.
Members of the public can register online to speak at the hearing or can do so by calling 412-442-2000. Residents can also register their comments at the website or by calling the phone number.