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March 2, 1995

Pitt makes deal with PAT on Squirrel Hill, Shadyside bus runs

Beginning about May 1, Pitt students, faculty and staff will be allowed to ride Port Authority Transit (PAT) buses without charge between the Pitt campus and Shadyside/Squirrel Hill.

The service is a year-long experiment to settle a dispute that arose last fall, when PAT refused to renew permits for a private transit company to continue operating a University shuttle bus service between the Pitt campus and the two neighborhoods.

When Pitt shuttle bus operator Lenzer Coach Lines of Sewickley announced plans last fall to sell its routes to Illinois-based National School Bus Service, Inc., PAT claimed that Lenzer's service to Shadyside/Squirrel Hill was illegal and costing PAT hundreds of thousands of rides annually.

Under the agreement approved by PAT on Feb. 24 and expected to be approved by Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance Ben Tuchi as soon as attorneys for the University review it, Pitt will pay PAT a subsidy of $208,000 for a year's service along the Shadyside/Squirrel Hill routes. The amount is the same the University has been paying to provide shuttle bus service into those areas.

"I think this will work well," said Bob Harkins, director of Pitt's Department of Parking and Transportation. "We just have to work together to make sure it comes out right. It can be a real win-win situation if we can make it work." Harkins said his main concern with the plan was whether or not PAT would be able to handle the number of Pitt students, faculty and staff, an average of about 800 riders per day, who have been using the shuttle service between the Pitt campus and Shadyside/Squirrel Hill. According to Harkins, PAT currently is reviewing figures on ridership, stops and routes provided by the Department of Parking and Transportation. He said PAT has indicated it is willing to add buses, routes and stops to accommodate peak ridership periods and to insure that every street now covered by Pitt's shuttle bus service is covered under the new plan.

The University and PAT also are establishing boundaries for the service, something that Harkins expects to be worked out by the end of the month. "My intention is to run it all of the way through Squirrel Hill and to the end of Shadyside," he said. "That takes in a broader area than we have right now." To inform the University community about details of the plan, the Department of Parking and Transportation will sponsor a series of public forums in either late March or April.

According to Harkins, the new service will not start until after the semester ends in May to minimize disruptions for students, faculty and staff who use the service. He said the lighter traffic period of summer will be used to correct problems in the system before the start of classes in the fall.

"By the end of the summer we should be in pretty good shape so that it is running smoothly," he said.

Harkins also said he thinks the number of riders along the Shadyside/Squirrel Hill routes will increase once faculty, staff and students realize they can hop on a PAT bus free of charge and not have to worry about driving their cars into Oakland.

To make sure the new service is working properly, the Department of Parking and Transportation plans to solicit comments from members of the University community who use the service.

The Department of Parking and Transportation will continue to provide private shuttle bus service through National School Bus Service, Inc., on the Pitt campus and to points north and south of campus that PAT does not service on a regular basis.

–Mike Sajna

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