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May 28, 2009

Opinions sought on proposed bus changes

The Port Authority of Allegheny County’s transit routes are getting a makeover and now is the time for riders and interested others to put in their 2 cents’ worth on the concepts being considered.

The Port Authority is accepting public feedback through June and, after additional public review in late summer, expects to present a plan to its board in September, said spokesperson Jim Ritchie.

To facilitate input, two open house events are planned: one set for 8 a.m.-8 p.m. June 3 at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown, and another open house set for 2-5 p.m. and 5:30-7:30 p.m. June 8 in Alumni Hall’s Connolly Ballroom.

The three concepts developed in conjunction with consultant Nelson/Lygaard include: a radial plan similar to the current system; a “better radial plus” that would add elements such as a “Rapid Bus” alternative, and a grid system. All are detailed on the Port Authority’s web site at The site outlines the concepts and offers a route-by-route analysis of potential changes, including the rationale for the change and the differences between the two radial plans as they pertain to each route.

Ritchie stressed that the concepts on the table are not either/or options, adding that a final plan might contain components drawn from more than one concept.

Of particular interest to members of the Oakland community are details about options that could offer more direct service to Oakland along with routes that will enable others to bypass Oakland for a speedier trip to Downtown. “We’re anxious to hear and learn what people think about some of those ideas,” Ritchie said.

“The open house in Oakland is a critical piece in how the Port Authority decides to go about developing a final transit plan for this region,” he said. “It’s a huge destination. A lot of people live there. A lot of people work there.”

The Rapid Bus, popular in other cities, is a sort of bus version of light rail, with payment at a fare booth off-car and fewer stops than existing buses, Ritchie said. It wouldn’t replace local service, but could offer speedier trips Downtown — offering convenience for current riders and perhaps attracting new riders who find the current bus service too slow.

The open house events are designed for drop-in participation and will include no presentations. A brief video introduction on the basics of the changes being considered will be running throughout the events, Ritchie said.

Participants also will be able to view route maps and outlines of each concept under consideration and to talk with Port Authority staff and consultants. Laptops will be available for participants who want to compose their comments on the spot, Ritchie said.

Those who would rather comment later may do so by phone, mail or email, Ritchie said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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