Questions surround death of student struck by bus


The death on Jan. 18 of Pitt senior Barbara Como, 20, of Chester Springs, Pa., who was hit by a Port Authority bus near the intersection of Fifth Avenue and DeSoto Street, has left many with questions.

Pittsburgh Police and Port Authority are investigating what happened when the inbound Route 83 bus struck Como around noon. She was taken to UPMC Presbyterian, where she was pronounced dead.

Port Authority announced on Tuesday that the driver of the bus, who has not been named, “will not be driving until the completion of the ongoing investigations by BOTH Pittsburgh police and Port Authority.”

Port Authority spokesman Adam Brandolph told the Pitt News that the incident took place on the inbound side of Fifth Avenue, not in the reverse-flow bus lane.

Como, who lived in Lothrop Hall, studied anthropology and psychology and was on track to graduate this spring. She also worked as a research assistant with the Learning Research and Development Center. The University offered counseling services on Saturday evening in Lothrop Hall and at the Counseling Center.

On Saturday, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher issued a statement via Twitter: “Earlier today, our community was rocked by a devastating tragedy. My heart goes out to Barbara’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

What can be done?

A report released in 2018 found that between 2013 and 2017, Oakland had 65 pedestrian accidents at 13 intersections on Forbes and Fifth avenues, including one fatality and three serious injuries, according to the Post-Gazette.

The study, performed by the Hal Waldman and Associates law firm and 1Point21 Interactive of San Diego, said the most dangerous intersection in Allegheny County is Forbes Avenue and McKee Place in Oakland, where nine pedestrians were involved in crashes but there were no deaths or serious injuries.

Staff Council has made pedestrian and vehicular safety one of its priorities. It sponsors a Safety Crawl to proactively monitor and identify areas of concern on campus. Improvements to the Fifth and Bellefield crosswalk and bus lane, which Staff Council had long advocated for, were completed last fall.

Part of the motive behind redoing Bigelow Boulevard between Fifth and Forbes was for a safer crosswalk between the Cathedral of Learning and William Pitt Union.

Pitt also has hopes that the planned Bus Rapid Transit system through Oakland will help reduce the number of vehicles traveling through the area. Pitt’s Institutional Master Plan submitted to the city says, “Assuming that, when implemented, BRT truly is rapid transit, the high-quality service levels likely will induce some level of additional transit ridership among Pitt faculty, staff, and students who live to the east of Oakland and currently see transit as an unviable or unattractive commuting option. According to the 2017 Housing and Transportation Survey, as many as 18 percent of respondents would shift to the new BRT service.”

But there will still be heavy pedestrian traffic competing with vehicles at busy crosswalks in Oakland. We want to know what you think are the biggest problem areas and changes you’d like to see happen to make our streets safer. Send your suggestions to and we’ll report on your responses in a later issue.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


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