Apr 292016
 

Port Authority’s board approved transit-oriented development guidelines as well as changes  to their fare policy today.

We are really excited that riders in Zone 2 will soon be paying $2.50! However, we are still concerned about the elimination of paper transfers and the implementation of a cash surcharge without the proper infrastructure that makes ConnectCards easily accessible and re-loadable.

We are also concerned about the disproportionate affect these changes might have on low-income riders.

PPT supports that Port Authority has approved TOD guidelines but insists that affordable housing be a requirement in any development near good transit.

Press coverage:

Port Authority: No more free buses, zones, cash on trains

Port Authority of Allegheny County board to vote on fare changes tomorrow

 

 

 

 

Apr 252016
 

 

April has been filled with awesome events!

PPT joined the Women and Girls Foundation in support of their Equal Pay Day Rally. We heard from ATU member Sue Scanlon, who spoke about how her membership in a union has given her access to wages equal to her male coworkers.

We also joined workers in solidarity at the Fight for $15
rally! Hundreds of community members, allies, and workers came together to say we all deserve a living wage and union rights.

Apr 042016
 

PPT was featured in a Post-Gazette article, entitled “When transit costs are included, study finds ‘affordable’ housing often isn’t” on Sunday April 3

“Our organization thinks that those communities deserve transit service. And we are concerned that more and more residents in the city of Pittsburgh cannot find affordable housing in the city, and go outside the city, where they don’t have good access to transit.”

The article quotes Darnell Jones from Groveton and Autumn Conley from Hulton Arbors.

PPT supported Groveton in their successful campaign for bus service, and we are supporting Hulton Arbors in Penn Hills in their campaign now. Last month, we called for a policy that requires transit oriented developments to include affordable housing. If you’d like to join the fight for a livable Pittsburgh for all, contact us!

Mar 222016
 

Yesterday, PPT celebrated Transit Worker Appreciation Day by visiting the Manchester Main Shop, The Rail Center, and distributing candy and thank you cards to riders in Downtown and Oakland to give to their drivers.

Thank you to all of the volunteers who made TWAD 2016 possible. Special thanks those who volunteered: UNITE HERE casino workers, Mel Packer, Jonah McAllister Erickson, Earl Pearson, Helen Gerhardt, Deepti Ramadoss, Fatema Juma, and Hannah Gerbe of Fight Back Pittsburgh.

Here are some great pictures and news coverage of the day:

twad 2016 1 twad 2016 2

twad 2016 3 twad 2016 4

KDKA coverage: Pittsburgh Celebrating National Transit Worker Appreciation Day

Mar 212016
 

Transit Worker Appreciation Day

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Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) is celebrating National Transit Worker Appreciation Day on Monday March 21st. PPT encourages riders and residents to thank our bus and rail operators and maintenance workers for keeping us moving.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit is coordinating over a dozen volunteers to distribute thank you cards to transit riders, who can deliver them to their bus operators. We will also be distributing cards to maintenance workers. These cards say: “Because you rock, I roll,” and “Thanks for keeping us moving.”

On Monday March 21st, cards will be available between 12 and 1 and between 4 and 6 at Forbes and Bigelow in Oakland and between 3 and 6 outside Wood St station downtown.

Riders can print out their own cards at this website:www.transitdriverday.org

We appreciate the opportunity to thank and honor the 2,000 public transit workers in Allegheny County who get riders to our destinations safely. These workers are out 365 days a year in rain, snow, ice, and frigid temperatures, as well as our hot summers. Bus operators collect fares, help riders find their way, handle safety issues, keep to a strict route schedule, and manage their way through traffic—along the steep and winding streets of our region. Maintenance workers maintain, repair, and clean the rails, buses, busways, stations, etc. These workers are the backbone of our transit system, and we are grateful for the work they do each day to keep Allegheny County moving.

“The drivers deal with all the traffic so that I don’t have to.” –James Keener.

“I appreciate transit workers because they drive me to all of the places I need to go safely and stress free.” –Daisha Bernal

Social media tags: #pghlovestransitworkers, #transitworkerday, #twd, #thankyoutransitworkers, #Pgh4Pubtransit

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/474518159415869/

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Mar 172016
 

Over a dozen speakers from 10 organizations addressed the Port Authority board during their monthly meeting today. The board voted to approve leasing their property at the Castle Shannon T stop for the Shannon Transit Village development.

Post Gazette coverage of the meeting is here: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2016/03/18/Port-Authority-gives-a-go-to-controversial-apartment-development-at-Castle-Shannon-T-stop/stories/201603180208

Trib coverage is here: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/10170209-74/housing-affordable-residents

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Representatives from PPT, the Thomas Merton Center, the Hill District Consensus Group, the City County Task Force on Disabilities, the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, the Coalition of Organized Residents in East Liberty, the Penn Hills NAACP, and the Fight for 15 campaign addressed the board on March 18th about the need for inclusive equitable development and, specifically, affordable housing near our transit hubs.

Speakers emphasized the importance of equitable transit oriented development that works to preserve, maintain, and create affordable housing near the best transit service. We understand the Port Authority is currently working on developing transit oriented development (TOD) guidelines—the first of their kind in the state of Pennsylvania. This is excellent news, and we commend the agency for not only developing them but also for including affordable housing as a key principle. We are here today to highlight how important this issue is to many residents in our county and to share why it is crucial for this to be a priority for the agency.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit board chair Jonah McAllister Erickson said, “the agency should develop a policy that requires publicly funded developments at Port Authority stations to include adequate affordable housing and to preserve and maintain affordability in communities.”

We are concerned that TOD, to date, especially in East Liberty, has not been equitable. This publicly funded project includes a development right on the busway with 360 market rate units. Those units should be available to people of all income brackets. Alethia Sims, with the Coalition of Organized Residents, says, “It is unfair that people who need public transportation the most are getting pushed farther away from it. They cannot afford the housing that was just built right next to the East Liberty busway.”

The Shannon Transit Village development at the T stop is using 12 million dollars of public funds (including community development block grants, designed for low-income communities), but it is not adequately serving the public. The development is made up of 152 units of “market rate” housing, which cost $1,150 to $1,800/month. Molly Rush, a resident of Dormont with many family members in Castle Shannon, says, “Who can afford rent that high? The development should be available to all residents of our communities.” The current average rents in Castle Shannon start at $500/month.

“Any publicly funded project in our county must work for all of us,” said Lena Germany, a McDonald’s worker and member of the Pittsburgh Fight for $15. “Creating affordable housing around transit hubs can help level the playing field by providing access to reliable transportation and better paying jobs.”

Full statement from Pittsburghers for Public Transit is here:

My name is Jonah McAllister Erickson, and I’m the Chair of PPT’s coordinating committee. Pittsburghers for Public Transit would like to commend the Port Authority for developing transit oriented development (TOD) guidelines, which we expect to be public in April. These are the first guidelines the Port Authority has ever developed, and the first in Pennsylvania, and the mid-Atlantic region. This is a very significant step and worth noting the hard work of the staff who have developed them. We also want to commend the guidelines for including affordable housing as a fundamental principle for equitable TOD.

We want to add that there should be a policy that requires Port Authority’s TOD to include affordable housing, and to preserve and maintain affordability in communities. The Port Authority—in consultation with the communities, developers, municipalities, authorities, departments—must ensure that adequate affordable housing is near the most frequent and accessible transit service.

To date, development near transit in our region has not included adequate affordable housing. For example, the East Liberty Transit Center. The Eastside Bond apartments, built right along the busway, include 360 units. Not one of them is affordable. Rentals start at 1100 for a studio and go up to 3600 for a 2 bedroom. East Liberty Place South is part of this TOD, but that only includes 61 affordable units. We are pleased to see there is now a fund being set up that is dedicated to affordable housing, but we are concerned that the huge number of units right on the busway, funded through public money, are not open to people of all income brackets. As property values go up in this neighborhood, long-time residents (many of whom are reliant on transit) need to be more protected from displacement.

The residents of Penn Plaza were evicted at the end of February. Some have found new apartments, but many were just temporarily re-located and will have to move again. Where will the residents go? Where will they be able to find housing they can afford? Either places far away with limited transit access? Or places with no transit access? They may be forced to buy a car, which costs thousands and thousands more per year than riding a bus. They may be forced to bum rides, use jitneys, or choose not to take a job or see family or go to church. They could become, in the words of the residents of a transit desert, “prisoners in their own homes.”

Casy Stelitano: PPT wanted to understand how demographic shifts were happening in our region in relation to transit service. Over the last three months we have been working on an Equity Mapping Project, which tracks populations by race, income, access to a vehicle, and cost of housing. We have been focusing on racial demographic shifts, specifically looking at areas in our region that lost and gained significant amounts of African American residents. As a starting point for this research, we’re looking at decennial census data, comparing data from 2000 and 2010. (see maps and chart below)

As we mapped out our data we noticed a very obvious trend. Almost all census tracts that saw a significant decrease in African American residents were located in the city, specifically in the East End and Central Neighborhoods–areas that are walkable, key transit corridors with frequent service (where service comes up to every 12 mins in both directions, 19 hours a day, 7 days a week). Similarly, areas that saw significant increases in African American population were in the county, far away from frequent service and transit hubs. These findings help demonstrate the need for equitable transit oriented development. A lot of the African American residents who are no longer in the city and are now living in the county have limited to no access to decent transportation, which is necessary for them to get to jobs, schools, medical care, art and cultural events, grocery stores, and friends and family. Many residents have come to you and shared personal stories of suffering and hardship due to poor transit in their communities. Port Authority must play a role in making sure that any development near a transit hub includes options for everyone.

The Port Authority is currently involved in three developments along the T in the South Hills, and none of these plans include affordable housing. Today, you will be voting on whether or not to approve a lease of your property at the Castle Shannon T stop. The Shannon Transit Village development will include 152 residential units, and all of them are “market rate.” They cost 1150 to 1800, when the current average rents for Castle Shannon residents is 500-1500 dollars. Any development near the T should not only preserve affordability but also be available to low and moderate income residents. The project is using 12 million dollars, or 28%, of public funding. This includes community development block grants, which are federal grants to benefit low to moderate income communities. We understand the project involves improvement of public infrastructure, but the residential development should also benefit the public and not just those who can afford the market rate.

We need to ensure that the existing infrastructure, especially the busways and the T are accessible to the people who need it the most. Otherwise, it hurts the agency itself. Low-income people are less likely to own cars, so they rely more heavily on transit. When they get pushed out from areas with solid transit service, Port Authority loses ridership. Then the agency has to pay more to provide service out to remote areas. PPT insists that all transit oriented development should be equitable and inclusive, and we want to support the agency in making that happen.

 

Mar 082016
 
Port Authority is currently working on their transit oriented development (TOD) guidelines. Pittsburghers for Public Transit is encouraging transit and housing advocates to address the board during the public comment period of their board meeting on March 18th, 930 am, 345 Sixth Ave, 5th floor.

You can sign up here by March 11 at 5 pm. Or email info@pittsburghforpublictransit.org or call 412-216-9659.

Here are PPT’s initial talking points. We will have updates on this next week:

We would like to commend the agency for developing transit oriented development (TOD) guidelines. We also want to commend them for including affordable housing as a fundamental principle for equitable TOD. Riders and residents are paying close attention to this issue and expect the guidelines for affordable housing in TOD to be robust and enforceable. The Port Authority–in consultation with the communities, developers, municipalities, authorities, departments–must ensure that adequate affordable housing is near the most frequent and accessible transit service.

To date, TOD in our region has not included adequate affordable housing. For example, the East Liberty Transit Center. The Eastside Bond apartments, built right along the busway, include 360 units. Not one of them is affordable. Rentals start at 1100 for a studio and go up to 3600 for a 2 bedroom. East Liberty Place South is part of this TOD, but that is only 61 affordable units. And as property values go up in this neighborhood, long-time residents (many of whom are reliant on transit) need to be protected from displacement.

The Port Authority is currently involved in three developments along the T in the South Hills (Dormont, Castle Shannon, and South Hills Village), and not one of these plans includes affordable housing. PPT insists that all TOD should include affordable housing. This is not only good for communities but also good for the transit agency, who can count on strong ridership from these residents. We cannot allow folks to be displaced to communities with little to no transit service.
homes for all
Feb 292016
 
On Friday 2/26, Pittsburghers for Public Transit joined other groups to call for transparency and accountability on the part of Port Authority in regards to the killing of Bruce Kelley, Jr. We specifically asked for an investigation into whether or not the use of the police dog was justified. For PPT’s full statement click here.

Media coverage of the event:

Advocates urge Port Authority to change K-9 practices in wake of deaths
Pittsburghers for Public Transit join groups advocating for changes in use of police dogs
Port Authority hears call for change after deaths of Bruce Kelley Jr. and K-9 Aren
Port Authority ‘sorry’ after shooting death of man who stabbed K-9
People Upset Over Police Shooting Of Man Who Stabbed K-9

 

Feb 232016
 

Port Authority proposed a new fare policy that includes reducing the Zone 2 fare from 3.75 to 2.50. This is great news! Other details of the proposal are here.

Please complete this survey to let them know what you think!

Attend the next  hearing to learn more and deliver your comments (no need to sign up in advance):

Tuesday, March 8

Connolly Ballroom
Alumni Hall
University of Pittsburgh
4227 Fifth Avenue
3 pm to 7 pm

Here is TV coverage from the first hearing:

http://www.wtae.com/news/port-authority-flat-fare-on-schedule-for-2017/38172376

http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2016/02/24/port-authority-fare-change-proposals-debated-at-public-hearings/

Here is PPT’s position:

February 23, 2016

PPT position on Port Authority fare proposal

The Pittsburgh metro region has one of the highest base fares in the country, and public transit riders should not pay any more for transit than we currently do. If anything, we should pay less.

PPT wholeheartedly supports reducing the Zone 2 fare from 3.75 to 2.50, especially for the benefit of low-income suburban riders. This is a very significant step for the Port Authority to take, and we commend it. We regularly talk to riders in Zone 2 who have trouble paying the current high fares. And folks who live in the city have trouble paying to get to job centers in Zone 2. McKeesport, Duquesne, Clairton, Monroeville, Groveton, Coraopolis, Robinson, and Penn Hills are just some of the communities that will benefit from this reduction. Many of these residents struggle to make ends meet financially, and this fare change will make getting to their destinations less of a burden.

PPT is opposed to cash surcharges, and do not believe cash users should be punished. We appreciate the operational reasons to incentivize connect card use, but we think Port Authority needs to provide much more education and infrastructure to ensure that all riders have better access to cards. The cards need to be available at more locations and near more bus stops that are not along the fixed guideways.

If Port Authority has to enact a fee for connect cards in order to put them in the ticket vending machines, the charge should be as low as possible. But the cards should still be free at the service center downtown, Giant Eagle locations, for human service agencies and community organizations, etc.

Routes designed as feeders (for example, the 79 and the 89) should have free transfers to the main routes. It is unfair to expect riders on these routes, which are designed to feed into another route, to pay an extra dollar to get to their destination.

We strongly support having weekly and monthly passes for those who are eligible for the half-fare. These riders currently have to pay for each ride to get the reduced fare, and they deserve the discounted rate of weekly and monthly passes.

Proof of payment on the rail involves having more police on the trains, and we are very concerned about how the policing and enforcement will happen. Measures would need to be in place to ensure that the enforcement does not target or profile certain routes or populations of riders. We know this has been an issue in other cities, and expect a detailed and thorough plan—along with extensive training for the police (including implicit bias training)—to make sure that does not happen in Pittsburgh.

We understand the Port Authority’s interest in simplifying the system by changing to pay-on-enter. We know many riders have asked for that to deter confusion and allow for people to exit off the back door outbound. We do think that more studies need to be conducted to assess the impact of getting rid of the free fare zone. Which riders currently use this zone? What negative impact would there be to get rid of it? And, what are the consequences for operations and service planning? How would paying on enter during downtown rush increase boarding time and cause congestion? What plans are there to mitigate this?

Thank you for your time, and we want to re-iterate how welcomed the Zone 2 fare reduction is and how much we support this change to our transit system.

 

Feb 172016
 

During their meeting on Feb 16, Allegheny County Council unanimously approved a motion (sponsored by Councilwoman Denise Ranalli-Russell) urging the Port Authority to reinstate weekend service on the 89 Garfield bus. (for full text of motion, see below) Residents began a robust campaign for service this fall, with support from the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation and Pittsburghers for Public Transit.

Last night, the council heard from Garfield residents about the hardships they have faced ever since the weekend service was cut in 2011. Annie McGowan shared how she and her mother are unable to go to church events on the weekends. Myval Johnson expressed dismay that she cannot go shopping at the new Aldi grocery store on Saturdays, and Donna Terry shared her difficulties getting up to her mother’s home at N Aiken Court to take care of her. Aggie Brose, an advocate for the community and Deputy Director of the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation, asked the councilmembers to just imagine what their lives would be like without a car and Molly Nichols, from Pittsburghers for Public Transit, discussed the community campaign for service that has generated over 400 requests for service—all submitted to Port Authority.

Many councilmembers spoke in support. Mr. Ellenbogen shared how he walked that hill every day for 4 years to get to high school at Peabody. Mr. Futules said “people’s lives depend on the bus.” Mr. Palmiere expressed the value of advocating for extended bus service, and Mr. Walton highlighted the importance of fixing the “prior damage” that was done to communities during the cuts.
The Garfield bus campaign applauds the council for unanimously passing this motion. More support from elected officials gets us closer to ensuring that all communities get the transit service they need.
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photo by Casy Stelitano
Aggie Brose, Denise Ranalli-Russell, Annie McGowan, Donna Terry, Molly Nichols, and Myval Johnson celebrating the unanimous support from county council for weekend service in Garfield.
Bill No. ___9478-16_________________
MOTION OF THE COUNCIL OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY
Urging the Port Authority of Allegheny County to reinstate at least some weekend service on the 89 – Garfield Commons bus route in order to adequately address the service needs of the population of the Garfield area of the City of Pittsburgh.
Whereas, as part of the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s 2011 service reductions, weekend service on the 89 – Garfield Commons bus route was discontinued; and
Whereas, losing this service has negatively impacted the neighborhood, and most particularly has disadvantaged a large number of its residents who rely on public transit to get to their jobs (many of which require working on weekends), the grocery store, shopping, community events, places of worship, medical appointments, and more; and
Whereas, currently, 400 people utilize the Garfield Commons route each weekday, while 73.5% of renters in this community do not have access to a vehicle, 93.4% of these residents are African American, and 55.4% of the families in the area live in poverty and are disproportionately disadvantaged by the 2011 service reductions; and
Whereas, many of these transit-dependent riders are now forced to walk up and down steep hills on the weekend for a distance of over half a mile, to get to Penn Ave and Negley Ave in order to access other buses or reach destinations in Garfield, Friendship, Bloomfield, and East Liberty; and
Whereas, residents who are not able to make the lengthy walk must rely on other individuals to give them rides, or must resort to jitneys or taxis, which are comparatively extremely expensive but, for these individuals, they are often the only alternative to remaining stuck in their homes; and
Whereas, many of these residents are senior citizens and eligible for free passes but they cannot use them on the weekend as a result of the service reduction;
Whereas, other Garfield residents who buy weekly, monthly, or yearly passes also are unable to use them on weekends, which account for over 25% of the days in a calendar year, and are thus deprived of a substantial portion of the benefit of having bus passes that span weekends; and
Whereas, even those residents who are eligible for Access must still pay for this service, and, depending upon the nature of their travel needs, may not be able to furnish the 24 hour advance notice necessary to arrange for Access service; and
Whereas, these residents have united to call for reinstatement of weekend bus service on the 89 – Garfield Commons route – an action that would not entail the creation of a new bus route, but, rather, would only require the extension of existing service hours – and have canvassed the neighborhood, attended community meetings, spoken at Port Authority board meetings, met with elected officials, and submitted over 400 requests to the Port Authority as the Authority considers numerous requests for service according to their service guidelines criteria;
Whereas, it is the judgment of Council that the hardships incurred by the termination of weekend service on the 89 – Garfield Commons bus route are significant, have a deleterious effect on the health, safety and well-being of the residents of that area of the City, and are disproportionately borne by minority, elderly, and economically disadvantaged populations.
NOW THEREFORE, IT IS MOVED THAT THE COUNCIL OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY
Hereby urges the Port Authority of Allegheny County to reinstate at least some weekend service on the 89 – Garfield Commons bus route in order to adequately address the service needs of the population of the Garfield area of the City of Pittsburgh.
PRIMARY SPONSOR: COUNCIL MEMBER RANALLI-RUSSELL