100+ Riders Join PRT’s BRTx Meeting to Raise Concerns

I’m a student, a freelance interpreter who travels around the city, and also a carer for my grandmother. I rely heavily on the ability to get downtown, and these line changes are cutting my transportation options in half. 

CJ’s question at PRT’s 9/12 Info Session about the BRTX service changes
image description: rider wearing a mask steps off a red PRT bus as another rider in a pink head scarf waits to get on.

Over 100 people attended PRT’s meeting to call for BRT investments to expand access, not limit it

More than 100 riders attended PRT’s info session last night to voice serious concerns about changes being made to the 61D, 71A, 71C, and 71D because of the new BRTx (Bus Rapid Transit University Line) service plan. According to the plan, these routes will stop servicing downtown and Uptown starting October 1st, 2023, and riders will need to get off and wait for another bus to continue inbound or outbound.

Riders who attended the meeting were very clear that this will sever access to schools, grocery stores, apartments, shelters, social services providers, healthcare. They voiced concern that the cuts will affect some low-income neighborhoods and force riders who pay in cash to put out another $2.75 for the transfer. Additionally, they pointed out PRT’s ableist assumptions about transfers, saying that transfers are not just minor inconveniences that add minutes; for many, especially disabled riders, transfers introduce a huge time uncertainty which is an obstacle and disincentive to using transit.

At the meeting, riders flooded the chat with question after question about the changes. Riders felt like the rug was being pulled out from them. Why were these changes happening now? For what purpose? How is it that hundreds of millions of public dollars are being spent on a transportation project that actually reduces their access?

PRT’s answers to these questions seemed scattered and contradictory. They said on the one hand that the changes were always part of 10-year planning process, but instead now that they were being made because of the recent operator shortfall. They also claimed that it was to reduce bus bunching while the construction in the corridor was taking place, which would imply that it would be resolved once the construction is completed.

Riders won’t stop their organizing for BRTx investments to actually improve transit access, not limit it! Join us on September 29th to rally and testify at the PRT Board Meeting.

PRT refuses to release the recording of the meeting (which do they for nearly all other public meetings)! So we have to share these quotes from riders that we pulled from the chat. Do you have a story about how these changes will impact you? Share your story here.:

  • CJ is a student, ASL interpreter and caregiver for grandmother. He asked PRT this question about the changes:

    “I understand that there is a level of redundancy when it comes to what lines go downtown, but that is because many locations in the city can only be reached by transferring downtown. I’m a student, a freelance interpreter who travels around the city, and also a carer for my grandmother. I rely heavily on the ability to get downtown, and these line changes are cutting my transportation options in half. How does PRT plan to help people like me who rely on downtown transfers?” 
  • Verna Johnson is a senior who uses a mobility device:

    “The 61D is the only route that travels from Downtown to the Waterfront in Homestead with good weekday and weekend frequency. During the week, you can expect to get from the Waterfront to Downtown in about an hour. What other transit options is PRT planning to implement to not sacrifice the time it will take or added fare payment from riders who are already rationing their trips due to the cost of fares?”
  • “Unless PRT is willing to pay riders for these transfers, this is a PROBLEM. People don’t have extra money for bus transfers. Make it make sense!”
  • Someone asked a route question and PRT said to call customer service: Viv Shaffer, “I’ve called your customer service and they have no idea. That’s why I’m asking you.” She said, “If maintaining service were a priority you wouldn’t be making all these service cuts. Options that involve transfers are not viable options.”
  • Noelle C. “You keep talking about transferring but that is much easier said than done.”
  • All I want to know is how to get home from downtown after work on a Saturday afternoon without having to change buses and whithout having to climb the hill from the busway. Is the 67 my only option?
  • From Katie L: “Today I am able to take the 61 C/D and 65 bus ot get to Duquesne University from Squirrel Hill. After Oct. 1 I will only be able to take 61C to get to work because the 61D will not go all the way home and the 65 is being detoured AWAY from Duquesne University.”
  • In response to a comment about the changes being good for everyone, Julian X said: “This would only be true if we had outrageously frequent, reliable buses with well-timed transfers. I think what’s more likely in real life includes:
    -Folks paying on cash fares have to pay $5.50 instead of 2.75 to get places.
    -Folks waiting at the end of 5th or Forbes to get their transfer, potentially without a shelter / in the dark / in the rain
    -Folks living in certain places need to walk a lot further to reach the buses that DO go downtown”
  •  Kaitlin B says: “Not to mention- this is a surprise to every consumer/user. We knew some of this was going to happen, but we didn’t know it was NOW. We thought it wouldn’t be for years due to the PRT stops and curb cuts having to be constructed.”
  • Lorita G. says, “My main concern is that 71D bus goes through low-income neighborhoods and riders may not have a Connect card and only have enough money to get downtown and back home. now they have to get off in Oakland and pay another full fare. Also, people with disabilities and seniors who use walkers and canes have to get off and wait for another bus to get them to downtown. what if the weather is bad we will have to wait and are not guaranteed a seat because strollers can occupy the wheelchair and disabled seating area and they will also be over-crowded making me and others have to wait for another bus. This is not fair.”

The push for improvements isn’t over! Join us 9/29 to rally and testify with fellow riders at the September PRT Board Meeting

Feel those temperatures coming down? October 1st is right around the corner and we have no time to waste. That is why we need every rider’s voice to be heard. We need YOU! Rally with us on September 29th to say that the BRT should expand access, not cut it down.