Find out which candidates rode the bus with PPT

image description: cutouts of the faces of John Weinstein, Michael Lamb, Sara Innamorato, and David Fawcett are superimposed over a Pittsburgh Regional Transit bus. The text reads “These candidates rode the bus with us”.

Recently, a number of the candidates for the office of Allegheny County Executive office took up Pittsburghers for Public Transit’s offer to ride a bus route and hear about the issues that transit riders experience daily. PPT invited every candidate for the county executive office to join in the bus ride-along. Four of them, Attorney David Fawcett, State Representative Sara Innamorato, Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb and Allegheny County Treasurer John Weinstein, were able to participate.

On their trips, they were able to speak with PPT members and partners, along with several people enrolled in the low-income fares pilot currently underway in the county. Each candidate was able to hear personal stories from different perspectives. The rides were long enough – an hour or more – to give PPT Organizer Cheryl Stephens time to touch on all the transit issues facing Pittsburgh riders.

This was a great opportunity for riders to connect with the candidates and for those candidates that participated to learn first-hand about the challenges our transit system faces. The incoming county executive, whoever he or she will be, will make the decisions, appoint the Pittsburgh Regional Transit board members, and set the policies that determine the future of public transportation here in Pittsburgh.

Candidates had the opportunity to respond to questions at the end of the ride.

March 27 Ride-along: David Fawcett12 McKnight

Candidate David Fawcett and his aide, Ally Derubeis, met with PPT at the McCandless Park-and Ride.

Candidate David Fawcett (left) stands near a medal shelter at the McCandless Park and Ride stop on a cloudy Monday, and speaks with Sherai Richardson (center foreground) about low income fares pilot.

David spoke with PPT Member Sherai Richardson, who is participating in the reduced fare pilot program. Ms. Richardson outlined how this program has changed her day-to-day life – allowing her to save money, have far easier access to healthcare for herself and her family, see new opportunities and experiences available to her children, and enjoy significantly more independence. Sherai made a powerful case for having the program become permanent at the end of the pilot.

PRT operator Sue Scanlon (right) leans forward in her on the 12 McKnight bus discusses driver issues with David Fawcett listening in (middle).

Sue Scanlon, Pittsburgh Regional Transit bus operator and PPT Board Member spoke to David in detail about the worker shortage and scheduling issues affecting the transit system. Sue has a unique perspective on how these issues hamper drivers like herself and riders as they navigate the transit system. She made it clear that these concerns are among the most serious to faced by transit workers and riders alike that need to be addressed quickly.

David Fawcett (left), Cheryl Stephens (center), listen to Alisa Grishman (right) discuss the necessity public transit for disabled riders’ mobility and need for safer crossing, sidewalk, and bus stop infrastructure.

PPT Member Alisa Grishman, regular transit rider and head of Access Mob Pittsburgh, a disability rights organization, highlighted the shortcomings in infrastructure and service that limit the mobility of so many in Pittsburgh’s disability community.

End of ride wrap-up

PPT: “What was your impression of today’s ride-along?”

David Fawcett: “That’s a great experience…really informative, particularly the explanation of the importance of bus ridership for low income families. It’s a priority to increase ridership and users of the bus system. We really should be having free fares for people with lesser means…There’s many, many creative options that allow the funding for this sort of program.”

PPT: “Was there anything new that you learned on today’s ride?”

David Fawcett: “This experience reinvigorated me, increased my drive that I already had to improve public transportation…the critical need of public transportation and principally for people of lesser means and in communities where they might not simply need to get to town, but need to get to a job site or get to a doctor’s appointment.”

David Fawcett and intern Ally, standing at a bus shelter in Downtown, Pittsburgh and smiling with PPT Ride-along delegation. Alisa Grishman and Cheryl Stephens are holding signs from PPT saying “This Bus Is For All of Us!”

March 28 Ride-along: Sara Innamorato82 Lincoln

Candidate Rep. Sara Innamorato along with aide Olivia Settle met up with the delegation from Pittsburghers for Public Transit at the Lincoln Loop for the ride downtown.

Rep. Sara Innamorato (left) listens to transit rider Sherai Richardson (right) about low-income fare pilot program’s impact at the Lincoln-Loop bus stop in Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar.

Rep. Innamorato also had the opportunity to hear from Sherai Richardson about the life improvements she and her family have seen from the low-income fare pilot. Ms. Richardson underscored the importance of making the program permanent and how it would improve the lives of so many of her neighbors.

Ms. Verna Johnson (left) across from Rep. Innamorato (right) and conveys the reduction of service in her community.
Ms. Teaira Collins (center) discusses inequity infrastructure sidewalks, location of shelters, and consequences of disinvestment in transit dependent neighborhoods, while Cheryl Stephens (right) takes notes.

PPT members and long-time transit riders Ms. Verna Johnson and Ms. Teaira Collins were both able to give their perspectives on how the transit system has changed. Ms. Johnson, who lives in Larimer, described how transit functions as a lifeline to her entire community.

PRT Supervising Instructor Sasha Craig speaks across the bus with the group on the demands placed PRT frontline workforce, including scheduling constraints and need for hiring.

Transit Supervising Instructor Sasha Craig filled Rep. Innamorato in on the difficulties and limitations presented by the worker shortage as well as how drivers are stretched to the limit by scheduling.

End of ride wrap-up

PPT: “What was your impression of today’s ride-along?”

Rep. Sara Innamorato: “You really see the difference from neighborhood to neighborhood in terms of availability of shelters, quality of sidewalks…We need to make sure that we’re investing in this really great public asset…That’s not only an economic development tool, but it is a lifeline for people. This is a valuable resource we need to prioritize investing in.”

PPT: “Was there anything new that you learned on today’s ride?”

Rep. Sara Innamorato: “I really appreciated hearing directly from one of the bus drivers on how to get more people into the workforce. The next county executive [needs to work] creatively on how they can partner.”

Rep. Sara Innamorato (right), smiling with Ms. Teaira Collins (center), and Community Organizer Cheryl Stephens left) following the PPT ride-along in Downtown, Pittsburgh.

March 29 Ride-along: Michael Lamb61C Homestead-McKeesport

Candidate Michael Lamb met part of the PPT delegation at the McKeesport transportation center. The other members were delayed when ripple effects from an accident on the parkway east snarled traffic throughout the east end. We met the 61C en route at one of the more dangerous bus stops in the county. A lesson about our car-centric transportation system in itself.

Ms. Teaira Collins (right) converses with Michael Lamb (leaning in on the left) on the 61C on how many people rely of transit in the Mon Valley, including her family members.

Ms. Teaira Collins and Ms. Clara Weibel, riders and PPT members, gave Mr. Lamb a thorough understanding of how bus service has declined over the years in that area. Ms. Teaira also demonstrated the strong community nature of transit when she greeted so many friends who happened to be on that bus.

The bus operator who was part of the PPT delegation was able to inform Candidate Lamb about the difficulties in addressing the driver shortage.

Candidate Lamb on crowded 61C

As the bus rode through Homestead, which has the largest percentage of transit dependent riders in the state of PA, Candidate Lamb got to see how the bus filled to overcrowding.

End of ride wrap-up:

PPT: “What was your impression of today’s ride-along?”

Michael Lamb: “We saw today bus overcrowding…through all these river towns from McKeesport all the way up to Oakland and the critical need that it (transit) serves. Also just the discussion we had around infrastructure, around access and even just basic sidewalks. I think was a great conversation.”

PPT: “Was there anything new that you learned on today’s ride?”

Michael Lamb: “Obviously we knew there was a manpower need. What I didn’t realize was the lack of communication and marketing around hiring…getting out there and recruiting new drivers, new operators, new employees”

April 4 Ride-Along John Weinstein61C Homestead-McKeesport

County Executive candidate John Weinstein arrives at McKeesport Transportation Center

Candidate John Weinstein along with his aide, Amanda Horn, met with the group from PPT at the McKeesport Transportation Center.

John Weinstein (center) introduces himself to Antonia Guzman (center foreground) as Laura Chu Wiens (right) translates their conversation on fare affordability.

The candidate had an opportunity to hear from rider Antonia Guzman about the positive effects the low-income fares pilot has had in the life of her and her daughter. She was also able to make candidate aware of the multi-language translation shortcomings in the transit system has.

John Weinstein (right) with Sasha Craig (left) seating on the bus discussing bus operator recruitment

Operator Instructor Supervisor, Sasha Craig, made the case for better worker recruitment to address the driver shortage.

John Weinstein with Ms. Teaira Collins

Ms. Teaira Collins, long-time rider and PPT member, gave Mr. Weinstein the benefit of her multi-decade experience with public transportation in that specific area.

End of ride wrap-up:

PPT: “What was your impression of today’s ride-along?”

John Weinstein: “This was a fantastic experience. I’m 100% committed to our infrastructure and public transit. It takes understanding the plight of people and being able to help them. Everyone should be safe first and foremost. The bus stop should be safe. The sidewalks, the infrastructure.

PPT: “Was there anything new that you learned on today’s ride?”

John Weinstein: “I learned about the main lines and how accessible they need to be for people. We need more drivers. We need more maintenance people. We need more people to take care of the bus shelters and the sidewalks and the infrastructure. This was a very enlightening opportunity”

John Weinstein smiling with PPT Ride-along delegation in front of a CONNECTCard machine at the Atwood bus stop in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh