Transit Rider Demands 2 720x380 - Let's get these ACE candidates on the bus!

Let’s get these ACE candidates on the bus!

Transit Rider Demands 2 1024x538 - Let's get these ACE candidates on the bus!

PPT is inviting all of the candidates running for Allegheny County Executive for a ride-along with transit riders and workers.

The Allegheny County Executive is the most powerful person in Southwestern PA when it comes to public transit. So it is CRITICAL that this person understands what it’s like to ride the bus and be a champion for public transit.

To ensure these candidates begin to understand the importance of public transit, PPT has invited every candidate running for Allegheny County Executive to join us for a ride-along with transit riders and transit workers (we’ll see which candidates accept the invite). During these ride-alongs we’re going to spend two hours with them on the bus speaking about the transit challenges and opportunities that we see for our system. We are also going to walk them through the list of demands that riders are making for our next ACE.

Each candidate has also received PPT’s Transit Justice Questionnaire that they need to return to us by the beginning of April. We’ll be releasing the candidates’ answers to these questionnaires and recapping what they said on the ridealongs at PPT’s April Monthly Meeting.

We want to bring your questions and stories along with us. Take a minute to share and we’ll make sure your messages make it along to all the candidates running to be the next Allegheny County Executive


Transit Rider Demands 720x380 - Transit Riders’ Priorities for the next Allegheny County Executive

Transit Riders’ Priorities for the next Allegheny County Executive

Transit Rider Demands 1024x538 - Transit Riders’ Priorities for the next Allegheny County Executive
image description: image includes photos of all 7 candidates running in the primary election on May 16th for Allegheny County Executive with text that reads, “transit rider demands”. To the left and right of the text are PPT’s logo, a bus outline with “PPT” in the center, and a circle of riders and workers around the bus holding hands.

Transit riders in Allegheny County are being presented with a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Go Straight to Transit Riders’ Demands

After 12 years of being in this office, current County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has reached his term limit, and will vacate the seat in January, 2024. That means that this year’s elections for County Executive– both the primary election on May 16th, and the general election on November 7th– are going to decide which newcomer is going to take the seat and lead the whole of Allegheny County.

Of all political positions, the Allegheny County Executive (the #ACE) has the most power to address the needs of transit riders. The #ACE has the power to hire and fire Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT)’s CEO, appoint many of the transit agency board members, decide and approve the budget for PRT, the County Health Department, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, and Allegheny County Economic Development, among other agencies. This translates into a lot of opportunity– around transit rider representation and decision-making power at PRT, around transit funding growth, around accessible, dignified and safe infrastructure, around service expansion and affordable fares, and around the needs of transit riders to be able to find quality affordable housing near quality transit.

Tens of thousands of residents of Allegheny County depend on public transit to connect them to life-sustaining services, grocery stores, educational centers, and employment opportunities. We need a County Executive that believes that mobility is a right, and who understands that high-quality, affordable, and people-focused transit is necessary to address the persistent inequalities in health and economic outcomes between different communities in our region, and to have an economically vibrant region.

Add your name to say that these transit justice demands are important for the next Allegheny County Executive


Make sure you’re ready to vote in the PA Primary Election May 16th

Before we continue: voters, find your polling place here! Some important Primary Election dates: May 1st is the last day to register before the primary, May 9th is the last day to apply for a mail-in ballot, May 16th is the municipal primary election. 

Check your voter registration or register to vote online or complete the form and return to the Allegheny County Board of Elections. 

With all of that at stake, PPT has worked with our membership to develop a platform with some of the top demands that transit riders have for the incoming #ACERace.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit, a grassroot union of transit riders, workers, and neighbors who wants to see candidates for the Allegheny County Executive dedicated to:

1. Rider Representation and Board Accountability In Decision-Making at Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT)

  • There are different ways to ensure that riders have a voice on the Pittsburgh Regional Transit board. The Allegheny County Executive could propose that PRT have board seats that are elected by Allegheny County voters, and/or have special transit rider seats that are filled by a nomination or appointment process from stakeholder organizations like Pittsburghers for Public Transit, the Committee for Accessible Transit, the Allegheny County Transit Council, and Age-Friendly Pittsburgh. 
  • Board members’ transit usage should be audited and published annually, to make transparent their familiarity and knowledge of the transit system that they are governing. This is a practice in some other transit agencies nationally and could compel all members of the board to take transit more regularly. 
  • As part of the Board appointment process, the #ACE should ensure that PRT board members reflect geographic diversity of the region, with a particular emphasis on recruiting riders from the Mon Valley for the positions.
  • PRT Board meetings should be accessible and meaningful for riders to attend, with space for Board members to hear and discuss feedback from the public.
  • Examples of other transit agency practices around rider representation and accessible board meetings can be found here:

2. Equitable and Expanded Transit Funding 

  • The Allegheny County Executive should commit to raising local, state and federal funding for the agency, particularly operating funding. The #ACE could lead a local funding referendum to be able to sustainably expand service.
  • The Allegheny County Executive should work with PRT and employers to pass Transportation Demand Management (TDM) legislation, requiring large employers and developers to provide free transit passes to employees. This is an important way to grow ridership in Allegheny County, to have dedicated and expanded funding for our transit agency that is paid for by corporations, and to support recruitment and retention of workers through this transportation incentive. More than 50% of the fare revenue collected by the Seattle area transit system is through bulk discount fare passes purchased by employers for their employees, not individual transit rider fare purchases. PRT is finally piloting a bulk discount fare program for employers and developers, which should be paired with county legislation on Transportation Demand Management.

3. Commitment to Fully Accessible Transit 

  • Ensure that PRT communications and branding are in Spanish and other languages, particularly in local communities with growing populations of immigrant residents.
  • Commit to recruitment and appointment of people with disabilities in all departments of PRT and all county agencies. 

4. Commitment to Affordable Housing near High Quality Transit 

  • Support the passage of a countywide inclusionary housing to ensure that transit riders can afford to live in neighborhoods experiencing development that have better or more frequent transit.
  • Require the County Housing Authority prioritize the funding and development of low-income housing by existing transit assets. 
  • Provide funding and expertise to municipalities to plan for development to integrate affordable housing, retail and social services, and quality transit.

5. Commitment to Reliable, Expanded Transit Service 

  • The #ACE needs to recognize that the workforce shortfall is a serious crisis for our transit system and riders, and one that will not be reversed without an aggressive recruitment and retention strategy. PRT is now short over 200 transit operators, and that gap will continue to grow with the wave of retirements scheduled for this year and next; in fact, the attrition now each month is higher than the number of new employees that PRT is even able to hire and train. The #ACE must work with PRT to ramp up its recruitment strategy and incentives, and speak with transit workers to address morale so that workers feel supported in the role. 
  • Require that PRT has a realistic plan to restore pre-pandemic service levels. 
  • Create a plan at PRT to increase the frequency and service span to include overnight routes. 

6. Commitment to Affordable Fares for Low-Income Riders

  • Commit to a permanent zero fare program for all SNAP/EBT households in Allegheny County after the low-income discounted transit pilot ends. Identify and allocate funds to ensure that the County Department of Human Services has sufficient resources to sustainably run the program. 

Add your name to say that these transit justice demands are important for the next Allegheny County Executive

Stand up for transit workers 720x380 - Take action to support transit workers

Take action to support transit workers

Stand up for transit workers 1024x538 - Take action to support transit workers
Image Description: Photo of 5 PRT transit workers wearing their uniforms standing shoulder to shoulder in Ross Garage. Some are wearing orange safety vests. Photo was taken by PPT Board Member Sue.

Without transit workers, we have no transit system. Our transit system is short 220+ workers and our scheduled service is in decline. This Transit Worker Appreciation Day, join PPT in calling on our next Allegheny County Executive to build better public transit by addressing the worker crisis.

On Saturday, March 18th, we celebrate National Transit Worker Appreciation Day. While we at Pittsburghers for Public Transit love and support our Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT) operators and maintenance workers every day, we know that the workforce is right now in crisis, and want to take this opportunity to lift up worker voices and ensure that politicians are hearing their demands. 

Support the demands that transit workers are making and send a tweet to tell County Executive candidates to build better public transit by addressing the worker crisis.

PRT needs to take care of the workers they have and hire more

Without transit workers, we have no transit system. Right now, Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT) is short more than 220 transit operators, and 40-60 maintenance workers. That’s why riders have been seeing service cuts every few months, with no end in sight; we’ve already lost 10% of the total scheduled service that we had before the pandemic, and with the wave of retirements coming this year and next, these cuts will be irreversible. At this point, PRT cannot even train workers quickly enough to replace the number of workers leaving each month. We need PRT to make a plan and make it fast, becasue this downward trend is only getting worse without one.

President and Business Agent Ross Nicotero of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 85 just published an excellent opinion piece in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review laying out the worker hiring and retention crisis and how our County Executive and PRT can take action to fix it. 

Several weeks ago, Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT) launched a public input process to overhaul the downtown bus network. This is the first portion of a system-wide transit network redesign, to ostensibly make our bus routes faster, more understandable and more effective in serving our riders’ needs. As transit workers, we’re certainly supportive of adjusting our routes to keep buses from getting stuck for ages in car traffic and to ensure that riders can reliably and quickly get to their destinations.

But it is difficult to talk about how PRT’s bus network redesign will improve the rider experience without talking about the catastrophic service cuts we’re simultaneously experiencing due to ongoing worker shortfalls and PRT’s implementation of its vaccine mandate. At this moment, the network redesign feels a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.


We are losing workers to jobs that offer more flexibility and higher pay. At the same time, the job has become more difficult. Operator assaults have increased, rigid scheduling requirements make it difficult for junior operators with child or elder care responsibilities, and a lack of access to restrooms on route and break rooms at depots exacts a health toll.

Here are five key ways that PRT can address these challenges head on:

• Rehire the 80-plus experienced employees that were terminated due to the vaccine mandate. These skilled workers can promptly address more than a third of the employee shortfall gap, and policies like mask mandates and regular covid testing for unvaccinated workers can address safety concerns.

• Narrow or close the wage progression/salary scale. New front-line workers begin at a $15-$18/hour training wage, and need to work for four years before reaching operator and maintenance worker regular rates.

• Incentivize good attendance with bonuses and reward employees for their courageous service through the pandemic with hazard pay. Bus operators and maintenance workers worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. They should be compensated accordingly so we can retain our dedicated workforce.

• Work with local universities, high school and labor to expand training and apprenticeship. This can improve job pipelines and get students interested in and prepared to work for PRT.

• Ensure bathrooms with proper route scheduling are available to ensure the dignity of bus operators. Pandemic-related business closures and longer work days created new challenges to ensuring that bathrooms are available to bus operators. Resources need to be deployed to ensure they have adequate time and appropriate break facilities during their runs.

We know that PRT clearly understands that higher starting wages helps with worker recruitment, because the agency just negotiated a whopping 18% raise increase for transit police, citing a need to “get our police officers to a level in which we can attract and retain them.”

PRT needs to fix the schedules to benefit transit workers and riders

We also know that poor route scheduling by management at PRT has created huge problems for riders and transit workers alike. This past month, we published a report entitled Representing our Routes, looking at the impacts of poor scheduling on on-time performance for routes that run through the City of Pittsburgh; of the 105 routes in the whole PRT system, 38 routes experienced service reliability of 50% or less for a month or more in 2022. Unreliable and unrealistic scheduling of routes has been catastrophic for riders, resulting in missed appointments, lost jobs, and impacts to rider access to schools and childcare. 

video description: video and interviews by PPT member Dean Mougianis. The video contains generic scenes of bus operators navigating city streets and assisting passengers. The audio is cut from interviews with transit operators about how PRT’s unrealistic scheduling has affected their work.

But poor route scheduling also affects transit operators, who are unfairly targeted by riders frustrated by the late or ghost buses, and PRT operators often feel pressured into skipping lunch and bathroom breaks because their buses are chronically 20 minutes or more behind schedule. This has led to extremely low morale among workers, and high attrition rates. 

One transit operator said that he was planning to return to ICU nursing, a career he had left several years ago, because he believed that the hospital was less stressful than driving a bus.   

Support the demands that transit workers are making and send a tweet to tell County Executive candidates to build better public transit by addressing the worker crisis.

52574603053 05a82735f6 c 720x380 - Are you part of the Free & Discount Fare Pilot? We need to hear from you!

Are you part of the Free & Discount Fare Pilot? We need to hear from you!

52574603053 05a82735f6 c 1 - Are you part of the Free & Discount Fare Pilot? We need to hear from you!
Image Description: PPT Members Tiffany, Bonnie and Gabriel smile for a photo at the year-end membership party.

Did you get into the new discount fare pilot program? We want to hear from you so we can advocate for a permanent, fully-free program for all.

More affordable transit fares are coming to Allegheny County because transit took action – but now we need to continue our advocacy to make this a permanent program accessible for all! Late last year, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services launched the new Discount Fares Pilot Program for SNAP/EBT recipients. The pilot program will test how free and discounted transit fares impact the ability of families to access food, jobs, housing, education, healthcare and all of life’s essentials. More than 14,000 people are involved in the study!

The program is exciting, but there are still some bugs with the website and the application. Pittsburghers for Public Transit is using this form to keep track of any problems or feedback that people have with the program, the website, or the application. We also want to use this form to hear your story about how free and discounted fares is impacting your life, and whether you think this should be a permanent program accessible to all. We’ll share this feedback with the Department of Human Services, but you should also reach out to

This free and discounted fare program is big news and only happens after years of advocacy from transit riders and allied organizations. But this program will end at the end of the year – WE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU SO WE CAN PUSH TO MAKE IT PERMANENT!

If you have applied to the program, or if you know anyone else who has, please fill out this form. Tell your story and let us know how we can advocate to improve the program.

2 scenario maps 720x380 - Big deal! Right now! New Changes Proposed for Downtown Transit

Big deal! Right now! New Changes Proposed for Downtown Transit

2 scenario maps 1024x480 - Big deal! Right now! New Changes Proposed for Downtown Transit
image description: photo credit Pittsburgh Union Progress. Two maps of downtown with outlines for the two new proposed routing scenarios. Looks like a very complicated mess of colored lines. People should check out PRT’s website for accessible versions of this info:

Wait, what’s going on? PRT is proposing big changes to downtown bus routes, and you have until March 26th to give your feedback.

Bus routes are undergoing a serious overhaul. Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT)  is proposing to redesign how buses move through Downtown Pittsburgh. This is a big deal and one that all transit riders should evaluate and give feedback on! The proposed “bus network redesign” will likely have a big impact on, among other issues:

  • where the buses stop and pick up passengers, which may change how close your destination is to where your bus drops you off.
  • how quickly buses are able to move through Downtown streets– for instance, buses could drive in more parts of Downtown but run the risk of being stuck behind car traffic, or drive primarily through a few dedicated bus-only lanes but cover less of Downtown.
  • how easy it is to transfer between different buslines. This bus redesign will likely change how close routes are to each other that riders use for transferring, and also the timing of those transfers.
  • how safe the streets and sidewalks are where transit routes are stopping, and how comfortable the bus stops are for transit riders. The network redesign might prioritize stops that have better amenities like shelters, benches and real-time arrival information, or choose to space out stops so that passenger overcrowding at the stops or on particular buses is less of an issue.

Some of these changes will yield other surprising benefits – for instance, buses taking fewer turns in a dense urban area leads to fewer collisions. And buses that drive on fewer streets downtown will move through their routes and schedules faster and more reliably, which can create labor and cost savings that could allow for more bus service. But there are trade-offs around access and walking times that riders should consider.

PRT’s Public Process Schedule and Opportunities – Give feedback before March 26th

You can help PRT decide how to prioritize their decision-making (faster buses, or buses that go more places Downtown?), and look at how your particular bus route might change under different proposals. 

Unfortunately, PRT announced a very quick public meeting schedule with very little lead time. So there aren’t any more opportunities to join live info sessions. However, you can give input through their online portal until March 26th, and review how the two top-line scenarios would impact your particular bus route. You can then select a preferred route network and give comments about concerns or opportunities that you see from this process. They also have a lot of maps and other visual information with background about how downtown works for transit on their website.

If you have any issues reading the maps or graphics, reach out to us and we can help advocate for a solution –

Untitled design 47 720x380 - Victory for the P3! How Riders Won

Victory for the P3! How Riders Won

8378Gn7sGEpyy9TOdva r LW8qpd3YRNW4g49qjnK62AyxyYzbLZPNF846Yx5EfzOXw5muiARBnAjdDMft5 cVrCJfNlB42Rh1748NPTws7fbaIKkk1CzMgOybYLdl5RoH2C5MoKt3Ybqa95R1 DGUw - Victory for the P3! How Riders Won
image description: square image of a sign that riders posted on a blue light post at Hamnett Station which has been altered to say “P3 Service Continued!!! Route OPEN! Pittsburgh Regional Transit proposed maintaining P3 stops at Hamnett, Roslyn, and Swissvale”.

When we fight, we win! Riders spoke up, organized, and were successful in maintaining (and expanding the span of) service on the P3!

Riders celebrated victory this week when it was announced that the new BRT plan would maintain P3 service to Hamnett, Roslyn and Swissvale stations on the East Busway!

The beginning of 2023 saw a flurry of organizing as the public comment period for the proposed BRT Service Plan came to a close. The proposed plan would have terminated the P3 at Wilkinsburg Station and eliminated the fastest, direct connection to jobs, schools and resources in Oakland to anyone that caught the bus from Hamnett, Roslyn or Swissvale Stations.

“For myself and many other care workers who work demanding schedules and have to leave the house very early and come home very late, asking us to take two buses is both not equitable and also not very realistic,”  said PPT Member Amalia Tonsor while speaking to the Pitt News

Other riders agreed. Before long, riders made their own flyers and posted them at the East Busway stops that were to be eliminated. Flyers had information about the changes that included web links, QR codes, and information about how riders could submit their own public comments. Riders organized canvass days where they went out and spoke to their peers at stops to spread the word about the changes.

But riders didn’t stop there! By the middle of January, almost all local media outlets were covering the story. A big shout out to PPT Members Amalia, Pearl and Nicole for speaking up and using the airwaves to spread the word about the changes and how people could make their voices heard. They were able to get their story out to 6 different news outlets – TV, print, online, and radio – reaching tens of thousands of riders and residents throughout our region.

  1. Chris Hoffman’s report for KDKA: Pittsburgh Regional Transit continues plans for bus rapid transit project
  2. Julia Zenkovich’s report for WESA: Pittsburgh Regional Transit seeks public comments on proposed Bus Rapid Transit changes
  3. Jack Troy’s report for the Pitt News: PRT preps for Bus Rapid Transit with changes to Oakland routes
  4. Ed Blazina’s report for the Union Progress: Some East Busway riders worried about routing changes: The story of the P3
  5. Ann Belser’s report for NextPittsburgh: Pittsburgh Regional Transit accepting comments on route changes through Feb. 1
  6. Talia Kirkland’s report for WPXI: Pittsburgh Regional Transit’s plan to implement rapid transit could affect existing routes

All of this organizing worked. After the comment period closed, PRT reported that they received over 700 comments through their process – 542 of which spoke up against the proposed changes to the P3! By the time the February 16th PRT Board Planning and Stakeholders Committee came around, the head of PRT’s Planning reported that they would hold-off on the changes until they had more data on how the changes would impact service in the system.

Great job to everyone who took the time to share about the importance of how transit impacts and benefits our communities! We have the right to shape our transit system so that it serves us best.

dxMT1M2 QJAw8krXWsjJcbg0ZLBsISFRYEdzVMO0U7NDBzxbgwpZE9vCWpd7 sPeaXYLCJZUxN6Ecr38DQiaTKVetPyCuIxnB2xeBOGKt2sw1QVZhmHBlcOVPYjNW STRQ Efb5u C5t wnxKxBKxvg - Victory for the P3! How Riders Won

We applaud PRT for listening to what riders have to say, and want to give credit (and a some feedback) where it’s due.

We have to give credit to PRT for creating a robust public process around this particular proposal. They put a ton of information and justification for why they were making specific proposals on their website – this was great. PRT started the public process with an info session where they gave an overview of the changes being proposed, then followed up with in-person and virtual public meetings for people to give feedback. They had their public comment period open for a full month and a half, from December 15th to Feb 1st. And thumbs up for allowing people to give comments by calling Customer Service AND for setting up a voicemail where people could just call and leave a recording of their comment. 

As far as feedback: We wish that there was a centralized place on PRT’s website where riders could see all public meetings and all opportunities to give public comment on a single page. Currently, only PRT Board-related meetings are on the “Public Meetings” page (and PRT Board meetings are notoriously inaccessible and unresponsive spaces for riders to engage in constructive feedback). It was confusing to find the BRT project from the PRT homepage, and to navigate between the sites with information about the project and proposed service changes, the website that took service-related feedback, and the sites that shared the BRT public meeting schedule and registration. Frankly, it continues to be confusing to find info on other major projects as well. Members of the public have to navigate through NEXTransit on the project page to find info about some major projects, like the Downtown Network Redesign, but others like the BRT are curiously omitted. We appreciate that there was more than a month to give feedback on the BRT service changes, but hope that PRT would consider the impact of major holiday periods on the likelihood of robust public engagement.

All that said, we want to thank PRT for listening to riders. The agency could have gotten all that feedback and still ignored it but they didn’t. We are are offering this constructive feedback because we know that more transparency from PRT yields more engagement and the education of riders, which also increases rider input and trust in our public transit system. Pittsburgh Regional Transit belongs to the system’s riders and workers who use it everyday, so let’s continue to ensure that they are empowered to shape it.

52684506847 7b40df0782 c 720x380 - "PGH City Council Can Take Action for Transit", Says Riders' Press Conference

“PGH City Council Can Take Action for Transit”, Says Riders’ Press Conference

52684506847 7b40df0782 c 1 - "PGH City Council Can Take Action for Transit", Says Riders' Press Conference
image description: PPT Member Lorena Pena shares story at press conference outside Pittsburgh City Council Chambers. She is speaking with her hands and wearing a yellow transit advocacy button. She is surrounded by 20+ other PPT members holding yellow and red signs that say “Transit Moves Us” and “City Resident, Transit Rider.”. An ASL interpreter wearing a dark suit stands to her left.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit holds a packed press conference outside City Council Chambers to release a new report and invite PGH City Council to take a more active role in advocating for improved public transit.

On Wednesday, February 8th at 1 pm, Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) hosted a press conference to release our new report, “Representing Our Routes: The State of Public Transit and How the City of Pittsburgh Can Improve It”. At the press conference, researchers shared broad trends from the report around transit service reliability in the City and key transit destinations, and transit riders from different Council districts will give testimony about their experience using transit in this past year.

Lorena Pena, PPT Member who lives off the Red Line, shared her experience with what unreliable transit has meant for her:

While I enjoy taking public transit, it is not always easy. Last year when the Red Line train was not working, I struggled and my community struggled just to get around. We did not know when the shuttles were coming because they did not run on the same schedule as the train.

PPT members and the report identify ways in which City Councilmembers can support high-quality, reliable transit in their districts, and can enact policies laid out in the Pittsburgh 100 Day Transit Platform, now adopted into Mayor Gainey’s Transition Plan.

Watch the press conference that released “Representing Our Routes: The State of Public Transit and How the City Can Improve It”:

See photos of the press conference in our Flickr Album:

52684506732 ba66392279 z - "PGH City Council Can Take Action for Transit", Says Riders' Press Conference

Check out the coverage from news outlets of the event:

Representing Our Routes 720x380 - Read PPT's New Report! Representing Our Routes: The State of Public Transit & How the City Can Improve It

Read PPT’s New Report! Representing Our Routes: The State of Public Transit & How the City Can Improve It

Representing Our Routes 1024x538 - Read PPT's New Report! Representing Our Routes: The State of Public Transit & How the City Can Improve It
Image description: photo of the cover of PPT’s new report. A red heading reads “Representing our Routes” with black subtitle that reads, “The State of Public Transit and How the City Can Improve It”. There are two photos of PPT members Teaira and Bill on a solid yellow background.

Transit riders release a new report to give the state of public transit in the City of Pittsburgh and outline steps for the City to improve it

Transit moves us. In the City of PIttsburgh, tens of thousands of residents—and the businesses that they work at and patronize—rely on affordable, timely transit service. Transit should be considered as vital to the city as other public utilities. However, over the past year, transit service in the Pittsburgh region has taken a significant turn for the worse. In 2022, Pittsburgh riders experienced a dramatic increase in overcrowded, chronically late and canceled buses and trains. Service data confirms transit riders’ poor experiences: Last year, 38 out of 105 Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT) routes were below 50% reliability for at least one month. And transit must be reliable for it to be useful. If riders have a 50% certainty or less than a bus or train will show up as scheduled, they will stop using the transit system. 

PPT member and transit rider Lorena Pena recounts, “Last year when the Red Line train was not working, I struggled and my community struggled just to get around. We did not know when the shuttles were coming because they did not run on the same schedule as the train. Instead of waking up at 5:15 am for work, I had to set my alarm for 4:00 am just to ensure that I would arrive at work on time.”

On Wednesday, February 8th at 1 pm, Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) hosted a press conference to release our new report, “Representing Our Routes: The State of Public Transit and How the City of Pittsburgh Can Improve It.At the press conference, researchers shared broad trends from the report around transit service reliability in the City and key transit destinations, and transit riders from different Council districts will give testimony about their experience using transit in this past year. PPT members and the report identify ways in which City Councilmembers can support high-quality, reliable transit in their districts, and can enact policies laid out in the Pittsburgh 100 Day Transit Platform, now adopted into Mayor Gainey’s Transition Plan.

Read Representing Our Routes: The State of Public Transit and How the City Can Improve it

Representing Our Routes’ Key Takeaways

  • All City Council districts were adversely affected by poor transit service reliability in 2022.
  • Residents of every City Council district rely on transit, although access to jobs and other critical destinations on transit is uneven across districts.
  • There is a lack of real-time, language-appropriate communication between PRT and transit riders to communicate service disruptions, service cuts, and bus stop removals—and the harm from this was particularly pronounced during the Red Line closures in the summer of 2022.
  • Transit arrival times must match the published transit schedule in order to restore the trust that individuals, service providers, and employers must have in the transit system for it to retain and grow ridership.
  • As in other cities, Pittsburgh City Council members can play a role in supporting and communicating with PRT about the transit service needs of their constituents. City Council can advance the Mayor’s transit-supportive infrastructure and land use policies that were adopted into his transition plan from the Pittsburgh 100 Days Transit Platform.

City Council can improve transit for city residents

As in other cities, Pittsburgh City Council can play an indispensable role in ensuring that our region’s public transit system is effective, equitable, and attractive that is often overlooked.

Given the current service reliability crisis facing constituents in every Pittsburgh City Council district, we need Council members to join us in calling on PRT to publish transit schedules that accurately reflect run times. That could include Council members testifying at PRT board meetings alongside transit riders, and asking that PRT to provide quarterly updates to Council on service reliability and frequency changes on routes within their districts.

If no improvements are made to service reliability, Council should call for a post-agenda hearing and invite riders and PRT leadership to discuss the issue, to explore the citywide impacts of the transit service issues, and to hear PRT lay out a timeline for improvements. Council staff members should also monitor service changes or bus stop removals that affect their districts on an ongoing basis, and serve as one important new avenue for communications between PRT and the community.

City Council can also play a more direct role in supporting public transit through land use and accessible infrastructure investments. PPT has laid out 18 specific policy recommendations in the Pittsburgh 100 Days Transit Platform, nearly all of which have been incorporated into Mayor Gainey’s Transition Plan. In the coming weeks and months, PPT would like to suggest Council support these four priorities for advancing equitable infrastructure and land use needs:

  • Council should call on the City’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) to reconvene the quarterly Complete Streets Committee. In the past, this committee had stakeholders from the community and organizations in the pedestrian, cycling and disability justice space, and helped prioritize traffic calming and pedestrian infrastructure investments. The reconstituted Complete Streets committee should have a high-level staffer from DOMI who explains how and where the City is evaluating and prioritizing sidewalk corridors for maintenance and development, streets for traffic calming, bus shelter creation and relocation, and other critical pedestrian investments. There should be space for discussion, feedback, and clear communication of the time- lines for implementation of these baseline equitable infrastructure investments.
  • City Councilmembers should ensure that street planning foregrounds the need for more accessible, safer, efficient, and dignified transit stops everytime DOMI does significant street construction or redesign within their council districts.
  • City Council should ensure that City Planning’s coming Citywide Comprehensive Plan requires equi- table transit-oriented development (ETOD), which marries affordable housing, density, and mix of retail and services in the communities with existing quality public transit.
  • City Councilmembers should fund the forthcoming effort to provide free transit passes for all city employees, purchased at a bulk discount rate from PRT. Right now, it is cheaper for city employees to lease a monthly parking space downtown than it is to buy a monthly transit pass—a decision that also costs the city in lost revenue for the market value of those parking spaces. Providing free transit passes would incentivize better transportation behavior, reduce congestion, and be an enticing job perk to support city employee recruitment. Also importantly, it would challenge PRT to finally establish a bulk discount fare purchase program that could be made available to housing developers, large employers, and social service providers.

PPT is enthusiastic that Pittsburgh City Councilmembers have been receptive to these ideas. A majority of City Council and the Mayor’s office joined PPT at the press conference to recognize and support the need for accessible, reliable, affordable public transit for all, some even offering quotes of support

  • Councilwoman Barb Warwick notes, “Forty-four percent of residents of District 5 are transit-dependent. Public transit is a top priority for me because all residents must be able to connect to the jobs, education, healthy food, and healthcare they need. Public transit should be as dependable, accessible and safe as any other utility, like water or electricity.”
  • City Councilwoman Erika Strassburger says “Equitable transit-oriented development is a key priority of mine because I view it as integral to the future success of all Pittsburghers. I look forward to working with partners in City government, PRT, advocacy groups like PPT, and residents to improve access and reliability in all of our neighborhoods.” 
  • “As the Representing Our Routes Report shows, our Public Transit system is in desperate need of attention. As transit riders, we should not have to worry whether or not our bus will show up when we’re leaving for work, school, or running errands. Our region must assure that everyone has access to safe, reliable, and affordable transportation so that they can navigate the city without the use of a car. In order to achieve that goal, City Government must support efforts, such as the ones included in the Mayor’s Transition Plan, that promote transit-oriented development and expanded access to public transportation,” says Councilwoman Deb Gross

Transit M♡VES US 1024x538 - Read PPT's New Report! Representing Our Routes: The State of Public Transit & How the City Can Improve It
Image Description: Text reads “Transit Moves Us. Sign-on to tell City Council!” on a yellow background with a red silhouette of the Pittsburgh skyline.

You can help PPT push for more accessible, reliable public transit.
Sign on to tell City Council: Transit Moves Us

Untitled design 44 720x380 - What happened to our timepoints? New schedules make it harder to ride

What happened to our timepoints? New schedules make it harder to ride

Untitled design 44 1 1024x538 - What happened to our timepoints? New schedules make it harder to ride
image description: photo of a group of riders getting off a bus downtown. The person in the center of the photo is wearing a purple t-shirt and a backpack and they are pulling down their mask.

Reducing Timepoints on Route Schedules Does Not Increase Schedule Reliability. Instead, it Lowers PRT Scheduling Accountability and Leaves Riders Out in the Cold for Longer.

We need a timepoint for every neighborhood and one for every transfer point.

Transit service in Allegheny County is in crisis. As our forthcoming report Representing our Routes will explain, 38 out of Pittsburgh Regional Transit’s (PRT’s) 105 routes experienced a month or more of service reliability of 50% or less in 2022. That’s appalling.

Riders have been testifying at PRT board meetings and rallying in the streets over the past year to highlight the need for PRT’s schedules to accurately reflect the run times for routes. Riders are regularly left waiting for buses that never arrive or routinely arrive late, causing them to miss work, doctor’s appointments and other critical needs. Transit operators are pressured into foregoing bathroom breaks and unfairly targeted by frustrated passengers because of route schedules that do not accurately reflect the time it takes to drive the route.  

PRT has just announced February’s quarterly service changes, which we hoped would be revised to accurately reflect the run times to make the service better for riders and transit workers both. Instead, on 9 of the 16 service trip time adjustments proposed, PRT is going to reduce timepoints on the schedule.

Let’s be clear: reducing timepoints is not the same as increasing service reliability.

zokDegY2da2PymmdPRC60p3sWThIb6lN 6ZNsxzrP51WtWs0txrUmQffecHXIVxn0JqbmOClu88QD64jrv2PQc5lVBqutE1y3SzyyyFCdKp7XqMqs 18pORWvxQkRv7VP9bHoV I1SxFWsIwC 8858Y - What happened to our timepoints? New schedules make it harder to ride
Image description: Teal blue powerpoint slide from PRT’s January 19th Board Committees meeting, with a table showing trip time adjustments in the February quarterly service changes. There are 16 routes listed and 9 of them read “reduction of published timepoints.” 

Removing timepoints makes it much harder for riders to know when a bus will arrive in their neighborhood, or when/if they can make transfers between lines. With longer gaps between timepoints in the schedule, riders have to consider a larger window of time and greater uncertainty for when buses will arrive at the stops between timepoints. For instance, starting in February, the 88 Penn will only show 4 (!) stops or time points on the schedule- North Point Breeze, Children’s Hospital, Strip District, and Downtown. That means that riders in East Liberty, Friendship, and Garfield have no specific time named for when the 88 bus will arrive at their stops, and have a large window in which the bus might theoretically arrive. This will also make planning ahead for trips with transfers exceedingly difficult because route planning relies on riders being able to compare stop times on two or more published schedules (the timepoint at Negley/Penn was removed, which is an important transfer point to the 71s, 77, and 87). 

Screen Shot 2023 01 30 at 5.59.44 PM 1024x499 - What happened to our timepoints? New schedules make it harder to ride
image description: a screenshot of the new schedule for the 88 Penn only shows timepoints for 4 stops along the route; Downtown, Strip District, Children’s Hospital, and North Point Breeze.

We also worry that removing timepoints shifts responsibility for timeliness and issues with missing the bus from PRT to the riders. Fewer timepoints lowers accountability for PRT by lowering the visibility of their erratic or poor on-time performance. With fewer timepoints, PRT will track fewer data points around whether their service is performing up to standard.

The worst part is that PRT can adjust schedules based on the real-time data of how long it takes for buses to arrive at stops, but despite having accurate data, the schedule planning department has not made any adjustments! (See Transit Scheduling Director Philip St. Pierre’s response about the Uptown service in response to Board member Ann Ogoreuc in the 1/19/23 PRT Board Committees meeting, at min. 20.25) This would improve service reliability dramatically, particularly in corridors where there is construction causing service delays.

Riders need schedules that make transit EASY TO USE. That means we need a timepoint for all transfer points and one for every neighborhood. And we need reliable schedules, and ones that honestly reflect the amount of service that riders have access to.