Sign the Petition: Demand that PennDOT Make McKnight Rd Safe for Transit Riders!

Image description: Black and white cartoon bus that says McKnight Rd and has a sad face next to a cautionary road sign that Route Closed. Banner beneath the image reads, Transit Riders Need Safe Stops! Take ACTION.

Sign the petition! Demand PennDOT make McKnight Rd safe for all people to move!

PennDOT is about to begin a $25 million improvement project on McKnight Rd. Not a single dollar is being spent on improving sidewalks or transit access. While we understand that infrastructure upgrades are important, we demand that plans for upgrades include access and safety for pedestrians and transit riders. 

PRT bus stops for the 12 McKnight and 012 McKnight Flyer are being eliminated at Stevens Drive and Brookview Lane, leaving riders no choice but to walk or roll their mobility device farther up along the shoulder of McKnight Rd to catch their buses. Bus stops are not the only things being eliminated by this plan, the breaks in the median that allow pedestrians to cross the 4-lane road are also permanently closing. This leaves pedestrians, who already faced extreme vulnerability on this road, exposed to a greater chance of being struck by a vehicle.

Sign the petition to demand that PennDOT restore the PRT stops after construction and build better pedestrian infrastructure into these improvements!

Change is Coming: We’re Ready for a PRT Board With Members Who Ride The Bus

image description: yellow graphic has photos of 6 PRT Board Members who Sara Innamorato controls the appointments of, with text below that reads: “PRT Board: Change is Coming”.

New County Executive Innamorato controls 6 appointees to the PRT Board of Directors. (5 of those appointments are sitting on expired terms, and at least 2 of those seats need to be filled by new people. There’s no denying it: changes are coming to the PRT Board)

We are eager to see appointees who ride transit and who will be fierce advocates for riders and our service.

The new County Executive has the power to immediately appoint visionary leaders to serve on the PRT Board and build a transit agency that serves all of Allegheny County. The PPT Research Committee wrote this quick memo to give background on what the board does and what kinds of people we want to see appointed to be the next leaders of our transit system. If you want to get involved in the Research Committee, sign up here!

Powers & Importance of PRT Board

  • The PRT Board is an 11-member volunteer body that has the ultimate responsibility for our transit system.
  • The board approves/denies resolutions to improve transit service, public engagement, fare affordability, worker support, capital investments, etc through the board committees:
    • Planning and Stakeholder Relations Committee
    • Finance Committee
    • Performance Oversight Committee
    • Technology Committee
  • They can approve and amend PRT’s annual budgets
  • The board employs and holds accountable the PRT CEO
  • And the board can use their position to advocate for policies and practices that support transit justice

How do people get onto the PRT Board of Directors?

The Allegheny County Executive has control over the majority of appointments to the PRT Board. This is why PPT did so much work to ensure that a champion for transit was elected into this position last year. We are excited to have a County Executive who shares our values around community leadership on agency boards, and who has a process to encourage residents to apply for those positions.

Here’s the full breakdown of how Board Members get appointed to serve:

  • 4 Board members are appointed directly by the County Executive
  • 2 members are appointed by the County Executive with County Council approval
  • 1 is appointed by the Governor
  • 1 is appointed by President Pro Tempore of the Senate (Republican)
  • 1 is appointed by the Senate Minority Leader (Democrat)
  • 1 is appointed by the Speaker of the PA House of Representatives (Democrat)
  • 1 is appointed by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives (Republican)

Board members are appointed to 4-yr terms and are term-limited after 3 terms. For more information, check out the Board page of PRT’s Website.

What criteria do we think make for good transit agency board appointees?

We are eager to see County Executive Innamorato appoint Board Members who meet many of these criteria:

  • Non-car owners who rely on transit
  • Regular transit riders with disabilities/mobility issues
  • Active members of local advocates for anti-poverty/transportation justice/economic justice/food access
  • SNAP/EBT recipients, especially those involved in DHS’ discount fare pilot program
  • Transit riders from immigrant communities
  • Transit workers, members of ATU Local 85
  • People from communities of color
  • Transportation professionals (urban planners, transit/active transportation engineers) with relevant public transit experience

Here’s the rundown of the PRT Board Members serving at the start of 2024, who appointed them, and when their term expires. The first 6 appointments listed are controlled by the County Executive:

Jeff Letwin

  • Appointed by County Executive
  • Board Chair
  • Chair of Governance Committee and an ex-officio member of all committees.
  • First appointed July 2005
  • Term ended 9/01/2023 
  • Term limited, cannot be reappointed

Michelle Zmijanac

  • Appointed by County Executive
  • Chair of Performance Oversite and Monitoring Committee
  • First appointed January 2016
  • Term ended 9/01/2023

Jennifer Liptak

  • Appointed by County Executive
  • Chair of Technology Committee
  • First appointed March 2017
  • Term ends 9/17/2024

Stephanie Turman

  • Appointed by County Executive
  • First appointed September 2017
  • Term ended 12/31/2022

John Tague

  • Appointed by County Executive with Council Approval
  • Chair of Planning and Stakeholders Committee
  • First appointed September 2012
  • Term ended 9/17/2023
  • Term limited, cannot be reappointed

Ann Ogoreuc

  • Appointed by County Executive with Council Approval
  • Chair of Finance Committee
  • First appointed February 2017
  • Term ended 9/17/2023

Ali Doyle

  • Appointed by Governor
  • Term Ends 7/26

Senator Jim Brewster

  • Chair of Financial Audit Committee
  • Appointed by Senate Democratic leader
  • Term Ended 2/23

Joseph C. Totten

  • Appointed by Senate Republican leader
  • Term Ends 10/24

Nick Pisciottano

  • Appointed by Democratic leader in the PA House
  • Term Ends

Lori Mizgorski

  • Appointed by Republican leader in PA House
  • Term Ends 9/24

Jeff Letwin and John Tague are on expired terms, and they are term-limited. Executive Innamorato has an opportunity to appoint new members to serve in their seats. PPT looks forward to seeing members appointed who meet the criteria that we outline above.

If you’ve got a knack for research and want to help improve our transit system, sign up to join PPT’s Research Committee here:

TAKE ACTION! Write Your State Officials to Support the Governor’s Transit Funding Plan

image description: photo of a person wearing a yellow shirt riding a bus, next to superimposed text that reads, “Tell PA Lawmakers: Support Public Transit. Paid for by Clean Air Action Fund.

Take Action Now to Expand Access for All Pennsylvanians!

 

Gov. Shapiro needs to include transportation funding in his budget address!

Whether we live in Harrisburg or Pittsburgh, Wilkes Barre or Erie, rural towns or Philadelphia, all Pennsylvanians deserve safe, reliable, dignified access to the places they need to go. 

But right now, transit riders and agencies across our state are facing service cuts, fare hikes and layoffs because politicians have not prioritized funding. Riders have been organizing for change and we’re making headway – but we need you to take action now.

On Sunday, January 28, Governor Josh Shapiro previewed his budget address, proposing a 1.75% increase in the state sales tax allocation to public transportation. This vital measure does not create new taxes and will add $282.8 million in recurring, state operations funding to keep transit agencies across the Commonwealth providing their current levels of service. We are excited for this proposal, but after a similar measure stalled in the PA Senate in December, we need to make sure this transit funding is highlighted everywhere and then passed!

Communities thrive when neighbors can access local businesses, healthy food, schools, and healthcare. Every single one of PA’s 67 counties have some form of public transit service. And with increased priority, more public transit would benefit rural communities, small towns and cities across our state.

You can help build a stronger, more connected Pennsylvania by writing to your elected officials and asking them to prioritize public transportation investment today.

Bus Stop Audits: Join The Fight for A Better Place to Wait

image description: Graphic shows a bus shelter in the City of Pittsburgh that lacks accessible connections. Text is overlaid on the image that reads “Bus Stop Audits”.

It’s time to take a closer look at bus stops in Pittsburgh. Join us for a community audit.

Pittsburghers For Public Transit’s Organizing Committee will be conducting a month of Bus Shelter Audits to inventory what is lacking at shelters, and identify where new shelters need to go.

Our first audit will kick off Sunday, February 4th in honor of Transit Equity Day, which is Rosa Parks’ Birthday!

We’ll be looking at shelters all over the city, focusing on the Justice 40 neighborhoods in the north, south, east and west of the city. The first audit will be in Homewood. We’ll then move to the North Side, East Liberty, and Banksville Rd in the South Hills. This last audit will require shuttling to the different bus shelters in cars due to unsafe pedestrian conditions on Banksville Rd. Rides on Banksville Rd, high visibility gear, and all other materials necessary will be provided.

All of our audits are weather permitting. Alternate dates, as well as meeting locations for each neighborhood will be communicated after registration. Please let us know if you have any accessibility needs.

Sign up to join us for a bus shelter audit using the form below!

Join A Meeting With Your Elected Official to Talk Service

image description: three PPT Members it at a table. One holds a sign that reads “Ready to Ride!”. Behind them is a red PRT Bus.

Sign up to join PPT and speak to your elected officials about how they can fight for better public transit service.

From the Federal, to the State, to the County, to the Local: elected officials at all levels have a role to play in building world-class public transit. PPT Is driving this narrative home during our upcoming event, Representing Our Routes, Legislative Roundtable to Secure the Transit We Deserve, on February 20th. And we need you to help us invite your elected officials to the table.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be setting up meetings with elected officials and their staff at the local, County, State, and Federal levels. We’ll talk about the quality of transit service in their district, outline solutions that their colleagues are fighting for, and invite them to join the effort.

PPT will hold a training before our meetings to get our teams up to build skills for communicating with elected officials, rehearse our personal stories, and practice asking for our demands. Whether this is your first time meeting with an elected official, or whether you’re a politico-pro, you have a powerful part to play in advocating for service improvement.

If you want to join PPT for a meeting with your elected officials about the need to improve transit service, sign up below! PPT will reach out to you within a few days to include you in our meeting with your elected official.

Representing Our Routes: Legislative Roundtable to Fund the Transit Service We Deserve

Image Description: Graphic for Legislative Roundtable says “Representing Our Routes: Legislative Roundtable to Fund the Transit Service We Deserve”. Has a photo of a PRT bus and three riders holding a sign that says “Ready To Ride” with logos for PPT and the date, February 20, 10-11:30a

Join us for “Representing Our Routes: Legislative Roundtable for Securing the Transit Service We Deserve”
NEW LOCATION: Pentecostal Church Temple, 6300 East Liberty Blvd

Who: Elected representatives in local, county, state and federal government, Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT), transit riders and press
What: We will hear stories from transit riders about the current state of transit in the region, important research on why investing in transit service yields big dividends, and from legislators at all levels who are leading the effort to deliver world-class transit service in SWPA. 
Where: Pentecostal Church Tempal 6300 E Liberty Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15206
When: February 20th, 10:00am-11:30am

RSVP today to save your seat at the table

Pittsburghers for Public Transit will host elected leaders at the local, state and federal levels, along with supportive constituent advocates, to lay out a coordinated strategy to fund world-class public transit service in Allegheny County. Investment in quality public transit service yields dividends for our region’s economic growth, for congestion mitigation and better air quality, for healthcare access and more. With a new generation of visionary political leaders who are committed, responsible, and able to deliver results for our region, our time is now.

From Fox Chapel to Brentwood, McKeesport to McKees Rocks, most of us want our communities to be inclusive and vibrant. Public transit gives us a healthy, clean and affordable way for everyone to get around. But for too long, some elected officials have sold us the idea that we can’t have all the transit we need. In the last twenty years, due to inadequate investment, more than 37% of total PRT transit service has been cut in our region. That has led to a transit system that doesn’t go where we need it to go, long wait times between buses, and service that doesn’t always run at the times we need it.

We know what makes our communities thrive. Just as generations past created our library system, our public parks, and Social Security, we too can create what we need for a better future. When transit riders come together with transit workers and elected officials, we can achieve a fully funded, accessible and reliable public transit system, giving all of us the freedom to get where we need to go.

 

WTAE Channel 4 Features PPT alongside PRT CEO and Rich Fitzgerald

image description: photo of PPT Director Laura Chu Wiens being interviewed on the set of WTAE Listens. On her left and right are photos of Katharine Kelleman, CEO of Pittsburgh Regional Transit, and Rich Fitzgerald, past Executive of Allegheny County.

WTAE Channel 4 agrees: transit rider advocacy plays a critical role in the future of transit service in Allegheny County. PPT’s organizing is featured alongside agency CEO and ex-Executive of Allegheny County

In their first WTAE Listens episode of 2024, Channel 4 got right to one of Allegheny County’s most pressing issues as we enter the new year: public transit service.

Allegheny County’s public transit has been on the minds of many throughout our county. Transit service in 2023 was some of the worst in recent years. A new County Executive at the helm who has been a vocal supporter for better public transit. Moreover, some big local, state, and federal projects have been grabbing headlines with some big potential for our system.

We were grateful that the WTAE production team recognized that rider advocacy has a critical part to play in the future of our transit system. The team invited Pittsburghers for Public Transit to share the airwaves with two of the most powerful voices for public transit in Pennsylvania. Katharine Kelleman is the CEO of Pittsburgh Regional Transit. Rich Fitzgerald is the ex-Executive of Allegheny County and the new CEO of the Southwestern PA Commission. Together these people are responsible for directing how hundreds of millions of federal transportation dollars are spent on projects in our region – and the inclusion of PPT shows that rider and worker advocacy needs to set the agenda.

Check out the segment above, where we outlined the work that we are doing to fight for more reliable and expanded service, affordable fares, increased funding and equitable infrastructure. Ms. Kelleman and Mr. Fitzgerald highlighted the Bus Rapid Transit project, the Bus Line Redesign project, the East Busway Extension to Monroeville and a number of other regional transit projects – all of which PPT is organizing around!

Pittsburghers for Public Transit is fighting for transit riders and workers every day. If you’re a transit rider, transit worker, or engaged neighbor who cares about building access for all, join PPT as a Member to support the organizing!

The East Busway is Being Extended to Monroeville – Now Lets Keep Organizing

image description: photo from PPT’s Beyond the East Busway Organizing Fellowship in 2018 that engaged more than 600 residents in the Mon Valley and Eastern Suburbs and identified 3 priority corridors to extend the East Busway.

New $142.3 million grant marks the next phase in residents’ successful campaign to extend the East Busway

Transit riders, residents, businesses, and elected officials in the Mon Valley and Eastern Suburbs have been working hard to extend the East Busway’s benefits into their communities. After years of organizing to uplift the demand for better transit, we are celebrating the U.S. Department of Transportation grant announced last week that will fund an extension of the East Busway to Monroeville, improve sidewalks and pedestrian connections around Monroeville bus stops, and fund some important maintenance on the existing East Busway. 

The total USDOT grant will bring $142.3 million to transportation improvements through the Eastern corridor of Allegheny County. $50+ million of the grant will go towards the East Busway extension and transit improvements. $48.5 million will go towards installing variable speed limit signs along 376 that are expected to ease congestion and reduce crashes near the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. And $39 million will be spent to fix flooding on the portions of 376 near the Mon Warf in Downtown affectionately known as “the bathtub”. 

PPT has been organizing for extensions to the East Busway with transit riders in the Mon Valley and Eastern Suburbs for years. We celebrate this win.

The East Busway is our transit system’s highest-performing asset, caring for tens of thousands of riders each day and our members have known that it needs to be a spine of transit improvement in our system. Our members have long been organizing for both extensions of the busway and improvements to existing sections, as well as equitable development and affordable housing near East Busway stations.

In 2018, PPT hired 16 community leaders from the Mon Valley to survey nearly 600 residents on our Beyond the East Busway campaign to identify key destinations that should be better served by transit, and to make recommendations about which alignment of an East Busway extension would best meet transit rider needs. 

PPT organizing fellows surveyed a broad range of people living and working in the Mon Valley, including parents, single mothers, older adults, people with disabilities and students. Pittsburgh Regional Transit ’s decision to focus on this corridor in their long range NEXTransit Plan (Corridor E) and for this FTA planning grant reflects vocal transit rider advocacy and explicit support by the elected leadership in Rankin, Braddock, and East Pittsburgh in the grant application process.

This investment is long overdue. 

There is an extremely high and growing percentage of transit commuters in this region. In fact, four of the municipalities with the highest transit usage in all of Pennsylvania are within these corridors: #3 is Rankin (35.5%), #5 is East Pittsburgh (31.6%), #8 is Swissvale (24.9%), and #10 is Braddock (24.4%). 

In addition, five of the ten routes with the highest ridership increases for Port Authority from FY2019 to FY2020 were in the Mon Valley and Eastern Suburbs (P68 Braddock Hills Flyer, 52L Homeville Limited, 69 Trafford, P67 Monroeville Flyer and 55 Glassport), demonstrating that even during a pandemic, transit is a critical lifeline for riders of these routes. 

Despite this, transit access is poor for most of these communities: from Braddock to downtown, a bus trip averages 60 minutes even when using the high speed Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway. Due to cumbersome last-mile challenges, a passenger may spend 20 minutes using the busway, but must travel an additional 40 minutes before they enter the borough. A car trip, by contrast, takes 20 minutes from start to finish.

Sign on to ensure that all three of the Mon Valley and Eastern Suburb transit corridor improvements come to fruition! 

We are calling for the full implementation of bus rapid transit corridors, in line with Pittsburgh Regional Transit’s NEXTransit plan, along the 376 East to Monroeville, from Rankin to Braddock up to Monroeville, and along the full 61C corridor from Homestead to McKeesport: 

Fair Fares Coalition Recognizes Progress, Looks to Expeditiously Implement Permanent Zero Transit Fare Program for Low-Income Riders in 2024

image description: PPT Member Ms. Debra leads a rally and press conference in the fall of 2020 to release a report calling for a zero fare program for low-income households in Allegheny County

Fair Fares for a Full Recovery Coalition Press Release, 12/22/23

On the evening of December 21, 2023, Allegheny County Office of the County Executive Fitzgerald announced a commitment to a long-term 50% discounted transit fare program for SNAP households in the region, funded by the County Department of Human Services (DHS). The Fair Fares for a Full Recovery Coalition, consisting of more than 40 organizations advocating for zero fare public transit for low-income households, recognizes that this is one step in the right direction. However, a zero-fare program is still what is desperately needed by people in the community; imposing a still significant financial burden on very low income families is not good policy. We are eager to move expeditiously in the New Year towards a zero fare program for all SNAP households. Providing that level of benefit, funded by DHS, has proven overwhelmingly beneficial- for riders, DHS, Pittsburgh Regional Transit and our region as a whole.

Allegheny County Discounted Pilot Program Participant and PPT member Patrice speaks about her experience receiving free fare and what that has meant to her this year.

Pilot-program participant and mother of four Tameeka Jones Cuff says, “I have chronic health issues, and being a beneficiary of the yearlong DHS zero fare pilot program has ensured that I can make my doctors’ appointments and be healthier, get groceries, to work and meet my family’s needs. It’s been a life-saver. I’ve watched the tears fall when other families like mine have to make tough decisions about which trips and essential needs to prioritize because transit fares are unaffordable. 

We know that County Executive Innamorato has been a champion for public transit and the full needs of low-income riders, and look forward to seeing a fully-realized program come to fruition under her leadership.”

Central and important elements about how this fare program will be implemented have not been made available yet, and without that information, low-income people remain in the dark about how beneficial and effective the newly-announced commitment might be. 

Transit riders, social service organizations, and employers have long recognized that our region needs a zero-fare program for all SNAP households, in an arrangement funded by the County Department of Human Services. Organizations and individuals are encouraged to sign the Coalition’s public letter calling for the user-friendly implementation of a permanent, accessible, zero fare program for all County households receiving SNAP/EBT. Sign-ons to the letter will be collected until early January, at fairfaresnow.com

Wins for More Language Access on Transit

Image Description: (photo credit to Casa San Jose) selfie of three Casa San Jose members riding the T with a brightly-colored, flower-shaped sign that reads “Si Se Puede”

Casa San Jose and Pittsburghers for Public Transit Celebrate Pittsburgh Regional Transit’s Steps Toward Language Equity!

You may have noticed that starting the week of December 10th, Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT) began playing bilingual announcements in English and Spanish at select train stations along the Red Line! PRT also added Spanish language access on its Customer Service line (412-422-2000), and Spanish language information has been added to LED info boards along the Red Line.

Casa San Jose and Pittsburghers for Public Transit applaud these important steps toward a more accessible transit system for Latino residents. The changes bring us closer to a Pittsburgh region that celebrates culture, welcomes immigrants, and embraces inclusion, dignity, and respect. Spanish language announcements on public transit provide essential information for transit riders and send a city-wide message that non-native English speakers are welcome in our city. 

But this victory does not come easy. We have organized with Latino transit riders for years toward this win – congratulations to all!

Public transit is critical for Latino residents and the entire community. Latino transit riders have long been advocating to the Pittsburgh Regional Transit Board of Directors to improve language access along the T and throughout the rest of the system. Already, the Spanish-language announcements are making it easier for riders to use PRT. This will expand ridership and build a stronger transit system.

Casa San Jose has already received feedback of good customer service in Spanish. Once a Spanish interpreter was requested, the attendant said “Un momento, por favor.” The interpretation was good, and the PRT attendant seemed well-trained in using an interpreter. Casa San Jose is excited to share this customer service number with the community we serve, and we appreciate all the efforts PRT has undertaken to make this resource available to our community. 

The week of December 11th, 2023, PRT began playing the following announcement over the speakers and on the LED scroll boards in a number of T stations in downtown Pittsburgh: 

<< ¿Sabía que la información del Servicio de Atención al Cliente de PRT está disponible 24 horas al día, 7 días a la semana? Llame al cuatro-uno-dos, cuatro-cuatro-dos, dos mil y pulse dos para la traducción al español. O, durante el horario comercial normal, solicite un traductor cuando hable con un agente en vivo. >>

On Wednesday, December 14th at 8:30am, two Spanish-speakers were waiting in the Steel Plaza Station for their Red Line train to Beechview. Upon hearing the auditory announcement in Spanish, one of them jumped up and, speechless, pointed at their ear. The other recognized their native language over the loudspeaker and a big grin spread across their face. Another community member told Casa San Jose, “Lo escuché ayer y me sorprendí! Es muy excelente lo que están haciendo para nuestra comunidad, de saber que podemos llamar a ellos en español.” (I heard it yesterday and I was surprised! It’s excellent what they’re doing for our community, to know that we can call them in Spanish.) 

Casa San Jose welcomes hundreds of Spanish-speaking community members in our office each month. Most of our people do not have access to driver’s licenses and are looking to make Pittsburgh their forever home. We are so grateful to Pittsburgh Regional Transit for setting the example in how to make Pittsburgh a Welcoming City, and we look forward to working with them in the future.

Get involved in a PPT Working Committee to help make more wins like this possible for better public transit!!