RIDER INPUT NEEDED! PRT is redesigning the entire bus network

image description: top of image has PRT’s logo for the Bus Line Redesign. Bottom of the image has a photo of a blue articulated bus on the East Busway.

PRT’s new Bus Line Redesign project holds incredible potential and potential pitfalls. Riders need to get involved to demand a system that’s the right size for all of our needs.

Its finally happening. PRT has been speaking for months about doing a redesign of the entire bus network after it was identified as a top priority in their NexTransit plan. Just last week they issued a press release to say that the redesign process is moving forward, full steam ahead. 

A redesign of the system holds tremendous potential for riders. There’s a long list of issues that have been plaguing our service for years, and they’ve gotten exponentially worse since the start of the pandemic. Infrequent schedules, sparse route coverage, unpredictable arrivals – these are all things that a redesigned bus network can improve.

However, a complete redesign of the system also holds serious perils to deepen the downward spiral that we’ve seen for our transit service. Check out the bottom of this blog for some thoughts that PPT members put together after the downtown redesign was announced – this feedback even more relevant as PRT works on the entire system.

PRT’s outreach phase 1 will run through the end of 2023. There are surveys t o fill out, public meetings to attend, and pop-up events to stop by. Check out all of these things on PRT’s Bus Line Redesign Engage Page and this blog.  It is critical that riders get involved in this process to speak up for changes that will improve our system.

Engagment dates

PRT has a number of public meetings an pop-up events scheduled this fall. We’ll share what they have currently have listed here, but they’ll hopefully add more so we encourage riders to check out their website for a full list of everything they have planned.

See below for any open surveys or upcoming meetings and events!

  • In-Person Pop-Up Tent – Atwood Station
    Oct 31, 2023 10:00 AM – Oct 31, 2023 1:00 PM @ Atwood Station, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  • In-Person Pop-Up Tent – Northside Farmers Market
    Nov 3, 2023 3:00 PM – Nov 3, 2023 6:00 PM @ Allegheny Commons Park, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  • In-Person Pop-Up Tent – Sto-Rox Public Library
    Nov 14, 2023 10:00 AM – Nov 14, 2023 1:00 PM @ 420 Chartiers Ave, McKees Rocks, PA 15136, USA
  • Bus Line Redesign Public Meeting #1
    Nov 14, 2023 5:30 PM @ Online Event
  • Bus Line Redesign Public Meeting #2
    Nov 16, 2023 11:30 AM @ Online Event
  • In-Person Pop-Up Tent – Monroeville Mall
    Nov 20, 2023 11:00 AM – Nov 20, 2023 2:00 PM @ Monroeville Mall, Mall Circle Drive, Monroeville, PA, USA
  • In-Person Pop-Up Tent – Hill District
    Nov 30, 2023 6:00 PM – Nov 30, 2023 7:30 PM
    Jeron X. Grayson Community Center, 1852 Enoch Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, USA

Feedback from PPT members about how PRT should approach this redesign

Over 50 transit riders attended our meeting this spring to talk about the Downtown Bus Network Redesign — including several Spanish speaking residents and riders with disabilities. As an organization PPT has had a difficult time understanding how to weigh in on the network redesign proposals. There is a LOT of information and data shared on the website, which can make it intimidating or confusing to contribute feedback. 

But even as there is a lot of information being shared, much of it doesn’t feel like it addresses the main concerns that riders voiced around the redesign process, namely:

  • around the network redesign impacts to riders’ total trip times (including walking to their destinations or timing a transfer or waiting for a bus that has enough space to board)
  • how much, precisely, a redesign would improve service reliability and on what lines
  • around addressing overcrowding and bus pass ups of passengers
  • around the access to safe, accessible, comfortable and dignified infrastructure for transit. 

We think that the goal of public engagement around public transit should be to ask riders to consider what changes would improve the system as a whole, with the least overall harm to riders and the greatest benefit (particularly to our most vulnerable riders). In order to do that, and not have riders merely consider and give feedback on their own individual experience and benefit/harm, there needs to be a set of data points that clearly speak to the rider experience as a whole.

With that in mind, we brainstormed some questions for which information could be presented that would allow the public to more equitably and effectively consider different proposals,  as well as the value and need for a bus network redesign. This is not an exhaustive list, but starts to provide metrics and information that more closely align with riders’ needs and addresses their concerns.

  1. From PRT’s perspective, what are the primary goals of the downtown bus network redesign? In some basic way, who is this bus network redesign being done for? Could those same goals be met without a whole bus network redesign, and instead through minor service adjustments, by adding bus stops, or with infrastructure improvements (like more transit signal priority or more bus only lanes? This is an important question to clearly answer for riders because both currently-proposed alternatives will result in substantial changes to transit rider access, including the removal of many stops in parts of Downtown that will no longer be serviced. From our discussion, it was clear that riders are very concerned that both proposals will make their trips worse, and asked whether the bus network redesign was even necessary. 
  2. How many people will have to relocate from an existing bus stop under each of these proposals? How regularly are buses kneeling at those stops, indicating that they are serving passengers with lower mobility?
  3. What is the closest distance for those passengers to walk to a new bus stop serving the same routes?
  4. How much will the network redesigns improve service reliability, and to which lines? How much are reliability improvements specifically attributable to the network redesign, and could service reliability be substantially improved instead through transit signal priority, other infrastructure improvements or schedule modifications?
  5. Has PRT modeled bus stop crowding on the new stops (and possible bus pass ups), after old stops are eliminated? Has PRT modeled how any additional crowding will affect bus stop loading and route scheduling?
  6. How did or how could stop accessibility and comfort and accommodations to passengers (stop and “last mile” infrastructure) be central to determining which corridors are prioritized for transit? What shelter or streetscape improvements will be these corridors in the network redesign?   
  7. Is either network redesign proposal likely to grow or shrink ridership? How is that determined?

From our conversations, service reliability and total time for transit trips are the highest priority for riders as outcomes from this network redesign. It’s important to note that from the perspective of riders, however, “total time for a transit trip” includes the walking to and from a stop to a destination, waiting times, bus crowding, and transfer schedule coordination, not just the time spent sitting on a bus in downtown. In fact, a lot of riders would prefer to sit on a bus longer Downtown if it gets them closer to their destination or to their transfer stop, as long as the schedule is reliable.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit wants this the Bus Line Redesign process to be successful, to yield positive and equitable outcomes for riders, and to have robust and thoughtful public participation. For that to happen, we need riders to speak up and we need the agency to engage us with accessible and relevant information and events.