We welcome a new direction, so long as it is one that expands service, fare affordability, and accessibility for all.
Today the Port Authority unveiled the new name for the transit system that we ride every day: Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT). The website announces the change with a banner that reads, “New Name. New Direction.”.
Transit riders would welcome a new direction. With the name change, we hope that the new street signage and bus branding will make the system more legible and simpler to navigate. We hope that the “regional” part of the PRT name might signal a move to a more coordinated fare payment and route planning system between our neighboring county transit agencies.
But riders have reason to be skeptical. The last sentence of the announcement page reads, “But most importantly, this will not disrupt the services we provide or the fares charged for those services.”
So we are left asking: “Isn’t the poor service that we’ve been experiencing and expensive fares that we’ve been paying precisely the things that need to be disrupted?”
Above all, riders want our transit agency to plan for more frequent and reliable service, taking more people to more destinations. We need service levels to be restored and expanded instead of confronting another round of service cuts in two weeks. Riders need fare payment to be more affordable because we continue to pay some of the highest transit fare costs in the entire country, without any fare relief programs available for low-income residents.
Riders have organized, marched, and testified for the Port Authority to fulfill these baseline needs around service and fares for years. If a marketing campaign is what the agency needs to catalyze these improvements, then we will welcome it. Whether the name on the bus says “Port Authority” or “PRT”, riders will continue to push for a true new direction for our transit agency – one that is expanded, affordable, and accessible to all residents of Allegheny County.