July 3, 2016
By Casy Stelitano

Picture3
Community members from Garfield, Penn Hills, and North Hills stand together to fight for more service. Photo credit: Dean Mougianis

Over the past year, Pittsburghers for Public Transit supported three campaigns for increased bus service. Residents came together, shared their needs with elected officials, held rallies downtown, and formally made requests through the Port Authority’s service guidelines. Overall, the agency received 85 distinct requests from over 1500 individuals. This demonstrates the high level of demand in our county for improved transit service.

Residents are celebrating recommendations for weekend service on the 89 in Garfield and the extended 79 along the Mt Carmel Rd corridor in Penn Hills.

These proposed changes will make a huge difference in these communities. “We are glad there is  an opportunity to expand transportation in Penn Hills because it is greatly needed. We see so many residents who struggle to get to appointments, jobs, training programs, and the store,” said Joyce Davis, from the Lincoln Park Community Center and Penn Hills NAACP.

Annie McGowan, resident of Garfield said: “Me and my mom have to depend on someone else to take us to church. A lot of senior citizens can’t get out for church activities, shopping, and meeting family and friends. Now we’ll be able to hop on the bus!”

“We would like to acknowledge all the elected officials who listened to the residents and helped highlight this need,” said Aggie Brose, Deputy Director of the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation. “We all came together and organized, and we are thrilled to see this recommendation for added service.”

The advocates and residents are also there to support all communities in the county who still need better bus service. Representatives from the Buses for Perry Highway campaign will highlight the need for more funding so that service can run along Perry Highway, north of Westview Shopping center to CCAC North, Northland Public Library, and other destinations. The campaign plans to continue to advocate for this much needed service.

We also want to commend the Port Authority for making their service planning and decision-making processes more transparent and inclusive—a model for other agencies around the country. The annual service report carefully indicates how each request for service was evaluated and helps the public understand just how many communities need more transit.

Transit advocates and supporters are calling on elected officials, public agencies, institutions, and communities to all come together to secure more funding for the Port Authority. There is 16 million dollars in the drink tax fund balance. This fund is dedicated to public transit in Allegheny County, and there is no reason a few million dollars each year could not be allocated to the Port Authority’s operating budget. This money would enable them to provide service to more communities in need. We must all work together to secure even more sources of funding. Buslines are lifelines, and improving our public transit system is vital to the entire region.

This author is a PULSE fellow serving at Pittsburghers for Public Transit.