Despite Assurances, Residents Worry BRT Will Create Congestion, Cut Routes

Jun 22, 2017

Though Pittsburgh’s bus rapid transit project, or BRT, might not be eligible for federal funding, the planning process is moving forward with a series of public meetings to gather feedback on street design and where to put new BRT stations.

Those questions take immediate priority so that local officials can apply for a grant in September. But planners told the small crowd of 25 people gathered in Uptown Tuesday night to share other concerns, too, so they could be addressed in the coming months.

“Make sure you write it down before you leave tonight. We are collecting all of that, we have been for many months now,” said Port Authority analyst Amy Silbermann. “It will help us to make our case as we move forward here with what we’ve heard from the communities.”

Silbermann and Justin Miller, a transportation planner for Pittsburgh, addressed concerns from residents that the BRT project would mean congestion, cuts in service, and make it harder for ACCESS vehicles to pick people up and drop them off.

“We’re not discontinuing any routes in this proposal,” Silbermann assured the crowd. 

Betty Alexander lives in Stanton Heights. She said she worried BRT would cut service on her buses, and make it harder for people to travel downtown.

“That’s the way it seemed,” she said. “Like, people could not come into town because the bus was only going to go into Oakland, and they have to transfer, and they weren’t going to have a lot of buses coming into downtown Pittsburgh, which I thought was discriminatory to the poor.”

But Alexander said the city and Port Authority planners answered her questions and made her feel better. Several in attendance wanted to know how BRT would affect other routes; changes in service could mean new transfer costs for low-income residents.

James C. Noschese is involved with the deaf community in Uptown. Speaking through an interpreter, Noschese said he’s concerned about a proposal that would move a bus stop further away from the Center for Hearing & Deaf Services on Fifth Avenue.

“We just feel that it’s not appropriate for them to put that stop that far away for those consumers,” he said. “I don’t know if they will take it seriously or not.”

The proposed BRT route would connect downtown to Oakland, branches would travel on to Highland Park and Greenfield.

A public input meeting is scheduled for the Greenfield and Squirrel Hill neighborhoods on June 27. On June 28, two separate meetings will be held downtown and in Oakland.

(Photo via Paul Sableman / Flickr)