Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, is a high-quality bus-based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective services via dedicated lanes and frequent operations. While BRT often looks different in each area it's implemented, it generally contains features similar to a light rail or metro system and is therefore more reliable, convenient, and faster than regular bus services. With the right features, BRT can avoid the causes of delay that typically slow regular bus services, such as frequent stops, traffic delays, and fare payment delays.
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Pittsburgh Regional Transit’s Downtown-Uptown-Oakland-East End BRT service plan calls for a "core" service operated across five bus routes that go east to Highland Park, Wilkinsburg, Braddock, and McKeesport. Current regular bus routes 61A, 61B, 61C, 71B and P3 will become BRT routes.
With the infrastructure improvements to implement the BRT service forthcoming, four other bus routes currently serving downtown and uptown will turn around earlier in their routes, with their innermost point becoming Craft Avenue in Oakland, and will no longer directly serve the Uptown and Downtown neighborhoods. These changes will occur on the 61D, 71A, 71C, and 71D bus routes. A fifth bus route, the P3, will be shortened on its outer end to only go as far west as Wilkinsburg Station along the Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway and will no longer serve the Swissvale and Rankin communities along the outer edge of the busway. Additionally, the P3 route will be extended from its current inbound/eastern terminus in the Oakland neighborhoods into Uptown and Downtown, so this route will experience two major changes to its service. Weekend service will also be added on the P3 route.
The changes in route miles and hours on these five bus routes may impact residents and employees along this corridor. The following analyses summarize the potential impacts to those residing in these locations and recommend changes to coincide with these major service changes to mitigate any potential for negative impacts to riders.
61D - Murray
The 61D inbound will serve the Fifth Avenue at Chesterfield Street bus stop, turn left onto Craft Avenue, left onto Forbes, and begin its outbound routing at the Forbes Avenue at Craft Avenue bus stop.
71A - Negley
The 71A inbound will serve the Fifth Avenue at Chesterfield Road bus stop, turn left onto Craft Avenue, turn left again onto Forbes Avenue, and begin its outbound routing at the Forbes Ave at Craft Avenue far side bus stop. It will serve bus stops along Forbes Avenue before turning left onto Bellefield Avenue and right onto Fifth Avenue to continue its normal outbound route beginning at Fifth Avenue at Bellefield Avenue.
71C - Point Breeze
The 71C inbound will serve the Fifth Avenue at Chesterfield Road bus stop, turn left onto Craft Avenue, turn left again onto Forbes Avenue, and begin its outbound routing at the Forbes Ave at Craft Avenue far side bus stop. It will serve bus stops along Forbes Avenue before turning left onto Bellefield Avenue and right onto Fifth Avenue to continue its normal outbound route beginning at Fifth Avenue at Bellefield Avenue.
71D - Hamilton
The 71D inbound will serve the Fifth Avenue at Chesterfield Street bus stop, turn left onto Craft Avenue, left onto Forbes, and begin its outbound routing at the Forbes Avenue at Craft Avenue bus stop.
P3 - East Busway-Oakland
The P3-East Busway-Oakland will have two routing changes:
The P3-East Busway-Oakland outbound will terminate at Wilkinsburg Station and will no longer serve Hamnett, Rosslyn, or Swissvale Stations on the East Busway.
The P3-East Busway-Oakland inbound will continue to Uptown and Downtown via Fifth Avenue. In downtown Pittsburgh, it will turn right onto Liberty Avenue, right onto Sixth Avenue, left onto Forbes Avenue, and continue outbound on Forbes Avenue through downtown Pittsburgh, Uptown, and Oakland. In Oakland, it will turn left onto Bellefield Avenue and right onto Fifth Avenue to continue its outbound trip.
The P3-East Busway-Oakland will operate 30-minute service on Saturdays and Sundays. On Saturdays, the P3 will operate from approximately 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. On Sundays, it will operate from approximately 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The Downtown-Uptown-Oakland Bus Rapid Transit project proposes to improve the transit amenity and reliability experience for all users of the corridor between the three neighborhood areas in the City of Pittsburgh. Five bus routes, the 61A, 61B, 61C, 71B, and P3 will become “BRT” routes, and provide upgraded service from Oakland heading west to Downtown Pittsburgh. However, even users of the non-BRT routes, which include routes 61D, 71A, 71C and 71D with shortened service, will experience the benefits of the BRT amenities in Oakland. In this area, all bus riders will experience upgraded stations with amenities, dedicated bus lanes, and transit signal priority. East of the Oakland area, these routes will continue to have the benefit of more reliable service by providing reliability improvements in Oakland.
While these BRT improvements will bring benefits to the community, PRT is proposing to make these reductions before the improvements are fully built to optimize vehicle and staff hours during construction and in an environment where PRT is very short-staffed for bus operators and is struggling to maintain 100% of scheduled service. Therefore, PRT also has a proposed list of service improvements to implement concurrently with the BRT service changes that will mitigate harm to riders in the interim period before the BRT project is fully realized.
Addition of the P3 into Uptown and Downtown and the addition of weekend service on the P3 – this service addition will assist with the loss of service from the four routes by adding this route to the corridor. This route has direct overlaps most notably with the 71D route and with parts of the outer ends of the 61A and 61B routes. It will operate 7 days a week.
The five BRT routes (61ABC, 71B, P3) will directly serve 87% of the approximately 22,400 transit riders along the nine 61ABCD, 71ABCD, and P3 corridors (this is 2022 data; prior to the pandemic, it was 88% of 48,900 riders). For the 13% of riders not served directly at their stop by a BRT route, they will continue to have the same service levels through Oakland and will have reduced frequency of a one seat ride all the way to the Uptown and Downtown neighborhoods (but will retain similarly frequency via a one or two seat ride). Of these individuals, approximately 18% travel beyond Robinson Street in Oakland to either Uptown or Downtown. PRT analyzed the origin-destination data for these riders to detail locations where additional direct Downtown trips might be needed to minimize any impacts to these individuals. The frequency of all 61 and 71 series routes is proposed to be relatively unchanged once the BRT project is complete.
The most notable areas affecting riders who might no longer have a one seat ride include:
|Micro-corridor||Neighborhood(s)||Weekday Boardings (2022) with alighting post (west of) Robinson Street||Routes still serving Downtown in direct (one-seat) trip||Reduction in Direct (one-seat) Downtown Trip||Proposed Schedule Change to Accommodate Riders with a one-seat ride|
|Centre Avenue (Craig to Aiken)||Bloomfield, Shadyside||67||82, 86 (77)||65%||Add 8 additional trips on the 82 Lincoln between 7-9am and at 4pm to accommodate additional riders going Downtown.|
|Negley Avenue (Centre to Bryant)||East Liberty, Friendship, Garfield, Highland Park||52||77, 87||76%||Add 2 additional trips on the 87 Friendship during the 7am hour to accommodate additional riders going downtown.|
|Hamilton Avenue (Washington to Wood)||Homewood South||15||None (P1/2, 77, 86 within 5-minute walk from all stops)||100%||No proposed changes.|
The BRT service reductions on the 61D and 71A/C/D are expected to save approximately 500 vehicle hours per week. PRT plans to apply the hours saved across four priorities, listed below.
Add necessary frequency to the 82 Lincoln and to the 87 Friendship routes as noted in the chart above to directly mitigate loss of direct Downtown connections along micro-corridors of the 61D, 71A, 71C, 71D routes.
- - Estimate of added weekly hours: About 50
Improve reliability system-wide by restocking the extra board: PRT currently has more scheduled service than it has operators available. This results in over 2% of scheduled trips being cancelled every day due to lack of operator availability. PRT’s goal is to restock the extra board (a reserve pool of operators available to fill in where needed) to ultimately reduce cancelled trips to less than 1% of total service.
- - Estimate of added weekly hours: up to 275 to reduce OS by 1%
Restore November 2020 Pandemic-Related Reductions which had a disproportionate burden finding in Title VI where appropriate: In November 2020, PRT made several reductions in commuter service due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Five of these routes were shown to have a disproportionate burden or disparate impact on minority or low-income populations. Restoring some service back to routes that had a disproportionate burden will help mitigate impacts to low-income communities, albeit not the same communities as those impacted by this change:
- - Route 58-Greenfield - recommend moving to 30-minute service at peak hours, adding 4 additional round trips to total about 30 hours
- - Route 65-Squirrel Hill - not recommended for additions, as ridership remains down 80% from prepandemic levels and frequent service from Squirrel Hill to Oakland and Downtown exists on other routes.
- - Route P7-McKeesport Flyer – recommend adding one additional AM and two PM trips to total 13 hours
- - Estimate of added weekly hours from November 2020 changes: About 65
Restore 2022 reductions: In 2022, PRT made several service reductions on low-performing routes due to operator shortages. While none of these reductions were found to have a disparate burden, some of these routes have significant populations of low-income riders who depend on the service. A third priority for PRT would be to use some of the saved hours to add back some of the reduced service, focusing on routes that have maintained ridership and serve primarily low-income riders.
- - Staff will prioritize these changes based on ridership and low income and/or minority race status in December 2022 and present its findings publicly. This will give more time for ridership changes and reactions to 2022 service changes to be analyzed.
- - Potential weekly hours available to put back service: 80+
New service additions and extensions: Finally, PRT plans to use any remaining available service hours to develop new additions to frequency and/or extensions. These could include more frequency on routes experiencing crowding, extending routes to connect riders to job and shopping centers, or increasing the span of service for routes with high late night or early morning ridership.
The changes to the system for the Downtown-Uptown-Oakland Bus Rapid Transit Project will provide positive reliability, safety, and amenity improvements for all users in this heavily transit-focused corridor. While these improvements are positive ones, the reductions in service to go along with these improvements need to be made in advance of the full project’s construction completion to balance the needs of the current system with the workforce shortages that PRT continues to experience because of the ongoing pandemic and its effects on our community. Focusing the hours from the reductions on improving reliability for all system users and then toward reestablishing lost service, particularly on low-income and minority race and ethnicity routes, will ensure that PRT properly mitigates any negative impacts from these changes.
ACCESS paratransit vehicles will be permitted to use the bus-only lanes throughout the project.
ACCESS drivers will be encouraged to pick up and drop off outside of the transit only lanes, whenever possible, to minimize disruption to BRT service.