PAT promises better overall service from new plan

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Last week, Port Authority of Allegheny County released the final draft proposal of the Transit Development Plan. Under the new plan, many areas will see a higher frequency of service and a more simplified system, with 73 percent of riders seeing a higher level of service overall.

“The first thing we want to emphasize is this is not a cut in service,” said Port Authority CEO Stephen Bland. “Most of the changes are eliminating overlap.”

Tied to the release of the new plan came the announcement of a fare increase set for January 2010. While most fares will see an increase, Port Authority will not increase the Zone 1 cash fare, which is currently $2, however the weekly pass will increase to $22 and the monthly to $80.

Implementation of the plan is set to begin in March 2010 and once it has been fully implemented, Bland expects a 10 percent increase in ridership. He also expects a $4 million revenue increase from the proposed fare increases. It will take two the three years to fully implement the changes, he said.

“Changes can start very quickly,” Bland said. “This plan would not affect our employment at all, but we might see a nominal increase.”

The Transit Development Plan is designed to address rider complaints that routes are long, service is infrequent, and the system is complicated. For these reasons a key component of the plan is the Rapid Bus system, which will run much like a subway system.

Rapid buses will run along busy transit corridors such as Oakland to Downtown and would therefore provide a high level of service to those traveling to and from the East End of Pittsburgh where there is a high volume of ridership. Overall, the Rapid Bus would help to reduce overcrowding of buses along popular routes.

“Where we’re seeing growth is more in our inside area,” Bland said. “Anything running out of the East Liberty division has seen healthy growth.”

Many of the stations along the Rapid Bus route will be redesigned to display real-time travel information. Service would be faster and more frequent but might require more transfers depending on a passenger’s destination.

Despite the areas where routes have been eliminated, 99.5 percent of riders will still have service. The .4 percent who won’t equals approximately 400 to 500 people.

Even though this has been the number one concern for the public, Bland said most people would be able to find an alternate route as only 11 of the routes have been eliminated completely and those are in the outlying areas.

“Those are the folks we need to spend the most time with. One of the things we’re encouraging is that people get to know the changes,” Bland said. “This time around we’re not reducing service and we have better data. “

Other changes will include a renaming and renumbering of bus routes, as well as the eventual installment of a Smart Card system. The Smart Card, which would go into affect in a year and a half, would mirror similar systems in both Washington D.C. and New York City.

The new plan is the result of the most comprehensive study Port Authority has done in the 50 years since it began.

The public comment process will continue through the end September and there will be a public hearing on Sept. 15. For more information on the changes and to find specific information on how your route will be affected, visit tdp.portauthority.org.

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