PAT route changes begin April 5

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Currently, if need be, anyone on the North Side could take the 16B Brighton to the Giant Eagle on Camp Horne Road. But in less than two weeks, that will change.

Not only will the 16B not go there, or to Ben Avon or Emsworth, it won’t be the 16B, it will be the 16 Brighton. All other 16 buses will not only have new routes, but new names.

The 16A Aliquippa becomes the 14 Ohio Valley and no longer serves Aliquippa, going only to Ambridge. And the 16D Manchester becomes the 18 Manchester. On this route, service will be discontinued on North Avenue, Fulton Street and Manhattan Street between Western and Pennsylvania avenues, and on Western between Allegheny and Manhattan. Service will also be discontinued to Woods Run/McClure Avenue, Brighton Heights and New Allegheny.

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EXACT CHANGE—As of April 4, the 16D bus will become the 18 Manchester and follow a different route. It is one of 60 route changes in the first phase of PAT’s multi-year Transit Development Plan.

In all, 60 routes are being changed, merged or discontinued in this first phase, said Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie. The complete list, with maps of the new routes, is available at http://www.portauthority.org.

“It will take a couple of years to go through all the route changes. Once people are familiar with the new routes, we’ll do the stop removal,” he said. “The next phase of route changes will go into effect in June, and we’ll keep going with changes approximately every three months.”

The changes are being phased in, Ritchie said, to allow for shifting drivers, and maintenance crews and facilities.

“If we did too many at once, we’d blow our entire budget,” he said.

The route changes are part of the authority’s overall Transit Development Plan that included a fare hike in January and will also include the addition of “smart” fare boxes on all buses. The boxes will be able to “read” paper money and coins to find counterfeits, and eventually will allow for the use of a card that can be swiped and automatically debited.

“We have them on a few buses now, but they are just collecting money like the old ones,” said Ritchie. “Once we’re sure they work, are collecting data, and we can download data, we’ll go with the smart card. But we’re not looking at that until early 2012.”

As for removing selected stops from bus routes, the transit plan calls for stops to be 700 feet apart, meaning most riders will walk another block or two. In more rural areas, the spacing may be greater. No stops will be removed that serve senior-living facilities.

Ultimately, the authority will reduce its routes from 186 to 122, while adding more than 500 weekday trips to the remaining routes. The plan would also reduce multiple route variations. For instance, the 36 different variations on the 46G Elizabeth-Clairton Express will be reduced to two, but those are not among the April 4 changes.

The authority also plans to color-code trolley routes and convert routes in some high traffic areas like the East End/Oakland/Downtown to “Rapid Bus” express routes with different colored busses. But those changes too, said Ritchie, are in the future.

“We’re doing the simplest things first,” he said.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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