Starting Sunday, nearly 430 stops will be eliminated from 36 Port Authority of Allegheny County bus routes in the first phase of a consolidation process approved four years ago. The stops being cut are those used the least.

The bulk of the changes are to longer routes, with the 2 Mount Royal most heavily affected with 36 stops eliminated. The 1 Freeport Road and the 59 Mon Valley both will see 33 stops cut. In addition to the cuts, 45 routes will see schedule and/or route adjustments also beginning June 16.

While most of these involve decreased frequency during off-peak hours, the 82 Lincoln, serving the Hill District will see increased frequency to its Sunday service. More significantly, based on community feedback, the 83 Webster will be renamed 83 Bedford Hill and will be rerouted to operate using Bedford Avenue between Devilliers Street and Herron Avenue.

Links to new schedules are available at http://www.portauthority.org under “Service Changes,” and stop eliminations can also be viewed using its interactive map. While the cuts should speed up service, authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said it might not be noticeable.

“Since these stops were typically unused or rarely used, and since the stops are distributed over many routes throughout the system, the impact on any one route will be small,” he said.

Other changes are in the works PAT as well, including a smart-phone app that can tell those waiting for a bus not only whether it is on schedule, but also how far away it is.

Using the same Global Positioning System technology implemented in Chicago in 2009, riders will be able to select a route, direction of travel and their stop and get the estimated arrival times for the next several buses, based on the vehicles’ actual current locations.

The authority will test it first on P1 East Busway All-Stops and P2 East Busway Short routes this summer, then expand it in stages across the whole fleet. It should be completely operational by the end of next year.

On the larger front, the state senate passed a transportation bill last week that would provide about $2.5 billion for roads, bridges and mass transit. The bulk of the funding would come via the elimination of a cap on the tax paid by gasoline wholesalers, with the remainder provided by increased license and registration fees and a surcharge on fines for moving traffic violations.

But the senate may have some other changes in store for the authority if President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, has his way. A bill that would change the PAT board from nine to 11 members—with only one appointed by the Allegheny County executive was voted out of committee June 10. Currently, all nine members are appointed by the county executive.

Scarnati notes that with 54 percent of the authority’s funding coming from the state, Harrisburg should have more say in its governance. Under his proposal the governor, senate president pro tem and minority leader, the house majority and minority leaders, the county executive, and the mayor of Pittsburgh would appoint one member each. Four others would be appointed jointly by the county’s two at-large council members.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he is not opposed to some members being state appointed, but also said the authority “Cannot be run by committee.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)


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