Above is an example of Bus Rapid Transit in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Downtown-Oakland-East End corridor has plenty of public transportation, with more than a dozen routes traversing its streets daily.
But while the service in the corridor serving the region's two largest employment centers is plentiful, it isn't optimal. It's challenged by traffic, signal timing and other issues often resulting in “bunching” -- or several buses arriving at a stop at once -- and high demand, leading to overcrowding. (Pittsburgh Bus Bunching h/t Mark Egge)
Allegheny County and Port Authority leaders believe Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) could be one solution.
BRT, as its name implies, provides fast, frequent transit service along major corridors, sometimes using special buses, and offering upgraded amenities to provide frequent service and a better public transit experience.
While the goal of rapid transit, such as BRT and LRT (light rail transit), first and foremost is to improve the experience and usefulness of a transportation network for thousands, the outcome isn't just higher-quality transit; rapid transit can also impact quality of life.
Sure, the frequency, speed, and reliability of rapid transit can attract residents and jobs to communities. It can support the kind of walkable urban development that provides convenience and affordability of being able to access necessities without owning a car. But it can also attract investment in neighborhoods and raise property values.
In addition to Allegheny County, Port Authority has partnered with the City of Pittsburgh and the Urban Redevelopment Authority to ensure a strong community planning foundation for its transit efforts.
A significant way they have done this is by supporting the Uptown EcoInnovation District, a community-led vision for Uptown and West Oakland neighborhoods that includes resident-input on how high-capacity transit best serves the neighborhoods.
The Uptown EcoInnovation District, which is supported by an Federal Transit Administration pilot program grant for transit-oriented development planning, seeks to combine the “EcoDistrict” and “Innovation District” models - national concepts being applied in other cities - to create a holistic plan for the future of Uptown. Included in this comprehensive planning effort is a consideration of multimodal transportation, of which public transit is a component. Neighborhood residents have been instrumental in identifying where bus-only lanes (which would support BRT) could work on their streets.
By coalescing around this idea that the effort shouldn’t be just an opportunity for improved transit, but also one to implement the city’s Complete Streets policy, the BRT corridor will be designed with pedestrians and bicyclists in mind, as well as including those who ride a bus or drive a car.
In order to implement such a complex and intensive street redesign, funds will be needed for infrastructure improvements. That is why the project is following the prescribed process to be eligible for federal funding.
Now, the time is ripe for renewed attention to the technical aspects of the transit options.
To that end, Port Authority’s Board recently approved an agreement with CDM Smith, Inc. (CDMS) for project management and engineering services.
CDMS will be responsible for working with Port Authority’s other consultant on this project, Parsons Brinkerhoff, Inc. (PB), as well as consultants for the City of Pittsburgh, to complete all planning and engineering steps required by the FTA. These steps, including environmental review, community engagement, and engineering drawings, are required before the project can be considered for federal funding.
The purpose of the BRT planning study is to determine which combination of BRT features will facilitate the transit experience that’s desired in this corridor. It will also consider how transit options will support economic development and community revitalization within the communities.
As the consultants make their recommendations for what BRT may look like, the project will be brought back to the public for discussion. Speaking on behalf of our project partners, we at Port Authority are looking forward to the next steps, which will include additional community input.