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Debra Green of Duquesne is a coordinating committee member with Pittsburghers for Public Transit. She rides public transportation every day. (Photo courtesy Pittsburghers for Public Transit)
A transit advocacy group has developed a unique new computerized tool that allows residents and bus riders to give their direct input into the planning of a campaign to extend the East Busway to the Mon Valley and the Eastern Suburbs.
“This would be an enormous, transformative improvement and change for our community,” said Laura Wiens, executive director of Pittsburghers for Public Transit, a non-profit organization.
The tool is now available online, and allows bus riders of the Mon Valley and the Eastern Suburbs to identify areas they believe are not given adequate service. It also allows riders to rank destinations in order of importance in their daily transit.
“We believe fundamentally that the riders, residents and people most affected by planning decisions are the ones best suited to create solutions for their communities,” Wiens said. “So, we created this tool with the help of Civic Mapper. It's the only one of its kind as far as we can tell, nationwide.”
Accessing the link takes users to a page featuring the tool and a story map that offers an in-depth look at the mission of the “Beyond the East Busway” campaign.
The tool will be available until the end of September, so residents will want to get involved and make their needs known before the survey concludes.
The survey results gathered from the tool will be used in a report and submitted to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission in hopes of attracting additional public funding support for the extension of the East Busway from Rankin.
“We have also created a paid organizing fellowship,” Wiens said. “There are eight people from the Mon Valley and the eastern suburbs that are going to be going out into the community to senior centers, health care facilities, employment centers (and) low income housing. (They will) help people, one-on-one, to use the tools to be able to say how they want their transit to be extended off the busway (and) how they can create this rapid transit corridor into the community.”
There are still positions available for the fellowship. Interested transit riders and involved community members can apply at PPT’s website.
Pittsburghers for Public Transit calls itself the only advocacy group in the area to work directly with local transit riders and workers to improve transit conditions.
The organization has led multiple successful campaigns to prevent service cuts and improve transit conditions in the area. Now, with their attention turned toward extending the East Busway, Wiens stresses the importance of routes other than just the 61 A-B-C bus routes, which connect downtown Pittsburgh to Braddock, Duquesne, Homestead and McKeesport via Oakland.
“It's going to be all the different routes that interact in that space and other future routes” that transit advocates believe should have better service, Wiens said.
Wiens and Pittsburghers for Public Transit argue that bus lines are lifelines and have devoted all of the organization’s time to improving the lives of transit riders in the community.
“What we want to see is the same benefits of the East Busway (extended into the Mon Valley). [We want] to have rapid and reliable service, like an express, rapid service corridor into the communities of the Mon Valley and the Eastern Suburbs, using existing streets as a resource,” said Wiens. “I think if you want your community to thrive, you need to have a way for people to get around.”
Christopher Baumann is a freelance writer from Gibsonia. This is his first story for Tube City Almanac. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published July 18, 2019.