Bus rider Derek Gordon displays one of the postcards being distributed by Pittsburghers for Public Transit. (Submitted photo courtesy Pittsburghers for Public Transit.)
Two community groups will hold a rally Friday morning in Pittsburgh to protest possible cuts to buses serving McKeesport, Duquesne, Braddock and Swissvale.
The protest, being organized by Pittsburghers for Public Transit and Just Harvest, will urge the board of directors of Port Authority of Allegheny County to amend plans for its proposed Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, loop so that the project doesn't unfairly burden riders of the 61A, 61B and 61C buses, said Laura Wiens, director of the transit group.
The planned BRT loop would connect downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland with more frequent buses using dedicated bus lanes.
Under the proposal, 61-route buses that currently connect McKeesport, Braddock and Swissvale with downtown Pittsburgh would terminate in Oakland, where passengers would have to transfer to a BRT bus to continue their trip.
Port Authority officials have said the changes are necessary to improve service and reduce congestion on buses serving the East End of Pittsburgh.
Those buses, according to Port Authority, are frequently overcrowded and late, and are among the slowest routes in the entire county-wide transit system.
As part of the BRT project, the frequency of 61-route buses into the Mon Valley would be reduced up to 45 percent, officials have said.
Additional information about the BRT loop is available on the Port Authority's website.
But PPT --- a project of Pittsburgh's non-profit Thomas Merton Center --- and others have said the changes would benefit Pittsburgh passengers at the expense of residents in the Mon Valley and east suburbs.
"Many current Mon Valley riders don't own cars and the changes would make it harder to get to work and to access food, health care and all other basic needs," Wiens said in a prepared statement.
At a hearing in October at the Palisades ballroom, members of the audience from McKeesport, Port Vue, Liberty and Glassport spoke in nearly unanimous opposition to the proposed changes.
The protest will begin at 8:45 a.m. with a press conference near the Wood Street light-rail station at the corner of Wood Street and Sixth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, Wiens said.
At 9:30, protesters will walk to the Port Authority's offices in the Heinz 57 Center near Mellon Square to attend the agency's regularly scheduled board meeting and speak out against the changes.
PPT is encouraging riders of the 61 routes to fill out postcards about how the changes will affect them, and mail them to the Port Authority board. Additional information can be found on PPT's website.
Originally published January 23, 2018.