A transit advisory group will conduct four public meetings during the next two weeks on proposed rapid bus service that could shorten commute times and spur development between Downtown and Oakland.
They're the first meetings to look at specific neighborhoods and possible routes, said Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh. His is one of more than 30 community groups that urged Port Authority to investigate so-called bus rapid transit service between the commercial and cultural centers.
Meetings are planned at the Hill House Kaufman Center Auditorium, 1825 Centre Avenue, Hill District, from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday; Rangos Ballroom 3 in the Carnegie Mellon University Student Center, 5032 Forbes Ave., Oakland, from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday; the East Liberty Presbyterian Church social hall, 116 Highland Ave., from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday; and UPMC Mercy's St. Ferdinand Clark Auditorium, 1400 Locust St., Building D, 2nd Floor, Uptown, from 6 to 8 p.m. May 8.
The bus service, also known as BRT, resembles light rail, with higher frequency of service, fewer stops and, in some cities, buses that look like trains or trolleys, but the service generally is cheaper to develop and maintain. It could feature bus-only lanes or traffic signals that give BRT buses priority over other traffic which, along with fewer stops, could reduce transit times.
Port Authority is spending $1 million on a BRT study, with a federal grant covering about 80 percent and Allegheny County paying the rest.
It's unknown how much it would cost to develop a system, though high-end BRT systems across the country have run up to $40 million per mile to develop. Cleveland opened a $200 million BRT system four years ago.
Gould conceded that Port Authority's financial problems — it projects a $64 million deficit for next fiscal year — would likely prevent it from pursuing such a high-end project, but he noted that a BRT system "could be developed incrementally and phased in and paid for in pieces." Gould added the service could boost ridership, generating revenue that could help improve overall transit service.