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Allegheny

Port Authority CEO rethinks scrapping Mon Valley service to Downtown Pittsburgh

| Wednesday, March 7, 2018, 12:27 p.m.
Alesia Castaphney of Duquesne holds a sign at a Port Authority of Allegheny County board meeting Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. She was with a group of riders who voiced concerns that bus service to the Mon Valley will be reduced once a Bus Rapid Transit system is built.
Theresa Clift | Tribune-Review
Alesia Castaphney of Duquesne holds a sign at a Port Authority of Allegheny County board meeting Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. She was with a group of riders who voiced concerns that bus service to the Mon Valley will be reduced once a Bus Rapid Transit system is built.

Port Authority of Allegheny County's new CEO is re-evaluating a plan to cut nonstop bus service from the Mon Valley to Downtown Pittsburgh as a rider-led effort to keep the service is gaining steam.

A petition asks Port Authority to reconsider the service cuts, which would take effect when the agency's planned Bus Rapid Transit system begins operating. It has been signed by the borough councils of Wilkinsburg, Rankin, East Pittsburgh, North Braddock and Swissvale and Duquesne City Council. The mayors of Homestead, Duquesne, North Braddock and Wilkinsburg also have signed on.

“For many of our residents in the East End and Mon Valley, the halving of their vital transit service frequency will be the difference between keeping and losing their jobs, and keeping or losing childcare,” the petition reads. “Riders in these communities are disproportionately transit-dependent, and many riders are the service workers and customers that are the economic engines of Pittsburgh's largest employers.”

The group Pittsburghers for Public Transit has organized rallies and urged people to attend Port Authority meetings to share their concerns since May. It turned to Allegheny County Council this week for help. About 15 people made public comments about the proposed service cuts at a county council meeting Tuesday night.

“It will negatively impact my community. In fact, it will cripple it,” Duquesne Mayor Nickole Nesby told council members.

No one on the council responded publicly to the concerns, but they spoke with some of the speakers afterward, said Laura Wiens, director of Pittsburghers for Public Transit.

“It seemed like they were learning about the proposed service cuts for the first time, and many of them took notes,” Wiens said.

The group also asked county council for a public hearing on the issue and is awaiting an official response, Wiens said.

The cuts would occur in 2021, when the authority's planned $195.5 million Bus Rapid Transit system is scheduled to begin providing express bus service between the city's Downtown and Oakland neighborhoods in dedicated lanes along Fifth and Forbes avenues.

Under the current BRT plan, bus routes 71A, B and D and routes 61A, B and C that serve the Mon Valley would no longer travel directly Downtown.

Port Authority CEO Katharine Eagan Kelleman, who began leading the agency in January, is working with a consultant to determine whether the authority can tweak its application to the U.S. Federal Transit Administration to maintain the nonstop service from the Mon Valley.

“Based on discussions with state Rep. Paul Costa, Sen. Jim Brewster, Rep. Austin Davis and Allegheny County, I've asked Port Authority staff to find options that would not have as great of an impact on those communities. We intend to make a decision soon and hope to present a revised service plan to residents and riders in community meetings,” Kelleman said in a statement.

Port Authority plans to hold additional public meetings on the topic in the Mon Valley, agency spokesman Adam Brandolph said. The last such meetings occurred before Kelleman took the helm.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, tclift@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tclift.

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