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Pittsburgh bus riders celebrate expanded service

| Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, 9:42 a.m.
Dietra Hawkins, 52, of Groveton Village, claps her hands as she celebrates new Port Authority bus routes coming from her neighborhood and Baldwin on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015 in Downtown. Also celebrating with her is Darnell Jones (right), 42, of Coraopolis. 'It was a wonderful feeling knowing now I can get from point A to point B on my own,' said Hawkins, who rode the #20 bus in to town for the celebration. 'There's no words for that feeling.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Dietra Hawkins, 52, of Groveton Village, claps her hands as she celebrates new Port Authority bus routes coming from her neighborhood and Baldwin on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015 in Downtown. Also celebrating with her is Darnell Jones (right), 42, of Coraopolis. 'It was a wonderful feeling knowing now I can get from point A to point B on my own,' said Hawkins, who rode the #20 bus in to town for the celebration. 'There's no words for that feeling.'
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) organizer Mike Harms, 48, of Baldwin celebrates new Port Authority bus routes coming from his neighborhood and Groveton Village on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015 in Downtown. Pittsburghers for Public Transit held the rally to celebrate the new lines, with residents from both towns riding into Downtown to join together.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) organizer Mike Harms, 48, of Baldwin celebrates new Port Authority bus routes coming from his neighborhood and Groveton Village on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015 in Downtown. Pittsburghers for Public Transit held the rally to celebrate the new lines, with residents from both towns riding into Downtown to join together.

Dietra Hawkins no longer will have to call neighbors for rides. She won't have to walk a mile along the shoulder of Route 51 to get from the bus stop to her home in Groveton Village.

With a bus route extension to the housing complex available on the 20 Kennedy, Hawkins can catch the bus steps from her front door.

“This will change my life, literally,” said Hawkins, 52, who works in medical billing. “It's a weight off my shoulders.”

Hawkins and about four dozen bus riders headed Downtown on Wednesday to celebrate the first week of service to Baldwin Borough along Churchview Avenue and to Groveton Village, a public housing complex in Robinson.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit held a rally on Wood Street, where riders thanked the advocacy group and Port Authority of Allegheny County for extending bus lines into their communities.

Port Authority on Sunday began its schedule that extended four routes — the 44 Knoxville through Baldwin, the 20 Kennedy to Groveton Village, the 91 Butler Street route through RIDC Park in O'Hara and the 56 Lincoln Place to Penn State's Greater Allegheny campus in McKeesport.

The extensions cost $1.4 million a year. They were implemented as part of this year's budget, prompted by rallies, public testimony at board meetings and petition drives from Pittsburghers for Public Transit, members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 and residents in affected neighborhoods.

Those who celebrated the change cheered, sipped coffee, blew bubbles and chanted in concert to rallying cries such as “Transit is a Human Right” — just as they chanted last September while marching through Baldwin to raise awareness of the lack of service in the area.

Audrey Jones, 50, of Groveton Village said the service means she and her son don't have to walk to Coraopolis to catch the bus, as they have for three years.

“It's a huge convenience,” she said.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit will turn its attention toward a fare policy discussion Port Authority's board members will begin this fall. Topics include whether to change rates, charge for ConnectCard cashless fare passes or alter the rates for fare zones across the network. At the rallies, Molly Nichols from Pittsburghers for Public Transit distributed fliers about proposals.

Laura Wiens, a coordinator with the group, encouraged riders to stay active with their advocacy and continue to push Port Authority for extensions to other areas that lack service such as Moon and Penn Hills.

“Bus lines are lifelines,” she said. “Without them we are very literally stranded.”

Melissa Daniels is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8511 or mdaniels@tribweb.com.

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