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Bus-service upgrades in Penn Hills part of Port Authority budget proposal up for vote

Samson X Horne
| Thursday, May 26, 2016, 7:39 p.m.

Penn Hills residents may soon see an increase in bus service.

After considering 85 distinct requests from about 1,500 residents in its service area, Port Authority of Allegheny County board members proposed improving bus service for Penn Hills riders with more frequent stops and extended routes.

“We are glad there is this ... opportunity to expand transportation in Penn Hills because it is greatly needed. We see so many residents who struggle to get to appointments, jobs, training programs, and the store,” said Joyce Davis of the Lincoln Park Community Center and Penn Hills NAACP in a release about a news conference that the nonprofit Pittsburghers for Public Transit was to hold Downtown on Friday.

A Port Authority board budget vote later this month will determine if the proposal will be supported.

The budget proposal includes $378,000 to extend the 79 East Hills route to the Lincoln Loop via Mt. Carmel Road on weekdays and weekends, and $18,000 to offer more weekday service on the 79 East Hills route using the P17 Lincoln Park Flyer.

By extending the 79 to Mt. Carmel Road, the new route would, in effect, extend beyond the Giant Eagle on Verona Road while taking the P17's place between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays. The new route would also provide weekend service, and enable riders to connect to other routes.

“This creates an option throughout the day when (before) people only had the P17,” said Molly Nichols, community organizer for Pittsburghers for Public Transit. “If you're doing anything outside of normal commuting hours, it doesn't work.”

The P17 now operates from 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. going into town, and 3 to 6 p.m. leaving town.

James Hanna, who lives off of Mt. Carmel Road, gets off work in East Liberty at about 2 p.m.

He said that he has to wait “45 minutes to an hour” before the P17 service starts.

“It makes for a long day,” Hanna said, adding that his wife drives him to Pittsburgh's Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood to catch the 82 bus into work at 4:40 in the morning.

“The new proposal is creating a lot more opportunity to connect,” Nichols said. “Overall this is a win for Penn Hills residents who had (accessibility needs).”

Nichols, whose work involves advocating greater access to public transit for those who live in affordable housing areas, said the proposals demonstrate the need for reform in public transit across the region.

“We really commend the Port Authority for being so transparent and inclusive. This is an opportunity to realize how much need is (in Allegheny County),” she said.

Samson X Horne is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or shorne@tribweb.com.

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