By Deandra Williamson
Point Park News Service
High bus fare prices, bus cuts, and late buses are Lynn Luster’s reasons for being unsatisfied with the bus service.
Marissa Diamond is also unsatisfied with the bus service and she wants the bus fare to go back to $2.25.
Since the bus cuts, there are not many buses going to the Hill District, which has caused a lot of people, especially the elderly, to have to walk to another bus stop, according to Christian Goins, a resident of the Hill District.
Port Authority of Allegheny County officials staged a recent community meeting at the Elsie H. Hillman Auditorium to discuss the proposed long term growth of the bus system, but found a bastion of complaints regarding service cuts brought on by financial woes over the past five years.
Since some of the bus routes were cut, Goins said that he always hears people saying, “I can’t get here and I can’t get there, which street does that bus go on?”
The meeting was called to discuss the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, designed for the Downtown-Oakland-East End Corridor, which would be implemented within the next three to four years and will provide faster, more reliable, and more evenly spaced transit service within the Corridor. It will also reduce the number of automobile trips and attract new economic growth.
“We’re not just here to tell you about the project, but we are here to learn from you how we can make the project work better,” Port Authority official Darryl Philips said.
Before the Port Authority’s presentation about BRT was finished, the Hill District residents started complaining and saying that they did not come to the meeting to hear about the BRT, which is a long term issue. They said that there are short term issues that need to be addressed now.
According to Goins, the bus service is not like it used to be because there was a time when several buses would go to the Hill District and now there are less.
Sometimes Goins’ bus is late and he has to walk Downtown to work, so he suggested that the Port Authority should pick up on the routes.
According to Goins, after 4 p.m. the buses are so packed that the bus drivers are unable to pick up the people waiting at the bus stop and they are often told to catch the next bus.
Luster, a student at Community College of Allegheny County, is not only unsatisfied with the bus service, but she is also unsatisfied with the elected officials because she thinks they are not working to help the people.
“They’re supposed to work for the benefit of the people who elected them and clearly with this Port Authority, they are not doing that,” she said.
Luster also complained that the public is not given enough notice when there is a detour and this affects their commute on the bus.
Diamond, a cashier at PNC Park, complained that the bus transfers are too expensive and she has to pay $3.50 for her fare when she transfers buses.
After expressing their problems and concerns about the bus service in the Hill District, the residents were looking for answers from the Port Authority.
Port Authority officials told the residents that they will come back at another meeting to discuss their short term issues.
An upset Hill District resident told Port Authority officials that every time there is a meeting, the Port Authority always tell them that they could come back at another meeting to discuss the issues, but nothing is never done.
“The public is crying to you consistently about the lack of getting up and down the hill,” Geneva Jackson said.
Jackson told Port Authority officials that she and the residents realize that the BRT project is futuristic but they are really concerned about the issues they are faced with today.
“We asked you that on numerous occasions and it seems that we’re still invisible and you move forward with the Bus Rapid Transit and we just want to know what about today,” Jackson said.
Assistant General Manager of the Port Authority Wendy Stern, advised the residents to fill out a survey form and provide them with some suggestions so that they will be able to address specific issues at the next meeting.
The Port Authority has the ability to look at the data that is collected on the buses, which shows how many people get on the buses, how many people get off and whether the bus is on time or late. Collecting data from the Hill District residents as to how the services can be improved is a part of the Port Authority’s job.
“I really appreciate what you are telling us,” Stern said.
The Port Authority does not have the money right now to add many services but some restructuring can be done so that some of the needs of the residents are met, which supports the data provided.
“I think that what our challenge is going to be is within the existing resources, seeing how we can better structure what we have there today to address some of the needs,” Stern said.
Jackson told Port Authority officials that filling out surveys and forms is frustrating because the majority of the residents are elderly and over the age of 60.
The BRT project would examine ways to enhance the connections between the Hill District, Downtown and Oakland. It will also restore connections between the Hill District and Uptown. The connections may include enhancements to the 81 Oak Hill and 83 Webster bus routes and the 82 Lincoln route would be rerouted to connect to Uptown via Dinwiddie Street.
Also a new loop service connecting the Hill District to Uptown may be created and transit service serving the Hill District would connect directly to BRT in Downtown and Oakland.
Bus fares will remain the same under the BRT project and the project will receive federal funding, state funding, county funding and contribution from private sectors.
Bus Rapid Transit community meetings were also held in Oakland, East End and Uptown.
Not only Hill District residents, but other residents throughout Pittsburgh are dissatisfied with the bus services since the cuts were made.
Eric Lester dislikes how the night bus services were cut because people have to go to work and if they get off at 11 p.m. or 1 a.m. they are unable to get the bus home.
“This is supposed to be a public service to serve the people who need to get back and forth,” Lester said.
He suggested that the Port Authority should add more buses to the routes and bring back the all-night service.
According to Clifford Owens, the Port Authority raised the cost of the bus fare but limited the services. He thinks everyone should boycott the buses, so the Port Authority would understand how the public feels about their service.
“I think they need to get to the table and come up with a better plan than what is on the agenda right now,” Owens said.
Christina Wakefield explained how the bus drivers are rude to her when she gets on the bus with her seven children.
Getting on the bus with seven children and strollers can take some time and the bus drivers are always telling her to hurry up, according to Wakefield.
“They are always in a hurry and I can’t get on very fast because I’m trying to help my children get on the bus,” Wakefield said.
She also complained that the bus service is terrible because the buses are late and they never follow the schedule.
“That makes me very unsatisfied because if you’re on a schedule, you need to keep with that schedule,” Wakefield said.
Balwin resident, Victor Jolo, complained that in a part of the area where he lives the time frame between each bus is one hour and this always works against him because he works Downtown.
In addition to that, there are no buses on Sundays and he and other residents works on Sundays.
“This is creating a problem…,” Jolo said.