One of the most frustrating commutes in the region can be the stop-and-start trip through Oakland to Downtown Pittsburgh, and one feature of the Port Authority's overhaul would offer a welcome alternative.
The Better Bus plan, approved last month when the system's board adopted wide-ranging service changes and raised fares, covers nine routes that would offer express service, operating along the Fifth Avenue corridor. Patrons would pay their fares at stations that also would display the next arrival time for buses. The combination of having riders pay before they board the buses and operating them on a right-of-way with infrequent stops creates a bus trip that seems more like light-rail travel.
The transformation would take years, but an infusion of federal economic stimulus dollars could move it along much faster.
In its application to the U.S. Transportation Department for $80.7 million, the Port Authority argues that the project goes beyond improving transit: It would stimulate development at the far ends of the bus routes -- Wilkinsburg, Braddock, McKeesport, other eastern communities and the Pittsburgh International Airport to the west -- and it would make property along the 1.5-mile express lanes through the Hill District and Uptown more desirable for development.
A similar, 6.8-mile bus line in Cleveland has cut the length of ride times, boosted ridership nearly 50 percent and sparked $4 billion in investment in the corridor, something Allegheny County hopes to copy, and the sooner the better.
Nearly 1,400 applications have been filed for a share of $57 billion in highway, bridge and transit projects. The region's congressional delegation can help by lobbying the Obama administration on behalf of the Port Authority's Better Bus project.