Port Authority gets federal money to look at extending East Busway | Pittsburgh City Paper

Port Authority gets federal money to look at extending East Busway

click to enlarge Port Authority gets federal money to look at extending East Busway
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
The East Busway in East Liberty
The Federal Transit Administration has awarded the Port Authority of Allegheny County $565,500 to study Transit Oriented Development along a possible extension of the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway.

Transit-Oriented Development, or TOD, means the creation of dense housing and amenities within walking distance of high-quality transit.

“Port Authority will match the grant with $240,000 of our own money, making it a roughly $800,000 planning project,” Port Authority spokesperson Adam Brandolph tells Pittsburgh City Paper in an email, “which will explore the potential for equitable transit-oriented development and community connectivity in the Swissvale-Rankin-Braddock-North Braddock corridor with a focus on expanding economic opportunity for residents, rebuilding blighted neighborhoods, creating safer transportation infrastructure, and growing transit ridership.”

Port Authority named extending the busway one of its top priorities in its long-range plan, NEXTransit.

Laura Chu Wiens, Executive Director of transit access advocacy organization Pittsburghers for Public Transit, says transit riders in the Mon Valley have been advocating for an extension of the East Busway for many years. “Community members really stood up to push this into Port Authority’s priorities,” Wiens tells Pittsburgh City Paper.

Transit ridership in Swissvale, Rankin, Braddock, and nearby municipalities is high and has remained high throughout the pandemic, despite the Mon Valley’s poor transit access, Wiens says.

“Five of the municipalities with the highest transit usage in all of Pennsylvania are within [the Swissvale-Rankin-Braddock-North Braddock] corridor,” reads PPT’s Beyond the East Busway Policy Brief, which discusses the organization’s recommendations for on-street bus rapid transit extension of the East Busway.

Brandolph says Port Authority’s study will consider both “a full extension of the East Busway and an extension of the busway via on-street Bus Rapid Transit (it’s going to look at both because which way the busway is extended has not yet been decided).”

Although Port Authority has eyed the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks as a possible route for the busway extension for many years, Wiens says she and community leaders from Braddock and East Pittsburgh are hopeful that the upcoming study process will allow for further community input about possible alignments and routes.

“We’d like to thank representatives Doyle and Lamb for their support of this project,” Brandolph says. “This is an important corridor in our region, and we are looking forward to realizing economic expansion, rebuilding blighted communities, creating safer transportation infrastructure, and growing ridership.”