Pittsburgh transit advocates creating graphic novels to display an ideal public transit future | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh transit advocates creating graphic novels to display an ideal public transit future

click to enlarge Pittsburghers for Public Transit meeting on March 11 in Downtown - CP PHOTO: RYAN DETO
CP photo: Ryan Deto
Pittsburghers for Public Transit meeting on March 11 in Downtown
Public transit in Pittsburgh, while relatively good compared to many U.S. cities, still leaves a lot to be desired. Coverage outside to commute times can be sparse. Getting to destinations not connected to Downtown can be difficult. Late-night service isn’t widely available.

But the local transit advocacy group Pittsburghers for Public Transit believes doesn’t have to stay this way. Last week, the group held a meeting to start a project that would help the region envision an ideal public-transit future.

On March 11, PPT brought together graphic designers, artists, comic creators, and volunteers to brainstorm ideas for the organization’s upcoming graphic novel series.

PPT director Laura Wiens asked the group of about 40 to envision what kind public-transit policies would be transformative for Pittsburgh. She said the ideas don’t have to just focus on lowering fares, which PPT has been campaigning on, but on anything that can vastly improve the region’s public transit.

In attendance was Marcel Walker, local renowned cartoonist and board president of the ToonSeum, who said he was happy to lend his support in creating a graphic novel about public transit.

“My life is all about comics,” said Walker. “Well, comics and riding buses.”

PPT expects the first graphic novel to be published in about one or two months, and then will publish a new graphic novel in the series every quarter. About 20 different artists are working on the series, and the whole project will culminate with a big art show, possibly coinciding with First Fridays in Bloomfield/Garfield.
At the March 11 meeting, volunteers and artists discussed real-life personal stories of using public transit, as well as hypothetical policies of what would make the Pittsburgh transit system better. Participants what it would be like to have free transit fares in Pittsburgh, and a system that provides good access to all area residents.

Other topics included better and more infrastructure to purchase and reload Connect Cards; improved English as Second Language services, and eliminated schedules, as buses and light-rails would just arrive at high frequency so riders wouldn’t have to think about time tables.

Josh Malloy of PPT spoke to the group about other campaigns and shared some successes, like how Port Authority of Allegheny County dropped its proposal to use armed-police officers to enforce light-rail fares, and how Port Authority altered its Bus Rapid Transit proposal to main Mon Valley service.

He said this brings him hope that the graphic novel series can have an impact on Pittsburgh-area officials’ decisions regarding the future of the region’s public transit.

“Please imagine what this world would be like if fares were not obstacles to riding public transit,” said Malloy. “Can you imagine what it would look like in a Utopian future?”

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