The Port Authority Finally Knows Who’s Riding What, When and Where

Brent over at Peak Direction has awesomely pointed out that the study the Port Authority commissioned to analyze it’s routes has finally come out to the public, and it’s got a ton of great information inside. Some of the info the report contains provides general information about Port Authority routes, such as the fact that they’re too complicated, often too long, and some routes are just completely pointless. Check out his site for all of the links you’ll need to really get in depth with reading the report, but I thought I’d share some highlights that I found interesting as I read the report.

  • Some routes are just too long, and the suburbs are often wasting money. I’ve thought for awhile that the buses need to stay out of the suburbs. Suburbians choose to live in a world where a car is required. It’s a cold, lonely world where no one talks to each other, but them’s the breaks, kids. Keep the buses in the cities where they belong and the Port Authority will save themselves some much needed scratch.
  • Too many routes are duplicated. Think of how the 61s run into Squirrel Hill, or the 71s through Oakland/Shadyside. They often follow the same route, will often be trailing one another, and then all of a sudden if you miss them all coming through at once you won’t see another for 30 minutes.
  • Some routes are much more fiscally solvent than others. Some routes cost the Port Authority only $1.50 / passenger, while others cost $20 or more per passenger.

There are also individual documents for each route, so you can have a look at how your own route does, but I thought I’d make mention of some interesting finds on the three routes I used the most (living in Shadyside), the 500, 71C and 64A.

The 500 serves me for two reasons: access to the Zoo and Taza d’Oro as well as Oakland/Downtown and the Science Center on the North Side. Apparently this is a solidly performing route and I don’t doubt it, as it runs through some pretty great parts of the city. It does, however, have a ton of variants that make it unclear as to whether or not you’ll get a ride, say, all the way to the Zoo or not. According to the report, at one point in one variation of the route there are essentially 11 trips for 4 people, so that variation is empty more than 60% of the time!

I would basically just use the 71C as a convenient way to get to Oakland, when I didn’t feel like walking, or downtown. It runs down Ellsworth and was therefore more convenient to my lifestyle than the 500. The report claims that the 71C is also a very popular and efficient route, but some slight improvements like shortening the route at it’s ends and straightening it up a bit (so that people might have a 5 minute walk instead of serving 20 stops in a loop around a central location) would improve through ridership times. The report does suggest eliminating the route’s stretch through Oakland, which would apparently free up some seating on the route. I wonder, though, if this would also make the route less viable, which the report also suggests might happen.

The 64A is a great bus to get from East Liberty & Shadyside to Squirrel Hill, Greenfield and the Waterfront. The biggest suggestion that the report makes is to cut out the bit of the route where it loops around Shadyside to make a couple of stops at Giant Eagle Market District and Walnut Street. The report suggests that it should stop perhaps closer to the Giant Eagle in East Liberty (near Trader Joe’s) and make more of a straight dash through Shadyside. I agree, but not so much about stopping at Giant Eagle. There’s a big difference between the two Big Birds and to be honest, the one in Sliberty is kind of grotty.

All in all, it’s really great to see the report coming out. Here’s to hoping the Port Authority makes good use of it, and our millions of dollars in drinking money, to give us a better transit system.

Up Next: Making the Case for Amtrak