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Transit survey: 56 bus line largely unreliable in 2022 | The Homepage

By Ziggy Edwards

A light-skinned woman speaks at a microphone surrounded by people holding yellow and red signs. People stand and use wheelchairs. In the background a large door, part of an American flag and framed black and white photos are visible.
Laura Chu-Wiens speaks at the Pittsburghers for Public Transit press conference at Pittsburgh City-County Building on February 8. Screengrab

A new public transit report shows 38 out of 105 Pittsburgh Regional Transit routes were late more than half the time for at least one month in 2022. The number 56 bus line running through District 5 ranked among the least reliable.

Released at a press conference on February 8, “Representing Our Routes: The State of Public Transit and How the City Can Improve It” details Pittsburgh’s crisis of service reliability.

“I am a dedicated bus rider, but [Pittsburgh Regional Transit] is really making it hard to depend on their services,” a District 5 resident testified in the report.

Researchers for Pittsburghers for Public Transit and local transit riders said 2022 saw a big rise in chronically overcrowded, late and canceled buses and trolleys.

The number 56 bus route connects Lincoln Place, New Homestead, Hays, Glenwood, Hazelwood and Four Mile Run to Downtown. This vital transit route averaged only 58% reliability in 2022. For three months last year, it provided reliable service less than half the time. Both weekday and weekend service reliability declined between 2019 and 2022.

The report says the other seriously low-performing District 5 routes are 61A and 61B, connecting Braddock and Swissvale to Downtown. Both were reliable just over half the time last year and spent at least a third of 2022 delivering reliable service less than half the time.

The report sounds an ominous note about how poor service drives down ridership. “Transit must be reliable for it to be useful,” a key paragraph noted. “If riders have a 50% certainty or less that a bus or train will show up as scheduled, they will stop using the transit system.”

In the report, the advocacy group calls on Pittsburgh City Council to actively work on behalf of transit riders even though Pittsburgh Regional Transit is a county agency. The group points out that the city can build more bus shelters, fill in sidewalk gaps, improve sidewalk maintenance, build more affordable and transit-accessible housing, and take a more active role in advocating with PRT for better transit service.

“Forty-four percent of residents of District 5 are transit-dependent,” said District 5 Councilperson and PPT board member Barb Warwick at the press conference. “Public transit is a top priority for me because all residents must be able to connect to the jobs, education, healthy food, and healthcare they need. Public transit should be as dependable, accessible and safe as any other utility, like water or electricity.”

A majority of City Council members attended the press conference or sent a representative. Pittsburgh Deputy Mayor and Director Jake Pawlak also attended on behalf of Mayor Ed Gainey’s office.

After the press conference, riders met with city council members individually to go over the data in their respective districts and outline the steps elected officials can take to support high-quality transit that meets the needs of riders and businesses.

Ziggy Edwards is a resident of Four Mile Run, a volunteer with Pittsburghers for Public Transit and a regular contributor to The Homepage.

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