Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Why It Matters

21 Mar

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a high-quality bus-based system that delivers a higher quality, more attractive transit experience than typical bus operations. It does this via busways or dedicated lanes with train-like stations, off-board fare collection, high service frequency, and easily-recognized routing. Because it contains features similar to a light rail or metro system, BRT is much more reliable, convenient and faster than regular bus services. More on BRT can be found here.


Pittsburgh pioneered US BRT; this new system is a fully modern on-street and Busway design that creates the desperately needed quality transit linkage between Downtown and Oakland. It is integral to Uptown’s EcoInnovation District revitalization strategy which PCRG and its members support and helped craft. Utilizing the East Busway it also creates more reliable Oakland transit connections from Wilkinsburg, N. Pt. Breeze, East Liberty, and Shadyside and will get you there faster than driving.


The project has two major components:

  1. Capital improvements, which dramatically improve transit, biking and walking within the Oakland/Uptown Fifth/Forbes corridor while reducing private auto reliance.  The $195 million price tag you hear is almost completely for these infrastructure upgrades.
  2. Service alterations, which drastically reduce the frequency of the 61 and 71 series routes, terminate them in Oakland.  The P3 also shortens, ending at Wilkinsburg rather than Swissvale.  These proposed changes have caused a great deal of controversy, both in local media and within East End and Mon Valley communities.



Several organizations have raised flags about reduced service along the 61 and 71 series routes in Homewood, Wilkinsburg, Swissvale, Rankin, Braddock, Duquesne, and McKeesport.  We also have concerns about the reduced service as well as the increased costs that would potentially be incurred – via forced transfer – by our most vulnerable neighbors, for whom transit is almost literally a lifeline. PCRG does remain supportive of BRT — we feel that the capital project brings equity to Uptown, Oakland, and certain East Busway communities.  However, the entire system – capital project and service model – must improve access and mobility equity for our low/moderate income communities and communities of color.  We look forward to work the Port Authority and others may undertake to improve BRT’s service model.


For Further Reading:

The included images are from the Grand Rapids Silver Line in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Chris Sandvig

Regional Policy Director at Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG)
Chris works on regional and state issues impacting PCRG’s member communities and manages our GoBurgh program. He’s a long-time transit advocate, Morningside resident, and commutes to work via bike or bus almost every day. Prior to PCRG, Chris spent 9 years in corporate business development for industrial and commercial engineered HVAC systems. He holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from Penn State and a MS in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University, where he concentrated on urban and regional economic development and public finance.
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