This Big Bus Stop is Such a Big Deal: 6,000+ reasons why the Smithfield Superstop Matters

21 Jan

If you spend any time near Downtown Pittsburgh’s Sixth and Smithfield corner, you’ve probably noticed the sidewalk extension installed earlier this year.  What that’s all about was revealed this week, as Envision Downtown transformed it from simple bus stop into a full-on, street-level transit station. We couldn’t be happier.

Why?  For over 6,000 reasons, plus a couple more.  And all of them are huge.

Every weekday, 6,500 people access Downtown via this corner. Like everyone else, they’re going to work, to school, to shop, to appointments.  In other words, living their lives, spending money, and making Downtown more vibrant.  They’re spending their – and the City’s – money wisely by leaving their cars at home, or not even owning a car, and they deserve something better than a sign on a stick.

87 superstop

Photo Courtesy Pittsburghers for Public Transit

Improving transit’s visibility also improves Downtown quality of life – and, thereby business viability.  The new superstop could help improve pedestrian access through the area and to nearby businesses.  The design itself is also not only an accessibility improvement; it’s an image improvement.  It helps put its busiest route, the East Busway’s, more on par with the T that runs beneath it.  The East Busway is rapid transit, a major asset of the Port Authority system, and should be given the same respect as its light rail counterpart.  Investing in transit increases ridership and its attractiveness, unsnarls Pittsburgh streets, and improves the health and wealth of everyone – even if you don’t use it.

Most importantly for our neighborhoods, this sets in motion a change in thinking that we’ve been pushing for some time: improving transit’s viability and accessibility is not just the Port Authority’s responsibility.  We all own it, and we all must step up.  The streets, sidewalks, intersections, and traffic signals influence transit’s attractiveness at least as much as how Port Authority puts buses on those streets.  Mayor Peduto showed strong leadership by owning that responsibility and doing something about perhaps the most overlooked part of the trip – getting to and from, and waiting for, the bus.  Pittsburghers for Public Transit agree, saying, “(We) are thrilled about this new and improved bus stop. We commend Mayor Peduto, Envision Downtown, and everyone who helped to implement this ‘superstop.’ We look forward to more opportunities to improve the transit riding experience.”

If Pittsburgh is to continue to attract new talent, realize its carbon reduction and community revitalization goals, and keep itself affordable for its most vulnerable residents, more superstop-like projects are needed Downtown and in our neighborhoods, and this new way of thinking must become institutionalized.  Our neighborhoods were transit-oriented before it was chic, and their rebirths are as linked to making transit, walking, and biking safer and more appealing as any bricks-and-mortar redevelopment strategy. PCRG and its members are doing our part, advancing projects with similar transit accessibility improvement philosophies. We are also advocating for policy changes so that such future infrastructure projects simply become how we do business. We thank Mayor Peduto for his leadership and look forward to working with his administration, and all stakeholders, to make the Smithfield superstop the first of many transit street projects and a new way of thinking.

Connect on

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.
Connect on