The Port Authority will have to maneuver carefully as it attempts to reroute Downtown buses, and trying to get too many of them out of the city's core could be a road to ruin.
At the behest of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh's mayor-apparent Bill Peduto, the Port Authority has hired consulting firm Parsons Brinkerhoff Inc. to draw up a plan to relocate routes and bus stops toward the edges of the Golden Triangle.
The general idea has some appeal: reduce Downtown congestion, thin sidewalk crowding, improve trip speeds and promote exercise. But a lot of caution flags already are flying.
Hundreds of buses funnel into the Golden Triangle on a typical workday. Move that many large vehicles at peak times onto just a handful of peripheral streets and a bus traffic jam seems inevitable. Buses shuttle 38.4 percent of the Downtown workforce, with another 15.6 percent utilizing the authority's T light-rail service. The prospect of alienating such a large share of Port Authority customers is risky. It would cripple the system if that many commuters abandoned buses and started driving instead. Congestion, already a problem on major roads and bridges, would only get worse.
The same businesses that have been unhappy about crowds of riders assembling at bus stops outside their doors might not like the inconvenience that would be heaped upon their employees and customers.
The shape of Downtown makes easy routing impossible, and there aren't many streets that could accommodate a steady stream of big vehicles. Grant Street is a main thoroughfare, for example, but the brick-paved boulevard featuring decorative island planters wasn't built to act as an exclusive bus corridor.
Another consideration is that the Port Authority must be able to accommodate riders with disabilities. It may need vans and other smaller shuttles to circulate through town to help those passengers.
All of these concerns must be addressed as the authority attempts to reconfigure its Downtown service. At this point, proceed with caution.