International transportation group gives Pittsburgh's East Busway bronze medal

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Port Authority's busways earned international recognition today from a company that evaluates and rates buses-only corridors around the globe.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, which advises cities on development of Bus Rapid Transit systems, gave the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway a "bronze standard" rating, one of only four that it issued to U.S. systems.

Only Cleveland earned a higher ranking, silver, among American cities. The highest rating, gold, went to bus systems in China, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Mexico.

The institute decided to study and evaluate Bus Rapid Transit systems much in the way that buildings are evaluated for their environmental quality under the LEED program, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, CEO Walter Hook said at a ceremony at the East Busway this morning.

Annie Weinstock, the ITDP's U.S. director, said the East Busway earned points for having lanes dedicated to buses only, passing lanes at stations, multiple routes operating on it and a high frequency of service, particularly during peak times.

It could be improved with off-board fare collection, more weather-protected stations, platform-level boarding and bike lanes, bike sharing stations and pedestrian improvements, she said.

Pittsburgh has three of only seven true Bus Rapid Transit systems in the nation, she said. BRT systems are touted as having the benefits and convenience of rail systems at a fraction of the development costs.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald used the occasion to tout continuing plans for a Bus Rapid Transit corridor between Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland and further improvements to existing busways.

"We're not going to rest on our laurels," he said.

Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh and the head of a coalition working on the Downtown-Oakland project, said Bus Rapid Transit systems around the world have been "shown to be a catalyst for new development and redevelopment."

Mr. Fitzgerald said a local delegation will visit Cleveland's BRT system, the Health Line, in June. It has been credited with spurring $5.8 billion of development along a nine-mile corridor.

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Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868.


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