Megabus back at Pittsburgh convention center, for now

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The new signs were up. The information on Megabus' website had been changed to show the discount carrier's new Pittsburgh stop, in Gateway Center. The change was to take effect Monday.

Problem is, no one got the blessing of Gateway Center's owners, who weren't thrilled to read in the newspaper that they were going to host a curbside bus depot.

After a threat of legal action, city officials decided this week to cancel the move to Gateway and keep the Megabus stop where it has been since the company started service here in 2010 -- on 10th Street under the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

It will stay there "for the foreseeable future" while city and company officials decide on a new site, said Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

She said she expected a shift to come later this summer. "They will not be staying [permanently] at the convention center."

Debra Donley, general manager of Hertz Gateway Center, the property owner, issued a statement Wednesday thanking city officials for changing their minds.

"We recently learned from media reports that Gateway Center was a potential site for the relocation of the Megabus Pittsburgh hub. In response, we expressed our concerns to City of Pittsburgh officials and appreciate the city's efforts in addressing our concerns. We were told [Tuesday] by the city that Gateway Center is no longer a potential location for the Megabus hub."

The city had hoped to put the stop in front of Two Gateway Center on Penn Avenue Extension, which is near the Port Authority's new Gateway Station, bus routes and several restaurants. Three signs had been put up there.

In a Friday letter to city Solicitor Daniel Regan, Hertz Gateway Center's attorney, Blaine Lamperski, said placement of the stop there would amount to a seizure of private property. "As a for-profit business, it is Megabus' responsibility to locate and pay for an appropriate bus depot elsewhere in the city without resort to having the city infringe upon and take the property of a private property owner," he wrote.

While the sidewalk and street are public property, Ms. Doven said neither the city nor the bus operator was inclined to fight.

She said city and company officials were looking into a site near the First Avenue Garage, which, like Gateway Center, would give riders a connection to the T.

Megabus, which has grown rapidly across the U.S. by offering fares as low as $1 and comfortable double-decker buses, has encountered similar difficulties elsewhere. It typically operates at curbside rather than paying for terminal space, but residents and businesses near some of the stops have complained about traffic congestion, pollution and blocked sidewalks.

Megabus director Bryony Chamberlain said the company works closely with the appropriate authorities in every city to find locations that are convenient for customers and don't cause problems for others.

"We do our very best to ensure we always have a good relationship with the city," she said. "Good customer service for us also means being a good neighbor."

The relocation effort here came after the Sports & Exhibition Authority said it was kicking Megabus out of its space at the convention center after complaints about litter and passengers' use of center restrooms.

neigh_city - Transportation

Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at Twitter: @pgtraffic.


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