Panel looks to map future of public transit in Pittsburgh

The Port Authority is hosting an assemblage of experts from across the nation this week who will help develop a proposed blueprint for the future of public transit service here.

A panel commissioned by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Urban Land Institute will interview nearly 80 people, ranging from public officials to planners to neighborhood leaders. They also will tour the bus and rail system before compiling a list of recommendations, authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said.

The effort will culminate with a Friday morning public presentation at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown, followed by a written report, he said.

"We're basically asking them some fundamental questions about what we do, and how we can integrate our existing service with improvements," Mr. Ritchie said.

Among the issues likely to be studied are the proposal for a Bus Rapid Transit corridor in the city between Downtown and Oakland, transit-oriented development elsewhere in the system and prospects for public-private partnerships to enhance transit.

The authority will pay $125,000 for the panel. Co-sponsoring the visit are the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

"We think it's well worth the money. This is a unique opportunity," Mr. Ritchie said.

The agency also will establish a website for public commentary. It will announce details about the site today.

The Urban Land Institute panel will be chaired by Dave Leininger, chief financial officer for Dallas Area Rapid Transit in Texas.

Other panelists are Mary Clayton, a vice president of the Parsons Brinckerhoff engineering company from Charlotte, N.C.; Marsha Kaiser, national director of Parsons' PlaceMaking group in Washington, D.C., which specializes in community revitalization; William G. Lashbrook III, senior vice president for PNC Real Estate Finance in East Brunswick, N.J.; William C. Lawrence, president of real estate development company Cityscope Inc. in Wakefield, R.I.; Mike Levitan, a consultant from Dallas who specializes in transit finance; Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, associate director of neighborhood planning for Washington, D.C.; Halina Steiner, creative director of a Brooklyn, N.Y., architecture firm; and Ross Tilghman, a transportation consultant from Seattle.

MORE on transportation: Real-time updates due for T, bus riders

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

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