Port Authority of Allegheny County
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|Founded||March 1, 1964|
|Service area||Allegheny County and bordering portions of Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington, and Westmoreland counties|
|Service type||Public transit|
Bus rapid transit
Inclined-plane railway (funicular)
|Fleet||30 35ft buses|
520 40ft buses
11 45ft buses
126 60ft Articulated buses
Light rail: 83
|Daily ridership||213,100 (Avg. Q4 2014)|
27,700 (light rail)
|Fuel type||Clean Diesel, Diesel-electric Hybrid|
|Operator||Allegheny County Government|
|Chief executive||Katharine Eagan Kelleman |
|Website||Port Authority's official website|
Port Authority of Allegheny County (also known as Port Authority or PAAC and formerly as Port Authority Transit (PAT) and PATransit) is the second-largest public transit agency in Pennsylvania and the 26th-largest in the United States. The county-owned, state-funded agency is based in Pittsburgh and is overseen by a CEO and a nine-member board of unpaid volunteer directors, who are appointed by the county executive and approved by the county council.
Port Authority's bus, light rail and funicular system covers Allegheny County. On some longer-distance routes, service extends into neighboring counties such as Beaver, Washington, and Westmoreland. These counties have their own transit systems, including several routes that run into downtown Pittsburgh, where riders can make connections with Port Authority service.
Port Authority was created by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1956 to allow for creation of port facilities in the Pittsburgh area. Three years later, the legislation was amended to allow the Port Authority to acquire privately owned transit companies that served the area. This included the Pittsburgh Railways Company and 32 independent bus and incline operations.
On April 19, 1963, the Board of Allegheny County Commissioners authorized the acquisition of 32 transit companies, including the Pittsburgh Railways Company, which had provided bus and streetcar service to Pittsburgh since January 1902, and an incline plane company, for about $12 million. On March 1, 1964, Port Authority Transit began service.
Shortly after the Port Authority began service, 150 GM "Fishbowl" buses were introduced to replace aging ones acquired from its predecessors, a new route numbering convention was introduced, and the fare system was streamlined. Due to urban sprawl, the agency introduced new routes that served new communities. In the following years, additional buses were ordered and several new transit garages opened. Many of the trolley lines acquired from Pittsburgh Railways were abandoned, and turned into bus lines; South Hills lines via Beechview and Overbrook were retained. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Port Authority hoped to introduce a modern rapid transit system known as Skybus with rubber-tired vehicles running on rails, but the plan fell through.
In the early 1970s, the Port Authority entered what was dubbed by its fans the "Mod" era, with buses repainted in splashy paint schemes. Several new flyer routes and routes to Oakland's university core were introduced as part of a new general marketing strategy. In 1975 the Port Authority took over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad commuter rail line to Versailles, which it branded PATrain. These new routes, coupled with the 1973 oil crisis, generated a major increase in ridership. Due to the poor state of the economy at the time, fares increased and there was a brief strike in 1976. In spite of these setbacks, the South Busway opened in 1977 and plans for other capital investments were made.
During the 1980s, with gas prices falling and population loss from the decline of the steel industry, ridership decreased and the agency lowered fares to attract new riders in the middle of the decade. Many new buses were ordered, and the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway opened in 1983. Construction of a light rail line that started in downtown south to traverse Beechview, with lines to South Hills Village and Library progressed during the decade. Part of the line was an updated version of the old trolley system. In July 1985, the downtown subway opened, the Beechview line followed in 1987 and the Library line a year later. In 1989, the agency celebrated its twenty-fifth year of existence, and commuter rail to Versailles was discontinued.
The agency was rocked by a four-week strike due to a labor dispute in 1992. The strike, coupled with changing demographic patterns, caused a decrease in ridership. New buses that were compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 were introduced early in the decade. In 1993, the badly deteriorated Overbrook light rail line was shut down, requiring trains to use the Beechview line. Several capital projects, such as the construction of a western busway and light rail extensions were considered. In 1998, the agency rebranded itself as "Ride Gold" with new paint schemes and a new marketing campaign.
In 2000, the West Busway from the Ohio River to Carnegie was opened. Shortly thereafter, new bus routes to outlying communities such as Cranberry were established. In 2003, a short extension of the East Busway was completed. The following year, the Overbrook light rail line was re-opened after a lengthy reconstruction. Construction also started on a light rail extension to Pittsburgh's North Shore near Heinz Field, known as the North Shore Connector. Unfortunately, in spite of the capital projects expansion, the agency was in serious financial trouble by the middle of the decade. In June 2007, the agency went through with a 15 percent service cut in order to cut the deficit. In order to provide a dedicated source of funding, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato introduced the controversial 10% Allegheny County Alcoholic Beverage Tax in 2008 to fund the agency. Later that same year, another strike was narrowly averted. The agency is planning a major service overhaul that will begin to go into effect in March 2010.
Funding crisis of 2010–12
Between 2007 and 2010, the Port Authority cut its annual expenses by $52 million and raised its revenues by $14 million to help alleviate a statewide transportation funding crisis. The funding crisis only grew worse, however. The state legislature assumed it would receive permission to convert Interstate 80 into a toll road to increase revenues, but the federal government denied the request, leading to a gap in the state transportation budget of $472 million.
On November 24, 2010, the Port Authority's board of directors approved a massive service cut and fare hike to go into effect in March 2011, reducing service hours by approximately 35 percent, including the elimination of 45 routes. The Port Authority's budget from the state is to be substantially reduced for 2011, and as chairperson Joan Ellenbogen noted, the Port Authority is legally required to adopt a balanced budget. Chairperson Guy Mattola stated that "Unfortunately, we are now at the point that all options have been exhausted...It is necessary to move forward with this service reduction plan recognizing the devastating consequences for riders and non-riders alike."
On December 13, 2010, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission approved a plan by governor Ed Rendell to allocate $45 million in temporary funding for the Port Authority to help reduce the magnitude of these service cuts. Many details of the emergency funding, including how long the Port Authority must make the $45 million last and exactly how many routes slated to be cut could be saved, were not settled by the end of 2010.
On March 27, 2011, a 15 percent service reduction went into force. Twenty nine routes were removed, thirty seven reduced, and a bus maintenance facility shut down
On September 2, 2012, a 35% reduction is scheduled; fares rose on July 1 to $2.50 in Zone 1.
In November 2013, the Pennsylvania legislature approved a long-awaited and hotly debated transportation bill, now known as Act 89. Act 89 provided dedicated funding to Port Authority, putting the agency on more solid financial footing. One of the routes cut in 2011, the 55 Glassport, was restored in 2013.
The Port Authority brand
Although Port Authority is part of the local fans' folklore, its off-beat imaging is more notorious. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s the bus fleet was very recognizable with its fleet of air-conditioned GM "Fishbowls" (from their 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1971 orders) sporting a white top with small red strip. Other noticeable features included side destination signs placed near the exit door and an unusual seating arrangement with one side facing forward and the other lining up to match the seating placed on the wheel well. PAT would continue ordering buses in that specification until 1995 when they ordered buses with both seating sides facing front except when on wheel wells. The side destination signs were moved immediately to the left of the front door starting with the 1998 Neoplan AN-460 (articulated bus) order. This continued with the Neoplan Metroliner order but skipped the Neoplan AN-440LF order in 1999. The 2003 order of Gillig Advantage low-floors and all subsequent orders have conformed with the side sign next to front door configuration. It is worth noting that the 1980 GM's RTS buses acquired were specified with the current side sign configuration.
By 1972 it entered what was dubbed by fans the "Mod" era, as buses were given flashy new paint schemes. Buses were painted with color at the front and rear, slanted to line up with the windows, and a large white portion in between.
In the 1980s, the classic 1960s white and red strip look was updated with a larger red strip accompanied by a black strip painted around the window area, while a white background covered most of the bus exterior. This color scheme was in existence for roughly 20 years on the Flxible and NovaBus 'classics' series, although these buses were later repainted and refurbished into the uniform color livery up until their retirements.
In 1998 Port Authority rebranded itself as "Ride Gold" to coincide with its 35th anniversary.
In the early 2000s, Port Authority's buses included various transportation-related words and phrases repeated across the exterior, such as the words "move", "go" "ride" or "connect", combinations of "rockin'" and "rollin'", "ziggin'" and "zaggin'", or "here" and "there".
On September 21, 2006, Port Authority announced that it was retiring the "Ride Gold" campaign and that the bus and light rail fleet will follow the standard design and uniform colors of its Gillig bus fleet. The reason was the system's decision to return to a back-to-basics approach and to save costs on wholesale repainting and refurbishing. Their website began to use simple "PORT AUTHORITY" fonts, and some buses and light rail vehicles have been repainted with the standard "Port Authority" font.
On April 29, 2016, following several months of public hearings, the Port Authority's board of directors voted unanimously to implement sweeping changes to the fare system in 2017, including a decrease in fares for some riders for the first time in over 35 years. The new fare system eliminated the current zone-based fare collection in favor of a flat $2.50 single-ride fare for all riders who pay via ConnectCard. Riders between Zones 1 and 2 used to pay a single-ride fare of $3.75, one of the highest intra-urban fares in the country. Although doing so will result in approximately $4 million in lost revenue for the agency, it hopes to recoup at least some of the losses by implementing a 25-cent surcharge for riders paying with cash, eliminating paper transfer tickets for cash fares and establishing a $2 surcharge for new or replacement ConnectCard purchases. These changes are also intended to discourage paying fares with cash in favor of increased ConnectCard use, which the agency also says will speed up trip times. Seniors at least 65 & kids below 6 (3-kid limit applies) with fare-paying rider ride for free; disabled & Medicare users pay either $1.35 in cash or $1.25 with ConnectCard; $0.50 extra for transfers.
The agency also voted to abolish the "pay enter/pay leave" fare collection policy in favor of all riders simply paying their fare upon entering the bus regardless of destination, similar to the method used on most other American transit agencies. This change will mean the elimination of the free fare zone in downtown Pittsburgh, although free rides on the "T" between Downtown and the North Shore will continue. For light-rail rides outside these stops, cash fares will no longer be accepted, and the agency will eventually implement a proof of payment system, with riders required to scan their ConnectCards at kiosks on station platforms prior to boarding and Port Authority police officers performing random inspections on board to ensure payment.
Previous fare system
This section needs to be updated.October 2019)(
Port Authority used a fare structure based on four main zones (1, 1A, and 2). The downtown area was an unnumbered Free Fare Zone, established in 1985 to encourage transit use in downtown and reduce stop "dwell" times (the amount of time a transit vehicle must remain stopped for passengers to board or alight). All rides within the downtown zone are free, at all times on the light rail system (called the "T") and until 7 p.m. on buses, seven days a week. Originally the free-fare zone applied only until 7 p.m. on both buses and light rail, but it was expanded to 24 hours on the latter in 1989. Zone 1 was the zone closest to downtown Pittsburgh, and Zone 2 comprised the outer half of Allegheny County and all stops outside of Allegheny County. A few routes cross briefly into neighboring counties.
The system used an "outbound" pay system for daytime transit to and from downtown. Fare was paid when boarding on the "outbound" part of the route. This applies only on buses that serve downtown; on most that do not serve downtown, the rider pays upon entry. During the evening, on buses serving downtown, the method changes on many routes to "pay when boarding" (also known as "pay enter"), due to the possibility of riders trying to avoid paying the fare. In combination with the downtown Free Fare Zone, this fare collection system permits boarding to take place via all doors in downtown (except evenings), greatly reducing loading delays in the part of the system with the heaviest concentration of transit routes and passenger boarding per stop.
The Port Authority sells non-discounted single-use tickets, and discounted weekly, monthly and annual passes. Each carries a small discount over earlier time-based passes and is valid for an unlimited number of trips/transfers in the specified zone(s) for that time period. For example, for a zone 1 pass the cost of a weekly is the equivalent of 9.5 one-way trips, a monthly is equivalent to 34 trips, and an annual is equivalent to 377 trips. An annual pass is a 12-month subscription to monthly passes, which can be either mailed or picked up at the Downtown Service Center on Smithfield Street.
Students and staff of several colleges in the area, most notably Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, ride the bus at a discounted yearly rate: students pay a fee each semester to the Port Authority.
Port Authority installed new fareboxes on all buses in 2011, and has converted to a smart card fare collection system marketed as the "ConnectCard" starting in early 2012. The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University use the new farebox system by equipping their ID cards with a chip the farebox can scan and recognize. Because individuals affiliated with the Universities ride for "free," the system serves only to authenticate the validity of the ID card, and no fares are calculated or assessed.
The Port Authority operates a 26-mile (42 km) light rail system called "The T", from downtown subway to neighborhoods and suburbs south of the city on a surface light rail right-of-way.
The system comprises three lines:
Pittsburgh's mass transit system also includes two unique funiculars (called "inclines" locally) from the top of Mt. Washington to its base along the Monongahela River, just across from Downtown Pittsburgh.
The Duquesne Incline is owned by Port Authority, and The Society for the Preservation of the Duquesne Heights Incline operates it as a non-profit organization. It has the original cars and the original stations.
The Port Authority operates 700 buses, as of April 2014, in Allegheny County, and also service extends slightly into neighboring Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Some bus routes operate seven days a week between 4:00 am and 2:00 am, but many routes have more restricted hours, or do not operate on weekends, or on Sundays and holidays.
Bus rapid transit
In December 1977 Port Authority unveiled its first dedicated busway, the 4.3-mile South Busway, which combined bus and light rail routes into an efficient and quicker connection between downtown Pittsburgh and the South Hills area. The Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway, which used express routes to connect downtown with nearby east side communities like Swissvale, Wilkinsburg and Homewood followed in February 1983. On Sunday, September 10, 2000 Port Authority opened its West Busway, which provides service from downtown Pittsburgh to Carnegie. In 2003, the East Busway was expanded by a few miles to Swissvale and Rankin.
On July 22, 2011, the Port Authority approved spending at least $1 million, including $837,993 in federal funding and $209,498 in county money, to study developing a rapid bus line from Downtown to the Oakland section.
Bus rapid transit or BRT provides bus service that is intended to resemble light rail, with higher frequency of service, fewer stops and, in several cities, pre-ticketing options or buses that look like trains or trolleys. The mode has had mixed success depending on jurisdiction, with some transportation planners citing a service-dilution pattern that they call Bus rapid transit creep.
The study should take up to 18 months to be completed and will use no money from the Port Authority's operating budget.
All of PAAC’s bus fleet (except for buses individually contracted to Lenzner Coach Lines and Pittsburgh Transportation Group) as of 2019 is low floor.
|Order Year||Builder||Model||Fleet/(Qty.)||Engine/Transmission||Fuel Propulsion|
|2015||Gillig||Low Floor 35'||1701-1730
|2009||Low Floor 40'||5600-5679
|Low Floor HEV 40'||5701-5720
|Low Floor 40'||5801-5824
|New Flyer||XE40 Xcelsior CHARGE||7001-7002
|2021||Gillig||Low Floor 40'||6701-6749
|2018||XD60 Xcelsior articulated||3401-3425
Under the Port Authority-sponsored ACCESS program, a private contractor provides door-to-door service to elderly and disabled passengers throughout the county, seven days a week from 6 a.m. to midnight. Reservations are placed one day in advance. The ACCESS program is noted as one of the first, most innovative and best in the nation.
Between 2001 and 2004 the Port Authority worked with the local community group Ground Zero to create and operate the "Ultra Violet Loop"; known to some as the "party bus", the UV Loop bus was special service operated on Friday and Saturday nights through the early morning, serving city nightlife and university centers. The UV Loop bus was part of special evaluative service supported in part by local foundations & businesses. While it was well regarded in the abstract, it never achieved the ridership and consistent service needed to continue without external support. The "Ultra Violet Loop" name is a play on the Pittsburgh/Allegheny County Belt System.
Potential capital expansions
Several capital expansions have been proposed from various sources. The construction of a light rail line from Oakland to Pittsburgh International Airport has been proposed by County Executive Dan Onorato and Congressman Mike Doyle, projected to cost about $3.5 billion. Doyle has recently submitted a request to the Federal government to study the feasibility of the project. Studies for a commuter rail line from downtown to Arnold along the right-of-way of the Allegheny Valley Railroad and from downtown to Greensburg along the right-of-way of Norfolk Southern railroad are also underway. According to the feasibility study, it is unclear whether the Port Authority, the Westmoreland County Transit Authority, or an as-yet created independent agency would operate the railway.
Since 2007, the Port Authority cut annual expenses by $52 million and raised revenues by $14 million to help alleviate a $472 million gap in the state transportation budget. In late 2010, the Port Authority's board approved service cuts of 35% (45 routes) and fare increases. The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission approved a plan by Governor Ed Rendell to allocate $45 million for the Authority to help reduce service cuts to only 15% on March 27, 2011. Since Governor Tom Corbett's 2012 budget, the Port Authority has renewed plans to cut service by 35% if the state fails to help with a projected $64 million budget deficit.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Port Authority of Allegheny County.|
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-01-06. Retrieved 2015-03-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Blazina, Ed (November 11, 2017). "Port Authority names Tampa transit chief as its new CEO". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- "2015 Public Transportation Fact Book". Archived from the original on 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
- "Board of Directors". Port Authority of Allegheny County. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- Port Authority History
- Onorato, Bland Announce Proposed Port Authority Fare and Service Changes, Request Public Input and Comment -- January 3, 2007. Allegheny County government release.
- The Early Years 1964-1972. Antique Motor Coach Association of Pennsylvania. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
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- The MOD Years, 1972-1980. Antique Motor Coach Association of Pennsylvania. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
- Leherr, Dave (June 6, 1977). "PAT's Rail Experiment: Are Expenses Too High?". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2011-05-28.
- Silver, Jonathan D. (November 23, 2008). "How '92 transit strike ended". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- The 80's at PAT. Antique Motor Coach Association of Pennsylvania. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
- Merriman, Woodene (April 25, 1989). "The PATrain's Last Ride". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2011-05-28.
- Brown, David M. (June 2, 2004). "Rebuilt Overbrook line takes passengers back to the future". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Grata, Joe (September 21, 2006). "At Port Authority, 'gold standard' is old standard". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- American Public Transit Association -- Bus Rapid Transit. Retrieved May 26, 2009. Archived April 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
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- Grata, Joe (June 7, 2003). "East Busway addition nearly completed". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Silver, Jonathan D. (June 17, 2007). "Cutbacks at strapped Port Authority take effect today". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Bumsted, Brad; Mike Wereschagin (January 12, 2008). "For politicians, the pour tax tasted smooth". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Archived from the original on January 13, 2008.
- "Port Authority, union reach tentative agreement on new pact". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 25, 2008.
- Schmitz, Jon (October 24, 2009). "Port Authority fare hikes, overhaul of service due in new year". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette..
- Bumsted, Brad; Mike Wereschagin (November 29, 2009). "Lobbyist expenses wasteful, critics say". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- "Authority to Cut Routes Due to Collapse of State Funding". TransitBlog. Port Authority of Allegheny County. 24 November 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
- Schmitz, Jon (11 November 2010). "State facing transportation crisis". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
- Ellenbogen, Joan (24 November 2010). "Stakeholder Relations Committee Report" (PDF). Port Authority of Allegheny County. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
- Mattola, Guy (24 November 2010). "Planning and Development Committee Report" (PDF). Port Authority of Allegheny County. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
- Schmitz, Jon (14 December 2010). "Emergency Port Authority funding OK'd". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 31 December 2010.
- "Port Authority Route Changes Start Sun., 3/27". Port Authority of Allegheny County. 27 March 2011.
- Daley-Maurer, Lauren (14 August 2013). "Bus Start: PAT reinstates route 55 to the Mon Valley". Pittsburgh City Paper.
- Green, Elwin (January 24, 2006). "New Port Authority buses become poetry in motion". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Blazina, Ed (January 12, 2016). "Port Authority proposes single $2.50 fare for most riders". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Schneider, Sarah (April 29, 2016). "Port Authority Board Unanimously Approves Flat Fare System". WESA 90.5.
- Port Authority Zone Fare Structure
- How to Pay Fares -- Port Authority.
- "CRCOG Northwest Corridor Study – Free Fare Zone Analysis" (PDF). Capitol Region Council of Governments (Hartford, CT). January 25, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
- Port Authority Fares and Passes
- Hart, Peter (June 28, 2007). Pitt, Port Authority far apart on transit deal. The University of Pittsburgh Times.
- "New Fareboxes Being Installed on the T". Pittsburgh: Port Authority of Allegheny County. 2011-05-12. Archived from the original on 2009-12-26. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
- "State Commission to Address Transportation Funding Crisis". Pittsburgh: Port Authority of Allegheny County. 2011-04-29. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- "Headlines: Port Authority's T cars get new fareboxes". Pittsburgh: Port Authority of Allegheny County. 2011-04-20. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- Schmitz, Jon (2011-04-20). "Port Authority's 'T' cars get new fareboxes". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- "Pilot project puts bike racks on buses".
- "Bikes can now ride all PAT buses".
- Tom Fontaine (July 23, 2011). "Port Authority rapid-bus line study gets OK". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Grata, Joe (December 4, 2005). "Getting Around". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Schmitz, Jon (July 31, 2013). "Obituary: Thomas Letky / Transit executive pioneered accessibility for disabled". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- "Port Authority's UltraViolet loop route to end". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. September 3, 2004.
- Allegheny County's belt system. Archived 2008-07-04 at the Wayback Machine PennsylvaniaHighways.com
- Schmitz, Jon (May 18, 2009). "Congress members submit wish lists for transit". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Cholodofsky, Rich (June 20, 2009). "Cost of rail line linking Greensburg, Arnold with Pittsburgh lower than expected". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Westmoreland Transit Commuter Rail Feasibility Study
- Schmitz, Jon (December 14, 2010). "Emergency Port Authority funding OK'd". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved December 31, 2010.
- Barcousky, Len (March 27, 2011). "Attempt to delay Port Authority transit cuts fails: Port Authority's 15% reductions start today". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
- "Lost opportunity: Corbett's choices will hurt pennsylvanians". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. February 8, 2019.
- Riely, Kaitlynn. "No Glimmer of Hope for Transit Riders." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 8 Feb. 2012: A-1. Print.
- Port Authority's official website
- Another collection of Port Authority bus photos
- April 2005 story on the new hybrid buses Pittsburgh has started to use
- Buskarma a.k.a. bus.maya.com, a bus system trip planner, run by volunteers
- Google Transit page for Port Authority
- Online trip planner tailored to mobile devices specifically for Port Authority
- Get There PGH, a Port Authority-supported initiative for expanding Bus Rapid Transit in Pittsburgh