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Illuminating Pittsburgh’s Regional Bus Network

CTAA and its regional transit provider partners will contribute in-kind staff hours, resources and technology to meet project objectives.

Photo of Richard Sampson
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In a city and surrounding region with numerous geographic, demographic and infrastructure challenges, Pittsburgh already benefits from a regional bus network but one that is uncoordinated and unidentifiable as a cohesive network. Six public transportation providers operate regularly-scheduled, fixed-route bus service from five counties adjacent or nearby to Allegheny County. Another originates in West Virginia, while others from outlying counties provide less-frequent but just as essential connections to medical centers, employment areas and college or university campuses in the Pittsburgh region. If people knew about these options, they would take them.

These systems operate independently of each other, although many of the routes take advantage of busway infrastructure owned and maintained by the Port Authority of Allegheny County to offer congestion-free routes into downtown Pittsburgh. There is no unifying display of information – most notably a map or timetables – that explains and promotes the availability of these regional services. At the same time, there are few timed connections between routes of the various systems and no regional bus network fare structure.

Our idea is to create a brand, identity and informational resources corresponding with a regional bus network for Pittsburgh and nearby counties, presenting the various operators as part of the same system, which will build awareness of previously unknown options for travelers and make it easy to navigate throughout the entire region. As part of this project, CTAA will organize its partners to develop and promote a long-term strategy to improve connectivity between these services, with an eye towards increased usability for customers through integrated fare platforms, coordinated schedule times and locations and greater service frequency.   

This approach will leverage latent mobility assets and improvement efforts already in existence – including the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s CommuteInfo resources at – to provide seamless connections for riders among communities. It will enhance the region’s identity as a welcoming place of collaborative neighbors and provide intuitive resources to allow both residents and visitors to fully access all of the area’s opportunities and benefits. This idea is built upon the experience of Oregon’s Northwest Connector project ( 

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

Our solution will be made available to the general public: a regional audience of current and potential public transportation riders in order to improve usability of existing regional bus services, as well as programs, agencies, institutions and businesses that may benefit from their customers increased use of regional transit options. A potential user would receive information produced through this project via any of the region’s public transportation providers, as well as referrals through a wide array of community partners, including those listed above as well as community- and faith-based organizations, local governments, libraries and a host of other sources. That user would then determine which – if any – of the routes or services meet their mobility needs through maps, schedules, brochures and other elements that are designed primarily through the prisms of simplicity and universal accessibility. These resources will be delivered through both electronic and printed platforms.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) is a national, nonprofit membership association of community and public transportation providers, including more than 35 members in Pennsylvania. In addition to training programs and technical assistance programs, we have nationwide experience in community-based planning projects. For more than a decade, CTAA has used design thinking strategies to deliver solutions more likely to produce desired outcomes. Team background is attached.

Size of your team or organization

  • 11-50

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

CTAA will contribute a portion of in-kind staff resources as needed to compliment Challenge funding to support project activities, including community input and visioning events, gathering data and perspectives from the regional transportation providers, design of branding and identity effort, completion of products and project administration. Sustainability is an objective for every community or public transportation provider. However, profitability is not. This idea is intended to be sustainable and expandable through the generation of additional revenue from increased ridership and support from public entities to enhance regional bus service. As existing services attract greater numbers of riders, their efficiency improves, as do new resources to improve informational tools in the future. Advertising and/or sponsorship also present opportunities for new revenue to cover the expenses of additional informational resources and marketing campaigns.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

We will evaluate the success of this pilot by measuring both its effectiveness in generating additional ridership as well as raising awareness of the availability of these options. For ridership, we will not just consider raw numbers, but more meaningful impacts through changes in people miles, modal share and societal outcomes, such as access to employment, healthcare, education, housing and community services. In assessing awareness, we will conduct outreach to both current riders and non-riders at the outset of the project as well as its conclusion to determine any delta in knowledge of regional bus service options. CTAA and its provider partners will collaboratively measure these variables through in-person and electronic survey tools and community forums. Data gathered through these mechanisms will inform a report outlining next steps to achieve greater utilization of the regional bus network.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Diana Avart

Hi Richard,

Congrats on being a Semi-Finalist! Don't forget to continue using the Share buttons found at the end of the post as you make updates during the Refine phase. This will encourage the community to continue to vote and engage with your submission, helping reviewers to get an understanding of which ideas have the greatest public support and also prompting you to consider different aspects of your proposal in new ways.

- Diana, Facilitator

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