For people to use transit, they have to be able to understand it. If they don't understand it, or if it's too difficult to learn, they'll drive or do something else.
Right now, the service that Port Authority provides is among the most complicated - if not the most complicated - in the country. Port Authority serves 72 million passengers per year with 187 routes. By comparison, Chicago's CTA serves 610 million passengers per year with 161 bus routes, and Boston's MBTA serves nearly 400 million passengers per year with 177 bus routes.
Most Port Authority routes also have many variants, which means that individual routes do different things at different times of the day. One route has over 40 variants, making it very difficult for riders to know what individual trips will do. Furthermore, the public input that was received during the TDP process indicated that most people - both those who ride Port Authority services and those who don't - view the system as too complicated.
It's also important to recognize that transit systems, like any type of transportation system, experience a large amount of turnover. People move, they graduate from one school and start at another, they change jobs, they retire - those and so many other life events alter their travel patterns.
According to a 2007 Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission survey of Port Authority riders, on any given day two percent of riders are making their first trip on transit. The survey also found that seven percent of riders use transit less than once a week. Throughout Allegheny County, there are always large numbers of people who are trying to figure out how Port Authority services operate. Making Port Authority services easier to understand and easier to use will attract more new riders to transit.
Even longtime passengers can benefit from simpler and more effective service, as the proposed changes will make service faster, more direct and more predictable. Also, many regular passengers ride the bus to and from work everyday but don't use it for occasional trips - to go to a concert or sporting event, for instance - because they don't understand the system beyond their weekday route. As a result, simpler service and a new route numbering system will also encourage regular riders to make more trips by transit.
As one commenter noted, many of Port Authority's routes have been around since the 1930s, and this is true. However, Pittsburgh has undergone some of the most dramatic changes of any city in the country, and is now very different than it was in the 1930s, or even in the 1970s. The proposed changes are designed to serve Allegheny County's needs as they exist today. Routes that work well, no matter when they were first designed, will be maintained or improved. Routes that no longer work well will be revised to meet today's needs, or in a few cases where significant transit markets no longer exist, discontinued.
In May, we presented three possible service concepts, one of which was a grid system like one that might be found in other cities. We rejected that concept, however, because a grid just doesn't make sense for unique topography and geography of our region. Port Authority wants to create transit system that serves Allegheny County's needs and works with its distinctive characteristics.
The region's successful transformation following the decline of the steel industry indicates that Pittsburghers are actually very good at change, and the signs of progress are visible all over Allegheny County. Port Authority is working to ensure our transit system reflects that change.