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Officials in North Hills push for return of bus service

A growing coalition of local officials and organizations is asking for more public bus service to the North Hills.

Officials from Ross, McCandless, the Northland Public Library and North Hills Community Outreach say they want a bus route along Perry Highway restored, but Port Authority of Allegheny County said it has no immediate plans to expand service there.

“We've all come together because there's this need. We're hearing it,” said Santina Balestreire, marketing director for the Northland library in McCandless.

The groups are seeking specific suggestions about what bus service is needed, and are hosting a public meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 8 at the West View Fireman's Hall, 398 Perry Highway. People also can fill out an online survey (see box) about their transit habits and the service they would like to see.

“We're really looking for voices from the public for those who are suffering some sort of hardship” because of the loss of transportation they used to rely on, Balestreire said.

The Northland library is the second largest in Allegheny County, but remains inaccessible by public transit. Patrons often call saying they can't get to programs at the library because they have no way to get there, she said.

“All of the community groups are being impacted in their own way,” Balestreire said.

McCandless and Ross also are seeking information and exploring how a bus route could help North Hills commuters and students.

Port Authority of Allegheny County eliminated or cut back service on several routes in 2007 and 2011. In 2007, the 11C route along Perry Highway was cut, along with several express routes to Perrysville and Franklin Park.

Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said there are no currently plans to restore or extend bus service in the North Hills.

“We will consider requests from across the county and recommend enhancements again in spring 2016,” Ritchie said.

Ross Manager Doug Sample sent a letter to Port Authority in March 2014, asking the authority to add bus lines and saying a lack of public transportation in northern Allegheny County hurts businesses and their workers.

“The cuts are negatively affecting the ability of Ross Township to plan for new mixed-use development that will bring jobs and amenities to our residents,” he wrote.

Sample asked for service north of West View on Perry Avenue, or Route 19, to be restored, and for more frequent service on Browns Lane between Babcock Boulevard and McKnight Road.

More bus service also could improve student access to Community College of Allegheny County's North campus, officials have said. The North campus is the system's second largest, with 9,936 students.

“At CCAC, we support any attempt to expand access to public transportation in our region,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Johnston said.

Transit service is a need throughout the North Hills, though sometimes the need is not as visible as it is in the city, said Brady Riedel, community auto manager at the North Hills Community Outreach, based in Pine.

In the past 12 months, the group has received 276 applications for its transportation assistance service, but was only able to serve about 50 families, he said.

“A single devastating blow like the loss of your car in an accident … that's a huge financial blow and it can really set you into a negative spiral,” he said. “To have some sort of a safety net … that's really important.”

Katelyn Ferral is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-380-5627 or [email protected].


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