Note: This is the second of a
6 part series that deals with the history of the Port Authority from the formation of PAT
in 1956 through current.
March 1, 1964 marked the
start of a new era in transportation in the Pittsburgh and Allegheny County area. The
transit network in the County was coming under public ownership as a single entity which
was not an easy task considering there were 33 Independent Operators involved in providing
transit service to the area. This mix of Independents varied from a large company with
hundreds of employees to a one man operation, each with different operating rules, fares,
routes, equipment and facilities.
The first to be taken over by
the Port Authority of Allegheny County, or more commonly called "PAT" (for Port
Authority Transit), was the largest operator, Pittsburgh Railways Company (PRCo). PRCo
operated a large network of streetcar routes as well as a rather large bus system and 1
inclined plane (Castle Shannon Incline). The rail system was a shell of the once sprawling
network of street and private right-of-way trackage and the number of PCC streetcars left
was 283 out of the once 666 PCC cars that once ran over the rails. The bus system did
increase over the time PRCo operated but was still smaller then the rail system with only
219 passenger buses being acquired by PAT.
Although legally the PAT
takeover of PRCo occurred at 12:01 am on March 1, 1964, the first bus to run under PAT's
ownership left the Homewood Garage at 3:45 am. PAT also found out rather quickly about
accidents as the first accident involving a bus under PAT's ownership occurred at 3:57 am.
In some ways this symbolized that the consolidation of all the companies into one
integrated system wasn't going to be easy.
Even though the acquisition
of PRCo took place effective 12:01 am on March 1, 1964, any PRCo bus or streetcar on route
at that time was still under PRCo control. Even when PAT's first bus started out of the
garage, there were still some buses and streetcars out on the road that were still under
PRCo ownership which were sent out prior to 12:01 am running with its sister units that
were under PAT control.
The remaining acquisitions if
the Independent Operators were spread out so that operational issues could be addressed as
each company was taken under PAT's control. The majority of the acquisitions of the
Independent Operators was done before the end of March. These were the companies that had
quickly agreed to the terms of the negotiations regarding PAT's acquisition of their
particular company. There were still 9 companies left to acquire with some disputing the
values of the proposed settlement or still reviewing the settlement proposal. One company,
quite literally, was overlooked as it was so small and they had to inquire as to when they
would be taken over.
During the first 2 months of
operation, there wasn't a noticeable change in operations as the finishing touches were
being put on a system-wide route renumbering structure, a new system-wide fare structure
and uniform schedules, work rules and union contract. The most noticeable change was a
sticker on each bus and streetcar stating "Port Authority of Allegheny County - Owner
and Operator". Some of the newly acquired buses also started appearing on routes they
never ran on prior to takeover as PAT was starting to shuffle equipment around.
May 1, 1964 saw the first
major improvement to transit in the County as
150 new air conditioned buses were placed
into service. The 100 GM TDH5303's and 50 GM TDH4518's were introduced to residents with a
parade of buses down Fifth Avenue in Downtown. From there the buses were sent to various
garages around the County to be immediately placed into revenue service. These new buses
allowed PAT to retire the worst of the acquired equipment, some of which was barely
A uniform County-wide route
renumbering system was introduced on May 6. This numbering system used the concept of
radial trunk corridors where each main corridor was numbered and each route within that
corridor was given a letter designation (ex 16B would be the 16 corridor and the B route).
This renumbering was needed to help give the system a uniform appearance and make the
placement of routes make sense. In many other cities, you could have a 16 and 46 route
running in the same area but with this plan, riders would always know that any route
starting in 16 would serve the North Side and Ohio Valley area and the 46 routes would
serve the South Hills.
A new County-Wide Uniform
Fare Plan was implemented on August 30, 1964. This, like the route renumbering plan, was a
primary ingredient in creating a unified appearance and to make fare collection easier but
tended to be rather complicated. Again this was done in a radial fashion from Downtown
Pittsburgh. There were 15 zones in the original plan not including the always confusing
overlap Zone 1A. With each zone, except the overlap zone, requiring an additional zone
fare. The base fare was set at 30 cents with through and express routes set at a nickel
more. Zone charges were set at a nickel for each zone passed through. If you rode in an
outlying zone only, the fare was ten cents cheaper. There was also the overlap Zone 1A
which had a fare of 30 cents but from there you could ride to Zone 3 or to Downtown
Pittsburgh for the 30 cent Zone 1 fare (if you rode to zone 3 from Zone 1, it would cost
Also adopted in the Fare Plan
was the collection of these fares as well as monthly and weekly permits. Pay enter for
inbound and pay leave for outbound trips. Fare receipts were issued to riders that boarded
outside of Zone 1 to indicate where they boarded outbound or what fare was paid inbound.
The permits required a 10 cent cash drop but would save frequent riders money.
Initially the operators made
change for riders. This was a time honored practice in transit at the time but many
systems, as well as the transit union, were already trying to find alternatives to this
practice due to the increase in robberies. PAT had plans for an exact fare structure to be
implemented on August 1, 1968 but a robbery where an operator was killed forced PAT to act
immediately and the plan was in place on July 23, 1968, a week earlier than originally
A standard schedule style was
also being initiated by 1965 utilizing the existing schedule design and scheduling method
that Community Transit Service first came up with. Of all the initial changes, this was
perhaps the most important and significant change. The previous independent operators had
a myriad of schedule types and methods which PAT initially adopted until it found a design
and method that worked and could be understood easily by the public.
PAT was one of the first
beneficiaries of the newly created Federal legislation which made financial aid available
to public transit systems. This legislation was approved in September of 1964 and before
the month was over, PAT obtained an initial grant of $5,567,780 which was to be used for
the purchase of an additional 180 buses (1800,
2100, 2200-2234 series) as well as 2 new
garages to start the consolidation of the numerous and smaller independent garages. This
grant required Allegheny County to put up a 1/3 matching grant. Pennsylvania followed suit
in the summer of 1965 with a statewide transit aid program which allowed the County to
reduce its amount of the matching grant.
Known as Phase I of the
Capital Improvement Program, the initial transit funding from both Federal and State
sources allowed PAT to proceed faster than planned to modernize transit in the County. The
Capital Improvement Program was a 5 part plan with new buses taking 3 of the phases.
Division (1968) and Collier Division (1969) were opened under Phase I.
Phase II immediately followed
in 1966 with a 200 bus order (1100,
2250-2264, 2300 series) as well as drawing
up plans for 3 additional new garages and a new main shop/administration building. A few
additional buses came into the fleet between Phase II and Phase III. 2 in 1967 (2265-2266)
which were experimental for PAT in testing some options for the 1971 bus order and 8 in
1970 (1980-1987) to replace suburban coaches destroyed in the Tarentum Garage fire. West
Mifflin Division was opened under Phase II in 1969.
Phase III saw the addition of
200 more buses (2400
1910-1924 series) in November of 1971. The 2400 & 2500
series transit buses featured an 8 cylinder engine which drastically improved service as
the other transit buses PAT had purchased had 6 cylinder engines (the only engine
available in a transit coach at the time) and many had difficulty with the hilly terrain.
Phase III also included the building and opening of the Harmar Division. Phase IV was
utilized for the East Liberty Division in 1972 and Phase V was used for the main
shop/administration building in Manchester during 1973.
The new garages were an
important part of PAT's long range plan. Having many small garages spread out throughout
the County only lent itself to increased costs and varying degrees of maintenance. The
Independent garages acquired varied from ancient to old and also varied between storage
only to heavy maintenance facilities. Having a smaller network of larger garages that were
strategically placed and were designed for all aspects of operation would minimize costs.
Many of the garages built by PAT also earned design awards from the utilization of space
to the appearance of the structure.
The PAT Early Action Program
(EAP) was another primary event in PAT's early history. This program was different than
the Capital Improvement Program. The EAP was set up to plan and implement the start of a
long range 60 mile rapid transit plan. Key to the EAP was the Westinghouse Electric
Company's automated Transit Expressway Revenue Line (TERL) or as more commonly called,
Skybus. The TERL was developed by Westinghouse in 1961 and testing began in 1965.
Skybus was the most
controversial part of the EAP and perhaps the most controversial single item of anything
in PAT's entire history. An experimental and unproven rapid transit concept was to have
replaced the remaining former interurban trolley lines in the South Hills. PAT's Skybus
project resulted in lawsuits from the the Mayor of Pittsburgh as well as the Allegheny
County Commissioners who opposed the project in the 1970's. These lawsuits ultimately led
to the demise of Skybus and forced PAT to come up with a new and more accepted method of
During this period, PAT
acquired the ownership of the long abandoned Wabash Tunnel. This tunnel was to be used for
Skybus and was remodeled to Skybus specifications. It was never used for Skybus however
and later was used to store some surplus buses. The reason for choosing the Wabash Tunnel
over the existing Mt. Washington Trolley Tunnel was that the Wabash Tunnel was elevated
where the trolley tunnel was at road level and PAT planned on utilizing the trolley tunnel
as a bus tunnel as part of the South Busway project.
The streetcar network PAT
inherited from PRCo, quite literally, looked a mess but was still very viable in terms of
ridership. As was mentioned in Part 1 of this history, PAT very much wanted to dispose of
the rail system due to its dilapidated condition. PAT did, however, repaint some of the
better condition trolleys into its gray/red/white livery along with a minor
reconditioning of the car itself. Some rail to bus replacements were done in one stage
while others, such as the East End routes, used weekend bus substitution to get the
trolley riders used to the buses. While the lines that went would have been cut anyway,
some lines such as lines that used the 6th, 7th and 9th Street Bridges had to be
eliminated for urban redevelopment. By 1970, it was decided to retain a portion of the
existing South Hills trolley routes that were mostly on private right of ways and a more
comprehensive car and route rehabilitation was initiated. The 35 Library line was the line
to be spared as the 36 Drake and 42/38 Mt. Lebanon - Beechview line would have Skybus
running over most of its route.
PAT, even to this day, will
experiment with most anything offered up for it to test. This was immediately seen with
the Skybus project but PAT also experimented with a few things for GM. One experiment
involved the 2 coaches delivered in 1967 (2265-2266). Up until this point, GM new look
transit coaches came only with a 6V-71 engine (suburbans with a manual transmission could
have an 8V-71). 2265-2266 were the first delivered with a 8V-71 engine to test a new
transmission that Allison (GM's transmission division) developed in actual service as well
as for PAT to test an 8V-71 for an upcoming 185 bus order. Although these buses came from
GM with a 6V-71 installed, they were immediately sent from GM's Pontiac Michigan factory
to Allison's facility in Indiana where the new engine and transmission combination were
These buses quickly showed
that the new transmission would work well and GM then started to offer the 8 cylinder
option in transit coaches to all customers with San Diego being the first to receive the
first order of TDH5303's with an 8 cylinder engine. The reason for the new transmission
being needed was that the power output of the 8 cylinders was to much for the existing
V-Drive transmissions. These new transmissions were a new design of the Super-V
transmission which were an optional transmission that could be ordered for the 6V-71
engine (PAT never ordered the Super-V on any of its coaches). The transmissions PAT
tested and what was offered by GM several months later varied some due to some
improvements learned from the tests but the testing led to major advances in the transit
industry by allowing more power in the buses to handle hills and crush loads. These two
buses were later converted back to 6V-71 engines by PAT for standardization reasons in
Another experiment involved
the 1800 series coaches which were the first buses of GM's light duty transit line what
were air conditioned. These coaches left GM without A/C and were shipped to a Thermo-King
facility for the installation of the A/C unit. These coaches were to be tested in service
by PAT and the outcome of the tests resulted in the offering of the TDH3502A line of
Some of the history of the
early years has been lost to time. One such item is the acquisition of PAT 1959. This
coach was a GM Engineering bus that was a 1962 TDH5301 which was converted to the TDH5303
prototype. To date, no data has been located to explain why PAT purchased this lone coach
in December of 1964. It was an oddball in the fleet due to its rear push doors and by
this point, the TDH5303 production at GM was well underway by 2 years so it wasn't for
testing. 1959 served most of its life at PAT running out of the Tarentum and Harmar
garages. It was scrapped around 1980.
Charters and tours were also
an important part of PAT's early years. While most were local, some did go across the
state. PAT was restricted by law from operating outside of Pennsylvania. With the
independent acquisitions, PAT also acquired many charter rights which were used to their
advantage. The 1900 series suburban coaches were purchased for charters and tours as well
as express runs. If it wasn't for the charter/tour operations, it is doubtful that the
1900 series suburbans would have been purchased. PAT did inherit some suburban buses from
the independents (both old look and new looks) which it also used in the charter/tour
operations. It's a well known fact that the suburbans showed up on more than just the
longer express runs. Many times these coaches would show up on heavy haul routes such as
the 16B Brighton and feeder routes like those run out of McKeesport. City transit buses
were also used on some local charters and tours.
It should be noted about the
destination signage of this era. When PAT initially began planning its operations, it was
decided that split signs should be used to help cut down on the number of signs needed as
well as allow more detailed information on where the route was going and eliminate many of
the auxiliary cardboard window signs. The curb side sign was the main route with the
driver side sign being used for the routes final destination and/or routing. This lasted
about 2 years as the 1966 order all came with single full size signs. Part of the problem
was that no two operators had the driver side sign up the same way on the same route. A
blank driver side sign or the infamous "COACH" reading were usually what was
displayed. Some routes could have 10 or more possible reading combinations. The
independent new look coaches acquired in 1964 were converted to split signs, only to have
most of them converted back to full size signs in the 70's.
Auxiliary signs were also
widely used, even with the split sign buses, as the older buses acquired didn't have their
signs immediately replaced. As Pittsburghers were very used to auxiliary signs from the
PRCo days, these were used to convey the additional route information instead of using the
split sign readings. The 1964 and 1965 orders were also delivered with school bus readings
but these were never used and the "SCHOOL" wording was blacked out on the curb
side while the "BUS" reading remained intact on the drivers side. It is also
interesting to note that when the East End trolley routes were converted to bus
operations, the route number was not re-designated into the PAT numbering plan but
retained its original PRCo trolley route number for well over 10 years (they eventually
were changed in 1982).
The buses ordered and those
repainted in 1964 also saw the use of small fleet numbers instead of the larger numbers.
The small numbers were slowly replaced over many years but some of the 1964 buses being
retired in the 1980's still retained the smaller numbers. These small numbers were
somewhat unpopular with all, employees, riders and fans a like due to making it difficult
to see what bus it was.
PAT also acquired the
remaining 3 inclines in the Pittsburgh area. The Duquesne Incline was saved from closure
due to the Society for the Preservation of the Duquesne Heights Incline being formed and
negotiating a deal with PAT to lease the incline for a dollar a year. The Castle Shannon
Incline, which was rather unique for having a curve, was closed on June 21, 1964 after
being acquired from PRCo. The
Monongahela Incline continued to be operated as it was the
main route down from Mt. Washington for many residents and could be operated economically
in a transit authority setting.
On March 30, 1970, PAT
implemented replacement bus service for some of the Gradison Auto Bus Company
routes that were abandoned within Allegheny County. This company was not taken over by PAT
in 1964 as the majority of its routes were outside of Allegheny County. When PAT took
over the service on the routes, they did so on a 6 month trial basis to see how the ridership would be. The 26E & 26F routes became permanent as ridership was sufficient
to warrant continued operation.
The year 1970 also saw the
first of many PAT Park-N-Ride lots being established on March 30th, Federal approval of
PAT's Early Action Plan on June 10th and Three Rivers Stadium service being introduced in
July. All were important to PAT's plans to continue to improve the transit system.
PAT, however, continued to
see reduced ridership on the entire system from its takeover in 1964 through 1971 even
with the major improvements to the system it had made. A fare increase from 30 cents to 35
cents on January 1, 1969 sent ridership dropping rapidly. Within 2 years the ridership
dropped low enough that PAT was forced to raise fares again on April 12, 1971 to 40 cents
in order to get enough money to continue operating. At this time PAT also eliminated all
weekly and monthly permits and Sunday passes. The result was an extremely rapid decrease
in ridership to the point that PAT was considering major route cuts in order to continue
operating the system. The weekly and monthly permits and Sunday passes were re-established
on December 12, 1971.
internal structure on June 21, 1971. This date actually was the start of the next era at
PAT but as it took a while for the changes to happen from this move, most people view that
the next era started in 1972. The re-organization was to attempt to streamline PAT's
operation and develop a strategy to win back the ridership it had lost over the past
several years. Due to the size of the task at hand, it took a while to come up with an
effective strategy but the new strategy was to pay off over the next couple of years as
PAT entered the MOD era of operations.
| The Formation | The Early Years | The MOD Years | The
80's Era | The 90's Era | The Gold Era |