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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania/Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway Extension - Phase I

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Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway Extension - Phase I

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

(November 1998)


The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAAC) plans to extend the Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway. The first 6.8 miles of the East Busway was completed in 1983, and carries nearly 30,000 riders each weekday from downtown Pittsburgh to Wilkinsburg, serving a corridor with the highest transit ridership in Allegheny County. Phase I of the proposed extension of the East Busway is a 2.3-mile segment directly serving the adjacent communities of Edgewood, Swissvale and Rankin, with extending bus services via the Busway to serve the redeveloping Monongahela River Valley. The extended busway will include park-and-ride lots, a feature which does not exist on the existing East Busway. PAAC estimates the capital cost of the project to total $62.8 million (in escalated dollars).

Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway Extension Summary Description

Proposed Project Busway Extension
2.3 miles - Phase I
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $62.8 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $8.6 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1996) $1.6 million
Ridership Forecast (2005) 13,600 daily boardings
3,800 daily new riders
FY 2000 Financial Rating: Low-Medium
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Low-Medium
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Not Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


A Finding of No Significant Impact was issued in early 1996 for the East Busway extension. Preliminary Engineering (PE) is currently underway, and will be completed in early 1999.

Section 3030(a)(65) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) authorizes the "Pittsburgh – MLK Busway Extension" for final design and construction. Through FY 1999, Congress has not appropriated any funds for this project.


This project is exempt from the New Starts criteria, as the section 5309 Federal share is less than $25 million. However, PAAC submitted several criteria which have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. N/A indicates that no data are available for a specific measure.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Low

PAAC estimates the following annual travel time savings.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) N/A 0.1 million

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Not Rated

Metropolitan Pittsburgh is a moderate non-attainment area for ozone.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) N/A N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) N/A N/A
Hydrocarbons (HC) N/A N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) N/A N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) N/A N/A

No energy consumption data were provided.

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) N/A N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

PAAC estimates the following systemwide operating costs.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (YOE) $2.08 $2.08 $2.07

Values reflect 2005 ridership forecast and 1992 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: High

PAAC estimates the following cost effectiveness index for the new starts to no build comparison. No data were provided for the new starts to TSM comparison.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $4.00 N/A

Values reflect 2005 ridership forecast and 1995 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium

The Medium land use rating reflects local municipal commitment to transit-supportive development along the corridor. The Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway links downtown Pittsburgh with the inner suburb of Wilkinsburg and various eastern Allegheny County suburbs. Transit ridership in the corridor is high with service to high employment densities and other major trip generators. The current transit mode share for CBD employees is roughly 50 percent, with significant employment growth and ridership projected. Additionally, population growth is forecast for the corridor and station areas within older residential urban (rail era) neighborhoods. Local governments have emphasized attracting new growth and redeveloping older neighborhoods due to recent declines in both city and regional populations. The Pittsburgh Downtown Plan recommends specific policies and actions to increase varied development uses and to improve the pedestrian streetscape. Pedestrian access improvements are planned for station areas, and joint development opportunities are being marketed. High intensity transit-supportive development is called for in the CBD, with child care and parking incentives for transit proximity locations. The City has provided various financial incentives for redevelopment projects near the East Busway, with a number of such projects having been undertaken, most within 1500 feet of transit stations. Public and private investment is strongly encouraged in the regional core, and infill development and reinvestment is encouraged in transit priority areas. The Downtown Plan calls for increasing the mix of retail and entertainment use to sustain 24-hour activity, as well as increasing residential development in the CBD and removing excess railroad trackage. Station design will be integrated with community activities. Parking, pedestrian and infrastructure needs will continue to be examined. PAAC will construct hike/bike trails adjacent to the extension, and rehabilitate an existing pedestrian tunnel and a former railroad station building along the right-of-way.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 86%

PAAC proposes that the Federal share of project funding be 50 percent: $8.58 million (13.7 percent) in Section 5309 New Starts funds, $21.17 million (33.7 percent) in ISTEA Section 1108 Highway funds, and $1.65 million (2.6 percent) in TEA-21 Title I funds. The remaining $31.4 million (50.0 percent) would be provided by State funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium capital finance plan rating reflects a potential financial overextension by PAAC due to a considerable pipeline of capital projects. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would be the source of local-match funding for this PAAC project. The State has approved $31.4 million in its 12-year transit plan for the 50 percent local match. Pennsylvania’s financial condition is very strong, with low debt levels and budget surpluses. The State’s general obligation bonds have been rated AA by Fitch. PAAC is a financially strong and conservatively managed transit agency, with long term debt representing only about 5 percent of total assets. The ISTEA Section 1108 Highway Funds of $21.17 million have already been received, representing 33.7 percent of the total project cost. The $1.65 million (2.6 percent) in TEA-21 Title I Highway Funds have been authorized but not appropriated. A low 5.3 percent contingency factor has been incorporated into capital cost estimates, with a 4 percent annual inflation rate. Reprogramming of Federal funds would provide a potential modest source of additional contingency funding. Although PAAC has the financial and technical capacity to see this and other capital projects to their successful conclusion (i.e., Stage II LRT and Airport Busway/Wabash HOV Facility Phase I), it is unclear whether PAAC could handle additional capital projects planned for the near term future. The atypical high percentage local match from the State is an indication that Pennsylvania is highly committed to seeing this project completed.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High operating finance plan rating reflects the reliable State support of transit operating subsidies. PAAC’s operations are financially sound, with the agency running a small surplus for two of the past three years. Twenty-one percent of total expenses are covered by farebox revenues. Pennsylvania has recently approved enhanced funding for transit operating subsidies in the State, resulting in 14 percent of total expenses being covered by dedicated State forumla funds, and an additional 9.5 percent being covered by non-dedicated State operating assistance. Allegheny County must also match the fixed percentage of total State operating assistance directly appropriated annually from the State budget at a 1 to 3 ratio. The remainder of PAAC’s operating expenses are expected to be covered by a combination of other State and Federal funding sources. The MLK Busway Extension project is estimated to have minimal impact on both system revenues and system operating costs.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Section 5309 New Starts $8.58
ISTEA Sec 1108 Hwy $21.17
TEA-21 Title I $1.65
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania $31.40
Total: $62.80

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

[Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway Extension - Phase I Map (PDF)]

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