Completing the Fleet: The 10-year road to outfitting 100 percent of Port Authority buses with bike racks

After 10 full years of dedicated advocacy and leadership, every bus now has a bike rack.  Here’s the story.

On Friday the Port Authority will be announcing that their fleet is now completely outfitted with bus-mounted bike racks. This momentous development didn’t happen overnight. In fact it took a decade, with many different folks working to better the program. When it all came down to it, though, it was all about advocacy and leadership that made it happen.

2001: Sustainable Pittsburgh, along with several outdoor recreation groups, the City of Pittsburgh, and the Port Authority of Allegheny County received a $70,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation for the initial 75 bus-mounted bike racks to pilot the concept. These racks were concentrated on eight routes that primarily went to parks and trails. They dubbed the program, “Ride Rack and Roll.”

2002: BikePGH was founded. It was immediately clear that this program wasn’t working as planned. Only eight routes were designated as having bike racks, but often buses on those routes would arrive sans rack. The service simply wasn’t dependable.

2003-2006: Stakeholders represented by Sustainable Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, the Port Authority and BikePGH met on and off to try to figure out the issues regarding the Rack ‘n Roll service. It was clear the only answer was to get more racks into the entire system. In 2004, the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission provided $290,150 from the Federal Transportation Enhancements to purchase another 300 racks, expanding the program to 12 routes. However, there was still the problem of buses on these routes arriving without racks, leaving riders with a low confidence of the service’s dependability.

2006: Steve Bland was hired as CEO of the Port Authority in June of 2006.

2007: At a BikePGH strategic planning session, members expressed that outfitting 100 percent of Port Authority buses with bike racks should be a high priority campaign that we should pursue.

2007: The Port Authority announced that they were about to purchase 100 new buses – none of which would be outfitted with bike racks. BikePGH then advocated that the Port Authority adopt a policy where every new bus purchased includes a bike rack. Mr. Bland agrees to our request and the new buses arrive in 2008 with racks attached.

2008: The Port Authority’s policy of retiring old buses (without racks) and replacing them with new ones (with racks) started to make a big difference.  They announced ordering even more new buses, all of which included racks. The percentage of bike-racked buses increased during this time to approximately 70 percent.  Also, working with BikePGH, the Port Authority agreed to allow folding bicycles aboard any bus without a bike rack, as well as aboard “the T” and incline during peak hours.

2009: Working with BikePGH, the Port Authority was awarded Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funds from the federal government, with a local match provided by the Richard King Mellon Foundation. These funds will pay for the retrofitting of the remaining 190 buses in the fleet.

2010: The CMAQ funds kick in and the racks are ordered. The Port Authority announces that they will “Complete the Fleet” by the end of 2011.

2011: The racks begin to be attached to the buses. Any bus that was to be retired in the near future did not get a bike rack (so there still may be a handful of buses in the system in the short term without racks).  These last remaining buses are due to be retired by the end of 2011, taking the fleet with bike racks from 99 percent to 100 percent!

Celebrate at Transportation Exploration: Friday, September 23

You’re invited to Transportation Exploration, an event celebrating sustainable transportation, on Friday, September 23 from 7:30 – 9:30 AM in Market Square. All are encouraged to bike, bus, carpool, or simply walk downtown to celebrate and show support for sustainable transportation.

The Port Authority will use the event to officially announce that their entire fleet, ie 100% of their buses are now outfitted with bus-mounted bike racks – a very important development for people who want to combine transportation options. A Port Authority bus will be parked in Market Square to allow people to practice racking their bikes.

Click here for more information about the Transportation Exploration

Never used the racks before?

Watch a short video on how to use them:

Do you like that there are bike racks on buses? Become a Member today! We worked tirelessly over the past several years to make sure that every bus in Pittsburgh has a bike rack. Your support makes sure that these bike-friendly developments continue. For more info, check out:


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