Goodbye Port Authority Transit: Pittsburgh Bus System Gets a New Name and Look
Officials say the rebrand is the culmination of work that started before the pandemic.
It’s out with the old and in with the new for Port Authority of Allegheny County — or rather, Pittsburgh Regional Transit.
That’s the service’s new name, announced officially at a press conference this morning. It’s abbreviated to PRT, pronounced “part,” and officials say it reflects a “more modern transit agency” that will both improve and simplify public transportation throughout the region.
“For decades, the name Port Authority has led people to jokingly ask where the boats are, so to have a name and brand that reflects the agency and its work is significant,” board chair Jeffrey Letwin said in a statement.
He referenced PRT CEO Katharine Kelleman, who has headed the transit agency since 2018, and added that under her tenure, “the team has embraced technology, sought innovative ways to transform their services and continues to look for ways to serve the greater community. Now, the name reflects that same vision for our future.”
Public information like schedules, brochures, the agency’s website and signage will be redesigned in various stages over the next year. PRT vehicles will receive decals and an entirely new design as they’re purchased.
The new branding is already live on the company’s website, featuring a new logo with the letters PRT each in their own circle. Beneath the design reads its full name, Pittsburgh Regional Transit.
According to the Post-Gazette, PRT’s rebranding effort began in 2018 when it hired research firm Campos and branding agency Red House Communications for $544,000. The goal was to develop a plan that would make the transit system more user-friendly.
Agency officials have said the bus and trolley system as it stands can be confusing to riders who aren’t already familiar with it; vehicles, bus stops, schedules and directional signs exist in an array of colors, designs and shapes, but the rebranding effort will eventually make it so all vehicles, signs and stops will look the same.
PRT spokesperson Adam Brandolph said the total cost of the rebrand was $720,000, which primarily went into market research, focus groups, etc. The cost for additional implementation of signs, schedules, brochures and buses will be borne into the cost of regular replacement, he added. In other words, there will be no additional cost.
“Long-term, the rebrand will help usher our agency into modernity,” he said. “We’ve all heard that we should ‘go back to PAT,’ which we definitely considered, but we wanted a name and a vision that not only aligns with our goals but one that pushes us into the future.”
In its early stages, the rebranding process gathered input from employees, riders and external stakeholders. The effort was put on hold at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but revisited late last year to ensure the input provided still rang true.
PRT has been hit hard by the pandemic; on May 19, it announced that it had to cut scheduled service by about 4%, effective June 26. This will impact 61 of the agency’s 97 bus routes and three light rail lines and will see the elimination of 38-Green Tree “C” due to low ridership, as well as the extension of 69-Trafford service to Forbes Hospital in Monroeville and the incorporation of the Fern Hollow Bridge detour for routes 61A-North Braddock and 61B-Braddock-Swissvale.
In reducing trips on less busy routes, the agency will be able to shuffle those operators to replace those who are on vacation, off sick or otherwise unavailable. PRC should then be able to make most of its scheduled trips — some of which it otherwise may have missed, leaving riders waiting.
Changes also include an increase in frequency for busier routes and a slight decrease for routes that tend to be more scant.
The changes, it said, are the result of current ridership trends and operator availability — an issue that’s been a problem this year following a vaccine requirement that placed unvaccinated drivers on leave in March, pending disciplinary hearings. (It even offered riders free fare for several weeks to compensate for the long wait times and ample service disruptions.) With those hearings almost, if not entirely, complete, 75 employees have been fired and 15 retired, including 48 operators.
But PRT officials see the rebranding as a “monumental” turning point in the agency’s history.
“This is more than just a new name and a new look,” Letwin said. “This marks the start of a new era and a new direction for our agency and our region.”