July 15--Funding for rapid bus service between Downtown and Oakland will be discussed on Tuesday at a special Port Authority of Allegheny County board meeting, where members are likely to reopen the 2014-15 budget.
Meanwhile, Steve Bland, the transit agency's former CEO, appears to be on the verge of taking over Nashville's transit agency.
Port Authority board members passed a $388.5 million budget last month for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Board President Robert Hurley said at the time the agency would reopen the budget within two weeks to look for $3 million to study developing so-called Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT service.
Hurley on Monday declined to discuss funding sources but said the board will be asked on Tuesday to consider shifting additional money toward BRT development.
"Two weeks ago we were still looking at details of the budget, and we didn't want to delay that process," Hurley said.
Other board members said they would talk at the meeting about where the money would come from.
Bus Rapid Transit experience is a factor is helping the former Port Authority CEO Bland in getting a new job. Patricia Harris-Morehead, spokeswoman for Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority, confirmed that Bland is the leading candidate among five finalists to head the transit agency there and a search committee will recommend his hiring to the full board on Wednesday.
Nashville MTA, which has an annual budget of $66 million, is in the planning stages for its own Bus Rapid Transit line. Bland did not return a call for comment.
A divided Port Authority board fired Bland in early 2013 after months of friction with County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
"Mr. Bland is the ideal administrator. He thoroughly understands mass transit -- both bus and rail ... and also understands the importance of building partnerships, community consensus, and understanding one's community," Harris-Morehead said. "The search committee is aware of the circumstances of his departure from Pittsburgh. They are satisfied that it was a situation of new political leadership simply wanting to install their own team."
Bland is employed at Michael Baker International in Moon, where he is serving as the program director of CTfastrak, a 9.5-mile advanced bus rapid transit system in Connecticut between New Britain and downtown Hartford.
Port Authority and Pittsburgh community groups have discussed BRT for more than two years. The service has fewer stops and shorter wait times than traditional routes.
Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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