Penn Transit was another
independent bus line that could trace its ancestry to the street railway industry. It is
perhaps one of the more complex and confusing histories of all the Pittsburgh independents
due to the multitude of primary and subsidiary companies being involved along with many
similar company names.
The Pennsylvania General
Transit Co. (PGTCo) was a Depression-era operation, which operated many bus lines along
the Pennsylvania Railroad's (PRR) lines, including several in Western Pennsylvania. This
was a subsidiary operation of the PRR. In 1930 the PRR and Greyhound agreed to combine bus
operations. Greyhound took over the PGTCo routes but had no interest interest in the local
or suburban bus routes.
Greyhound formed an operating agreement with West Penn Railways, who had a subsidiary
company called Penn Bus Lines, for the local and suburban routes. The new company was
called Penn Bus Co. but surprisingly enough, didn't operate local service. This was due to
Greyhound acquiring the rights for the Pittsburgh - Akron - Detroit service from Union
Motor Transit Co, another West Penn Railways subsidiary. Penn Bus Company ran the
Pittsburgh to Akron portion and Greyhound ran the Akron to Detroit portion of that line.
The original West
Penn subsidiary, Penn Bus Lines, operated the first local service in 1931. The first line
was operated between McKeesport and Sutersville, a small coal mining community about 10
miles up the Youghiogheny River. The bus route was a supplement to an existing West Penn
rail route and started after a permit was granted by the PAPUC in 1931. This was the
only route of Penn Bus Lines at the time and should have gone to Penn Bus Company when
formed, however, with the Penn Bus Company running intercity service, it was operated by
the original company.
As a side note, Penn
Bus Company was later included in the Blue Ridge System of companies after West Penn's
intercity operations began operating under the trade name of Blue Ridge Lines in 1931.
Blue Ridge was later acquired by Greyhound in 1955.
In 1934, Penn Bus
Lines officially changed its name to the Penn Transit Company and coincided with a second
route being established. The second McKeesport area route was also parallel to a West Penn
rail route, this one from McKeesport to Irwin.
structure of Penn Transit Company had a number of divisions which operated more or less as
separate companies. The Leechburg, Kittanning, Greensburg, and McKeesport divisions
all were part of the former West Penn rail network with the McKeesport division being the
principal or main operation..
West Penn's interest
in transit diminished, and Penn Transit Company was sold to City Coach lines in 1937,
which had been formed as a holding company by several ex-Greyhound executives.
McKeesport's car lines were abandoned in June 1938 and a flood of Yellow Coaches took to
the streets via six routes. The Greensburg rail service met a similar fate between 1934
and 1937. Leechburg and Kittanning rail operations both went that way in 1936.
The operations were
running very well but in 1944 City Coach Lines was dissolved. As a private company, the
properties were acquired by its principal officers on the dissolving of the company. Hiram
L. Bollum acquired the Penn Transit Company, along with the Springfield Street Railway in
Massachusetts, York Bus Company and Westside Motor Transit Co. in Pennsylvania. At this
time, Bollum also formed the City Lines of West Virginia to acquire various bus operation
from the Monongahela West Penn Public Service Company.
In 1948, Penn
Transit Company was asked by the PAPUC to operate routes once run by the Westmoreland
Transportation Company who went bankrupt. The Westmoreland Transportation Company operated
primarily in New Kensington. This created a fifth division for Penn Transit Company
that serviced the New Kensington area.
All of the divisions
enjoyed various degrees of prosperity caused by the post-war boom in population,
industrial growth and spending. By the 1950s, however, prosperity began to fade in some
areas. The Greensburg lines were sold in 1953 to Carl Boe, who operated Ridge Lines, to
operate as Greensburg City Lines, then resold a year later. It generally declined until
abandonment in 1967. The other divisions didn't fare much better: Kittanning was sold off
and Leechburg was abandoned, both in 1953. New Kensington was turned into a subsidiary,
New Kensington City Lines, in 1956, leaving McKeesport as the strongest survivor.
were adjusted to meet varying ridership demands and trends, including catering to the mill
workers and their various shifts. At the end, the system had eight routes and 40 buses -
the largest fleet of any independent that did not operate into downtown Pittsburgh.
Between 1940 and 1955 all equipment was purchased new, and varied from Ford to Beaver to Mack to GM. A pair of second-hand Flxibles appeared briefly in 1955, as did a set of
stick shift 4509s in 1958. Five new TDH4517s were added in 1960, followed in 1962 by six
TGH3102s, which were nicknamed "peanut wagons" by the drivers. Four other second
hand TDH4512s and 4509s were added in 1962.
Company's garage, which was built adjacent to the former West Penn car barn on Walnut
Street was used by PAT until the West Mifflin Garage was opened. The structure still
stands today and the faded Penn Transit Co lettering can still be seen on the building.