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The Formation of PAT

April 6, 1956 - February 28, 1964

Note: This is the first of a 6 part series that deals with the history of the Port Authority from the formation of PAT in 1956 through current.

Public ownership of the transit system in Allegheny County can be traced back to the Mass Transportation Study Committee which was appointed by the County Commissioners on May 1, 1952. This committee was charged with investigating how public ownership could improve transportation services in the County. At this time, there were close to 40 private carriers providing all or part of the service within the area. The equipment used by these carriers varied from new to ancient and the reliability of the service varied just as widely.

This study was completed in May of 1953 and recommended that service should come under public ownership so that it could be improved as well as more convenient for the citizens of the County. Although it was recommended, nothing was done regarding consolidating all the systems into one so the study sat on the shelf, along with the many mass transit proposals written over the years for the area. As with the Subway proposals, the plan wasn't forgotten.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAAC) was created by an act approved by the State legislature on April 6, 1956. The PAAC's duties did not include public transit but instead, as the name suggests, the improvement and development of the port districts along the rivers within the County. It wasn't until January 17, 1958 that the PAAC was actually established by the appointing members to serve on its board.

Also in 1958, another study was completed by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development who commissioned a study by the General Managers of 3 external city owned transit systems and was called the Contracted Study of County Transit Situation. This was a further study based on the original 1953 study. The General Managers of the Cleveland Transit System, the Toronto Transit Commission and the Chicago Transit Authority. The report submitted recommended that an Allegheny County Transportation Authority be created to improve transit service.

Instead of creating a new Authority with the sole responsibility of public transit, the County submitted a request to the legislature to amend the original PAAC act so that it also included public transit operations. The act was amended on October 7, 1959 and the PAAC was now in the transit business as well as its original mission of waterways.

It is important to note that even though the PAAC was officially in the transit business and handled much of the planning, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development was also still very active in the early transit planning. This planning was primarily dealing with the future of mass transit in Allegheny County with the PAAC handling the day to day dealings needed to get the future system up and running.

At the October 23, 1959 PAAC board meeting, the first Board charged with transit duties met. The board consisted of Robert C. Downie as Chairman, Hal C. Davis, Hon. Robert D. Fleming, Richard McL Hillman, Hon. H. M. Montgomery, E. G. Plowman, John B. Sweeney and C. B. Wiley. For the most part in the first several months, talk was of what existed now and what they would like to see happen with transit in the future.

As of June 21, 1960, an additional study was commissioned. This being the Coverdale & Colpitts Study which was submitted to the Board on June 28, 1961. This study recommended the complete integration of all transit services within the County as well as recommendations on the future of mass transit in the area. This report was submitted to the County Commissioners on September 20, 1961 with additional comments and recommendations from the Board. The Commissioners requested additional information as well as estimated costs of acquiring the private carriers.

In order to supply the information requested, the PAAC had to start looking at the various private companies. 33 companies were identified as providing 80% or more service within the County and those were the targeted companies for acquisition as was mandated in the Port Authority act. Shortly after Harley L. Swift was named the first Executive Director of the PAAC on March 6, 1962, negotiations started with the various companies.

What was looked at in the negotiations were the routes, facilities, buses and the ridership. Photo's were taken of each property (some of which are included in the Pittsburgh Independent histories). These 4 items were the primary things that set the reasonable market value price of the independent companies. Many companies were willing to the agreement as they were losing money daily, however, some companies were reluctant to the proposed buyout for a number of reasons. The additional information the County Commissioners requested was supplied on March 8, 1963.

It is important to note that during the formation years, the PAAC did not dictate how service was to be run by the Independent Operators. There were only 2 items the PAAC did that remotely resembled directing operations. The first was telling one operator, Bamford Motor Coach Lines, that they would not be taken over unless they leased some buses from another operator due to the extremely poor condition of the Bamford equipment. The second was providing financial assistance to several of the independents in 1963 to purchase some new equipment. It is not clear how much of the cost was absorbed by the PAAC. Many of the buses purchased in 1963 for different companies came in the same silver and green livery which was similar to the Harrisburg Railways Company livery. The Independent Operators were still free to add, modify and abandon routes as well as buy and sell equipment with the knowledge that it could effect the final purchase price of their company.

The date is not currently known on this item but is believed to have been done in 1963. A study was done by General Motors at the request of the PAAC on what to run, what to acquire and other recommendations. The PAAC tended to use this study as the bible to setting up the initial operations. The study recommended the GM 40 foot, 102 inch wide bus for all future orders. Up to this point, only one company ran 40 footers in Pittsburgh and they were 96 inch wide buses. Also recommended was not to acquire the Airlines Transportation Company which operated service from the Downtown hotels to the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. As this was a specialized service, the study stated that it would not be in the best interest of the PAAC to take over this type of service (even though GM could sell more buses if PAT did take this over). Also mentioned was the total standardization of the fleet to one manufacturer to save on maintenance and parts costs.

Public hearings on the PAAC take over of operations were held in April of 1963 to inform the public of what was happening and to hear and answer concerns anyone might have. As most of the Independent Operators served a specific area, many were concerned about losing the route they always rode or their area being forgotten in what some saw as a mega-operation that may favor certain areas over others.

Things were moving forward and John C. Dameron was appointed as General Manager, on January 15, 1964, of the Port Authority of Allegheny County - Transit Division as it was called back then. At this point the scramble to set up a uniform policy of service and how to integrate all the companies smoothly were well underway. A uniform system of route numberings was being drafted as well as making plans for the consolidation of facilities.

As easy as it sounds, consolidating 33 companies into one operating authority wasn't an easy chore. Prior to the start of operations on March 1, 1964, the PAAC had to figure out how to merge 33 different operating practices, 33 different fare structures, 33 different work forces all together without interrupting service. Much of smoothing out the integration was accomplished by spreading out the acquisitions over a several month period. As the Pittsburgh Railways Company (PRCo) was the largest of the Independents, it was decided to maintain many of the PRCo procedures as it would be easier to merge the smaller companies into that then have a large property learn new procedures. Many of the things taken for granted today such as a uniform fare, uniform work rules, uniform schedules were not ready to go on March 1 but much was implemented within a few months after the take over.

100 new GM TDH5303 and 50 new GM TDH4518 transit buses were ordered in 1963 to immediately replace many of the oldest and most poorly maintained buses that would be inherited in the take over. These coaches arrived in April of 1964 and were placed in service on May 1, 1964. The money for these coaches came from a $45 million loan that was guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the Board of Commissioners of Allegheny County. This money was for use in acquiring the various Independent Operators, buses as well as the normal costs of setting up business. At this point in time, there were no such things as State operating funds and Federal capital assistance funds.

As March 1, 1964 was approaching, agreements were made with most of the Independents regarding purchase price and the date of take over. March 1 was designated target date for the PRCo take over. The PAAC and PRCo however could not come to terms on the purchase price of the company so the PAAC had PRCo condemned by the power of eminent domain so that the take over could occur. The PAAC and PRCo eventually reached a settlement on the purchase price in 1967 for $14.2 million plus 5% interest from March 1, 1964. The total cost of acquisition of all the other properties totaled about $12 million.

Also occurring in the formation days of PAAC was the cooperation agreement between Westinghouse Electric Corporation and the PAAC in an experimental mode of transit which was called the Transit Expressway Revenue Line( TERL). Westinghouse Electric Corporation was requested in 1961, by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, to design a new transit concept for the Pittsburgh area. Six months later, Westinghouse had the plans in place for the TERL with the PAAC as a primary sponsor of the project. Pittsburgher's know the TERL system better as Skybus. This program was to be built and tested in the South Park Fairgrounds starting in 1965 and ultimately was planned to be used as an integral part of the later PAT Early Action Plan for the modernization and improvement of the new transit system.

The elimination of streetcars was also part of PAT's plan at the time due to the aging condition of the streetcars as well as the infrastructure. There were many reasons in addition to PAT wishing to dispose of the rail system as to why some of the lines had to go in later years. During the 1950's and 1960's, Pittsburgh was quickly gaining a reputation of being the largest trolley museum in the country and many communities wanted the streetcars off the streets as they wished to rebuild roads as well as the Urban Renewal projects that were being planned for some areas. These were 3 of the items, along with the politics of the time, that helped PAT develop its mindset of rail replacement during the formative years.

Currently the exact date of the adoption of the name, Port Authority Transit or PAT, isn't known but it occurred prior to the PAT takeover. The PAT colors were also changed from the Harley Swift silver and green to the red and white that PAT has used for decades. It is known that a radio/department store contest was held prior to PAT's takeover in which people could vote for what they thought would be a good name and the winning name has been used since that time.

At 12:01 am on March 1, 1964, the "Formation Years" of PAT officially came to a close as it was now officially the operator of the largest Independent company to serve the County. The first PAT bus rolled out of Homewood Garage at 3:45 am on the 77/54 Bloomfield-North Side route and the start of the "Early Years" in PAT's history began.

| The Formation | The Early Years | The MOD Years | The 80's Era | The 90's Era | The Gold Era |

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This page was updated on January 29, 2006

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