As it prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary of providing cheap minibus transportation to underserved Monongahela Valley communities, Heritage Community Transportation is expanding its service.

The service, operated by Braddock-based Heritage Community Initiatives, on July 1 added Saturday service to its East Pittsburgh route and added stops in Pitcairn, at Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville, and at Giant Eagle on Northern Pike and Stroschein Road in Monroeville. It operates three routes Monday through Saturday and on holidays.

The program, which charged riders 25 cents a trip, started as a way to provide transportation to jobs for Mon Valley workers in 14 municipalities by filling in the gaps Pittsburgh Regional Transit doesn’t provide service between local communities. It’s the first and only transit service operated by a human services agency to receive state funding.

Now, it serves 16 communities, and anyone still can use the service for the same charge, 25 cents for riders from 12 to 64 years old, 10 cents for 6 to 11 years old and free for those under 6 or 65 or older.

Eric Stein, Heritage’s manager of transportation, said the agency was able to expand service through the process of seeking bids for a potential new provider. Service changed from Access, which also provides door-to-door service to needy senior citizens and those with physical needs through Pittsburgh Regional Transit, to Pittsburgh Transportation Group.

The service will be provided using four new vehicles that will have additional amenities for riders. The biggest change is that in addition to being able to get on at scheduled stops, riders will be able to flag down the minibuses almost anywhere as they drive by and get on if drivers determine it is safe to stop.

Other amenities include free Wi-Fi on all vehicles, free apps through the App Store or Google Play Store to track the location of the vehicles, tie downs for wheelchair and mobility scooters, and audible stop announcements.

Stein said many riders use the service as their only transit to work, medical appointments or shopping. Others use it as a supplement to PRT, using Heritage to connect with PRT or to get from PRT to their final destination.

Heritage operates on three fixed routes, all of which pass through Walmart on Route 30 in North Versailles:

  •  The East Pittsburgh Route, which starts in Swissvale and passes through North Braddock, Braddock, East Pittsburgh, Walmart in North Versailles, and ends at Penn Center in Wilkins; eight trips weekdays from 5:35 a.m. to 10:28 p.m.
  • The McKeesport Route, which starts on Fifth Avenue in McKeesport and passes through Port Vue on its way to Walmart in North Versailles; seven trips weekdays from 5:35 a.m. to 9:38 p.m.
  • The Monroeville Route, which starts at Concordia of Monroeville nursing home on Northern Pike and stops at Miracle Mile Shopping Center,  UPMC East and Forbes Regional hospitals (two stops), and passes through Pitcairn and Wilmerding before ending at Walmart; eight trips weekdays from 6 a.m. to 11:35 p.m.

Go here for the full schedule.

Stein said Heritage suffered ridership losses during the pandemic like most transit agencies, but he expects the expanded service will provide a boost.

“We’re slowly rebuilding, but it hit us hard,” he said.

The agency will have an event July 16 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its transportation service.

Heritage, which began in 1983 as the charitable wing of the former Braddock Medical Center, also operates preschool and out-of-school educational programs as well as provides healthy meals for children and seniors.

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at eblazina@unionprogress.com.

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at eblazina@unionprogress.com.