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New 'UV' bus loops through city looking for good times

Friday, September 07, 2001

By Stephanie Franken, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Tonight, a different breed of bus will appear on the streets of Pittsburgh. It's shiny and small, and it carries the cryptic phrase "UV Loop" on its side.

 
    For more on this story

Click here for a map showing the route of the Ultra Violet Loop.

 
 

For the next seven weeks, this free bus service, called the Ultra Violet Loop, will circle the city's neighborhoods. Its mission is to help people find the good times awaiting them on Friday and Saturday nights.

The brainchild of Ground Zero, a "social entrepreneurship" organization, the bus service will take riders in both directions on a circuit that stops in the Strip District, Bloomfield, East Liberty, Shadyside, Oakland, the South Side, and Downtown.

Running from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., the UV Loop aims to draw young night crawlers, suburbanites and visitors of all ages to the city's fun-but-hard-to-find spots.

It also aims to change transportation habits. "A lot of people are mass-transit prejudiced," said Pat Clark, a founder of Ground Zero and a developer of the UV Loop project. "This is our very user-friendly method to change that, because it has only two directions: there and back."

Clark said the city's existing Port Authority bus system visits all the neighborhoods that the UV Loop hits, but the route planning and bus transfers involved to go from, say, the Strip to East Liberty can be intimidating. That's especially true for out-of-towners.

The Port Authority helped Ground Zero start the service, Clark said. "We told them what we alleged were bright ideas, and they gave us the real world perspective."

They wound up with a 10-bus system that simply circles the seven neighborhoods on its route, so riders can feel secure they can eventually wind up where they started. And buses go both ways around the loop.

Ground Zero hopes the UV Loop's seven-week run , funded by a $125,000 grant from the R.K. Mellon Foundation, will be the precursor to a more permanent UV Loop route.

Many neighborhood, arts, and tourism organizations -- as well as local bars and restaurants -- want the UV Loop to keep circling.

Kate Allen, a program officer the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, tried out the UV Loop during a trial run this spring and was surprised at its diverse ridership, which included young Pittsburghers, visiting business people, and foreign tourists.

"It's great to meet people on the buses, riding around. It was a blast," she said. "The bus sort of becomes an event unto itself."

Allen's organization, as well as the New Idea Factory, a volunteer economic development group formed last year by Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey, are donating staff resources to the UV Loop project.

Tinsy Lipchak, executive director of the Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau's Office of Cultural Tourism, also is getting on the Ultra Violet bus, so to speak.

She's ending a similar bus service her organization had sponsored, the Culture Caravan, to join forces with Ground Zero on the UV project.

Because it has more funding than Culture Caravan, the UV Loop has more buses and only 20-minute waits between stops. By comparison, Culture Caravan had hour-long waits, she said.

Lipchak hopes to add the Culture Caravan's Saturday afternoon excursion to destinations such as the Andy Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory, both on the North Side, to the UV Loop.

In addition to the R.K. Mellon Foundation, the UV Loop is sponsored by Brew House Association, Casbah, East End Main Street Program, East Liberty Development Inc., Eastside Development, Kaya, Lava Lounge, Mad Mex, Pittsburgh City Paper, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, The Harris Theater, and Mosites Co.



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