Development & Transportation

We cover how people move about the region, as well as trends in housing and commercial development.

Courtesy: City of Pittsburgh

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority a $1.2 million grant for transit-related development in Uptown.

Development carved through Uptown, Oakland, Downtown and the East End, known to senior city planner Justin Miller as the “EcoInnovation District,” is designed to make more effective use of the city's resources as a key component to its Bus Rapid Transit corridor.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

The City of Pittsburgh and several organizations are teaming up to get a clearer picture of the region’s commuting habits.

The “Make My Trip Count” survey aims to get a comprehensive look at how people get to work or school or any destination – be it by bike, bus, rail, foot or car.

Mike Richards / 90.5 WESA

Two buses pull up to the stop at 6th Avenue and Wood Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. Nothing out of the ordinary, right?

On Wednesday, they carried residents from Baldwin and Groveton Village whose residents haven't had a nearby bus stop since 2011 when the Port Authority of Allegheny County cut services to 15 percent of its users as a cost-savings measure.

The authority's expansion of both the 44 Knoxville route to Baldwin and the 20 Kennedy route to Groveton began Tuesday as part of its quarterly service adjustments.

Josh Hallett

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and state and local law enforcement are teaming up over the holiday weekend to crack down on alcohol- and drug-impaired driving. 

The “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign is ramping up nationally, increasing checkpoints and roving patrols across the state.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick says the holiday excitement often leads to bad decisions behind the wheel.

Danielle Scott / Flickr

This year’s Labor Day is going to be a busy one for travel. And why not, with gasoline prices nationwide dipping their lowest since 2004.

“People are taking advantage of that, and a lot of people are traveling," said Chelsea Pompeani, public affairs director of AAA East Central. “And I know the weather is supposed to be nice in certain areas.”

Three weeks after rejecting Yellow Cab’s request to impose a surcharge of up to $8 per trip on weekends and holidays, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has tentatively approved two other fare increases for the taxi service.

The PUC rejected one provision of the request but agreed to a jump in the flag drop rate — the starting amount on the meter — from the current $2.25 up to $4 and a 30-cent-per-minute increase in the wait time rate. The charge to customers to have drivers wait will cap at be 55 cents per minute.

Expert Assesses Risk Of Oil Train Derailment In Pennsylvania

Aug 17, 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

With as many as 70 oil trains rumbling across Pennsylvania each week, the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday released a series of recommendations meant to reduce the risk of a catastrophic derailment, including reduced speeds through cities, beefed-up track inspections and a call for trackside communities to plan for an emergency.

Emma Gross / 90.5 WESA

For $49, you can get a one-way ticket directly to Orlando, thanks to Allegiant Air’s new flight route out of Pittsburgh International Airport.

Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis announced Tuesday a new non-stop route to Orlando Sanford International Airport beginning Nov. 5. The route will run twice weekly, increasing Allegiant Air’s flights out of PIT from 10 flights a week to 12.

Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

  Ridership along the Penn Avenue bike lanes is up at least 25 percent since June, according to data released last week by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

Spokesperson Leigh White said they counted roughly 1,000 trips per day on average in July. Ridership also spiked on weekends, she said.

Summer is prime time for road construction, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is taking advantage of the mild weather to push forward on major construction on Parkway West (I-376).

The project also involves $14.2 million worth of repairs and upgrades to the Fort Pitt Tunnel, including concrete repair work to the tunnel walls, electrical updates, drainage improvements and resurfacing of the roadway. Work on the tunnel is expected to be finished by the spring of 2016.

Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

Christoph Mertz spends his days looking at cracks in the street.

“Once you’re involved in something like this, you see every crack in the road, every pothole, you say, ‘ohhh, this is interesting,’” he said as he wove around sizeable potholes on the narrow streets behind Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh.

By a 5-0 vote Thursday the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission rejected one part of Pittsburgh Yellow Cab’s fare hike request and delayed action on the other two provisions.

Pittsburgh Transportation Group, the parent firm of Yellow Cab, wanted to impose a surcharge of up to $8 per trip on Friday and Saturday nights, Sundays and holidays.

Commissioner James Cawley joined his colleagues in rejecting that request, saying the variable surcharge “does not allow a passenger to determine if it is the proper amount,” and because it “appears to be arbitrarily determined.”

A flight operations control center in Moon Township is closing, causing some 650 employees to relocate to Texas, retire or look for a job elsewhere.

The Moon Township center was built less than seven years ago, specifically for US Airways, which merged with American Airlines in December 2013.

The last flight out of the Pittsburgh-area center is scheduled to take place on Aug. 23, which is also the day when the new operation center in Fort Worth will be fully functional. Pittsburgh workers who choose to move must do so between Aug. 20 and 24.

Visitors will be able to enjoy the view of the city from the Monongahela Incline through Labor Day weekend.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County announced Wednesday that it will delay the start of major renovations until Tuesday, Sept. 8.

The twelve week shutdown had been planned to start Aug. 31.

Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman proposed a resolution Tuesday that would create a data sharing system between the city and the Pittsburgh Parking Authority to assist authorities in tracking down stolen or wanted vehicles.

“Right now our ticket enforcement officers could walk down the street, enter a license plate at a meter, write a parking ticket, and that car could either be stolen or wanted as part of an Amber Alert and they would have no idea,” he said.

Better Bikeways Plan / BikePgh

Pittsburgh may not yet be a mecca for bicyclists and walkers, but local officials are trying to change that and make area roadways accessible for a mixture of transportation options. Efforts are not going unnoticed.

TransitCenter, a group that advocates for public transit and comprehensive transportation policies, released a report this week profiling Pittsburgh among six innovative U.S. cities for transportation policy planning. 

The Mon Incline will be closed for nearly 12 weeks starting Aug. 31 for major reconstruction.

According to Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie, the $3.5 million project includes: replacing all of the ties and track on the hillside, replacing some of the cable wheels that guide the major hauling cable and the safety cable, installing a new hauling cable and some renovations to the cars.

The Port Authority’s plan to charge for new and replacement ConnectCards has been put on hold.

The board’s planning and stakeholder relations committee postponed its consideration of the proposal at the July 16 meeting, leaving no resolution for the board to consider on Friday.

“The committee anticipates continued discussion on this topic and will determine whether this should appear on the agenda in the upcoming months,” committee chair John Tague said.

Democratic Sen. Bob Casey said this week he wants to prevent a provision in the federal transportation spending bill that would allow 85-foot tractor-trailers on Pennsylvania roads because he believes the bigger rigs will exacerbate state infrastructure problems.

These “Twin 33” trucks are 17 feet longer than the current 68-foot models.

Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA

  Pittsburgh Bike Share swayed more than 7,000 riders into 10,000 trips in Healthy Ride’s first month of operation.

MPD01605 / Flickr

Here’s your six-month warning.

Effective 12:01 a.m. Jan. 3, 2016, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will begin its eighth consecutive year for toll hikes.

The commission approved a 6 percent toll increase for both EZPass and cash customers on Tuesday. Officials said EZPass users will continue to save about 35 percent on tolls despite the jump.

“Our average toll for our EZPass customers will go from $1.09 to $1.16, and for our cash customers it’ll go from $1.70 to $1.85,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton.

daveynin / Flickr

  Three Rivers Regatta revelers were relegated to the land this holiday weekend after the National Weather Service issued a recreational boating advisory warning of high, fast moving water in area rivers, pushing through about four times the normal flow. 

While the Formula One powerboat and other races were canceled, swift moving water has not impacted barge traffic on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.

The not-yet-approved Clean Vehicle Corridors Act is the most recent of the many federal and state efforts to push for the use of alternative fuel vehicles in the United States.

On June 22, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) re-introduced his bill, first introduced in 2013, which would allow the Department of Transportation to establish clean vehicle corridors along interstates nationwide. The corridors would provide spaces for fueling and charging stations, travel plazas, rest stops and other roadside infrastructure.

WestPA31 / Flickr

  The nearly 1,000 bright yellow emergency call boxes along the Pennsylvania Turnpike could disappear soon, thanks to the prodigious growth of cell phones and House Bill 1335.

State Rep. John Lawrence’s (R-Chester) bill would amend state law, which currently requires the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to provide and maintain emergency call boxes for turnpike drivers. The amendment, if passed, would eliminate this requirement.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Port Authority of Allegheny County officials are considering charging up to a $5 fee for their credit card-like ConnectCards to help offset more than $1 million already incurred to purchase and support their use.

More than 350,000 ConnectCards have been distributed for free since they began replacing paper passes and tickets in 2012. Spokesman Jim Ritchie said the authority swallows about $2.95 per card.

The proposed $5 charge would make the program more sustainable, he said.

BikePGH

Pittsburgh is putting more capital budget dollars into bicycle lanes and infrastructure this year than it has in recent memory, but it’s still not enough to accommodate the growing number of cyclists on the road, according to Patrick Roberts, Pittsburgh's principal transportation planner.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Up until Tuesday, Uber drivers were only allowed to drop off passengers at the airport, but they were not allowed to do pickups. As of late Tuesday afternoon, that will no longer be the case.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority announced a new policy which allows transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber, Lyft and Yellow Z to legally operate on airport property. TNCs connect passengers and drivers through apps.

Port Authority officials are proposing a budget of $397.8 million for FY 15-16, an increase of about $9 million from this year.

The 2.3 percent spending increase will not result in a hike to the base fare ($2.50), service cuts or job reductions.

“This is absolutely a really good sign for the Port Authority,” said transit agency spokesman Jim Ritchie.

In fact, the preliminary budget calls for a limited service increase in some routes to alleviate overcrowding.

Pennsylvania ranks worst in the country for structurally deficient rural bridges, according to a report released by the Road Information Program (TRIP).

The report called “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland,” found that the nation’s rural transportation system is in need of improvements to roads and bridges, reducing high crash rates, and increasing connectivity and capacity. 

More than 500 structurally deficient bridges across Pennsylvania are slated for upgrades in the next year and a half.

PennDOT has contracted with Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners in what project manager Dan Galvin calls a unique public-private partnership.

“This is something that’s done quite a bit in Europe and Asia, but it is something rather unique in the United States,” Galvin said.

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