Development & Transportation

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

daveynin / Flickr

Recently Pittsburgh debuted a substantial amount of new bike lanes. Many cyclists are celebrating the changes, but those who don’t bike may be scratching their heads. Why is bike infrastructure beneficial for a community? Who benefits? What about the costs?

We’ll speak with Ngani Ndimbie, Communication Manager of Bike Pittsburgh, and Jeremy Waldrup, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, about how bike infrastructure impacts communities -- regardless of whether you bike or not.

For more on Bike PGH's "Better Bikeways" vision, visit here.

For Joe Wos's op-ed rejecting Pittsburgh bike culture, go here, and then jump back to Bike PGH for his change of heart.

AAA Study: Hands-Free Tech Is Not Always Risk-Free

Oct 8, 2014

“Not all voice activated systems are created equally,” according to Bevi Powell, AAA’s East Central Senior Vice president.

A study conducted by AAA finds three out four drivers believe their hands-free technology is OK to use while driving, however many systems are actually more of a distraction than they think.

“The problem is when you’re distracted mentally, or you’re cognitively distracted then you’re taking your mind off of what you should be concentrating on and that is operating your vehicle safely,” said Powell.  

The state is hoping to partner with municipalities across the state to improve traffic signals that will lead not only to better traffic flow but also to added energy savings.

PennDOT will use Act 89 funds to support its “Green Light-Go” program.  The act sets aside $10 million for signal improvements in the current budget.

P3 Approves Compressed Natural Gas Fueling Stations

Sep 30, 2014

Pennsylvania’s Public-Private Partnership (P3) Board has approved a project to develop compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations at public transit agencies around the state with the expectation that the public would be able to access the fuel. 

Despite importing 75 percent of its natural gas just five years ago, Pennsylvania has become a net exporter of the fuel for the first time in more than 100 years.

Two Public Utility Commission Administrative Law judges may have recommended that the full Commission deny Uber’s application for a permanent license, but the ride sharing company doesn’t need to slam on the brakes quite yet.

“After weighing the evidence in the cases of the Uber applications that were before the Commission, our administrative law judges wrote recommended decisions addressing each of the issues in the case,” Denise McCracken, PUC Deputy Press Secretary, said. “These recommended decisions are denying the applications by Uber.”

Union Blames I-279 Bus Crash on Mechanical Failure

Sep 25, 2014

The Port Authority of Allegheny County thinks the driver is at fault, but the union thinks the Sept. 22 bus crash on Interstate 279 that injured a driver may have been a result of mechanical failure.

Steve Palonis, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, said that after reviewing video footage and talking to drivers Juliann Maier and Thomas Frauens, there is no indication of reckless driving.

Pennsylvania’s highways among the worst in the nation, according to a report released Thursday by a Los Angeles nonprofit.

The commonwealth has dropped from 40th to 41st in “overall highway performance and cost effectiveness,” according to the Reason Foundation’s 21st annual highway report.

David Hartgen, lead researcher and professor of transportation studies at the University of North Carolina, said the state’s high percentage of deficient bridges, narrow rural lanes and a high fatality rate has caused its rankings to slip.

Driving in Pittsburgh is notoriously difficult, and increased deer collisions are only going to make it more difficult for people to avoid crashes, especially as deer activity starts to rise during the fall.

Pennsylvania has climbed the chart for highest projected deer crashes, rising from number five, now to number two, according to the 2014 State Farm Deer Collision Report which predicts the number of crashes that will happen during the fall season.

Flickr user tadekk

Seventeen more bus routes went live Thursday in Allegheny County’s Real Time Bus Arrival System, which gives riders instant information about where their Port Authority buses are.

The system is now up and running for a quarter of the 102 bus routes in the county, and another 15 routes will go online in the next two weeks. County executive Rich Fitzgerald said all routes will be available on the system by the end of the year.

With thousands of cyclists gathering in Pittsburgh for this week’s Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place Conference, the Pittsburgh International Airport has installed an area where riders can disassemble and reassemble their bikes before and after their flights.

The assembly station has tools, wrenches and an air pump for cyclists who come and go from the airport on two wheels. State Sen. Matt Smith, who serves on the board of the Allegheny County Airport Authority (ACAA), said the station shows “an innovative approach to multimodal transportation.”

Thousands of bike enthusiasts from around the country have pedaled their way into Pittsburgh – or most likely travelled by other means – for the 18th annual Pro Bike Pro Walk Pro Place Conference.

Tuesday’s discussion focused on Bike Share programs, which provide public bicycles for people to rent and have been implemented in cities all over the world.

Jacob Mason, the transport research and evaluation manager from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, presented data he gathered while researching what he considers “successful” systems.

Walk, Run, Bike to Cycling Conference Next Week

Sep 5, 2014

An estimated 1,000 city planners, transportation engineers, public health advocates, elected officials, and community leaders are expected to attend The Pro Walk/ Pro Bike/ Pro Place Conference beginning Monday, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, and some appropriately will arrive by bike.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Some of Pittsburgh’s busiest bridges are about to become bicycle friendly.

Cycling enthusiasts, along with city and Allegheny County officials, announced Wednesday the addition of short- and long-term bike lanes to the Andy Warhol, Roberto Clemente and 10th Street bridges.

Two temporary lanes will be painted on the Andy Warhol Bridge following rush hour Thursday morning, four days before the Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference is set to kick off at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

The lanes will remain open through Sept. 13 to aid in conference transportation.

City to Install Penn Avenue Bike Lane

Sep 3, 2014

Cyclists in Pittsburgh can worry about one less street when it comes to rider safety.

The city is set to install a protected bike lane Wednesday on Penn Avenue between 6th Street and 16th Street. The lane will feature a two-way cycle track with bollards separating riders from automobiles.

“We expect it to really improve the safety for those riders,” said Ngani Ndimbie, communications manager for cycling advocacy group BikePGH. “To really change the way that they experience the street and allowing them to be able to feel really comfortable on their bikes.”

Good News for Port Authority Bus Service

Aug 29, 2014
wildcellist / Flickr

When we hear news of Port Authority of Allegheny County service changes, it usually means we’ll have to brace ourselves for cuts in service. But with transportation funding legislation approved by the legislature and Governor Tom Corbett last fall, the authority plans to add more frequent service to some of the busiest routes. 

Ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber have been granted temporary operating licenses in the Pittsburgh area, but it’s still up the Public Utility Commission to determine if they should be granted permanent permission to operate, and whether regulatory changes are needed to fit them into the transportation landscape.

A PUC hearing Thursday tackled the issue.

“I think that it would be embarrassing if we step back and say ‘no, we’re not going to accept this innovation,’” said state Rep. Erin Molchany.

Nearly 5 million people from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania are expected to travel 50 miles or more this Labor Day weekend for their last hurrahs of summer, according to AAA.

That’s a 0.6 percent increase from last year, according to AAA spokeswoman Teresa Adams. She said people are trying to squeeze the last drops of summer out of the holiday weekend.

“The school year’s starting, the weather is beautiful,” she said, “[and] we have an opportunity to get out there one last time before the winter and the snow.”

Drivers in the city of Pittsburgh are 51.3 percent more likely to be involved in a car accident than the average American, according to an Allstate Insurance Company report released today.

Pittsburgh is 14th worst overall among 200 cities in the report, and is last among cities with 250,000 to 499,000 residents.

In other words, “if you live in Pittsburgh, you’re going to get in a car accident,” Allstate spokesperson Julia Reusch said.

Nearly $35.9 million in state funding has been approved for rail freight improvements. The grants will help support about 34,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.

“Freight rail is actually very important in Pennsylvania, because we have the highest number of short-line railroads in the entire country, and we’re in the top five as far as the number of miles we have of track,” said Penndot spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt, “so we need to keep investing in those resources, because they support good paying jobs and they keep goods moving through our state.”

The long-delayed Lower Monongahela River Project to replace aging locks and dams is inching forward as funding becomes available, with a new $58.6 million dollar contract awarded to Joseph B. Fay Company to begin construction of a new lock wall near Charleroi.

The four-year contract will include building six reinforced concrete monoliths that will become part of the 260 foot by 35 foot wall. The new wall will be the center divider between two lock chambers that will eventually replace the current locks.

Nationally, AAA forecasts this August’s gas prices to be lower than in previous years – but in Pennsylvania, not so much.

The average price for regular unleaded gasoline in western Pennsylvania is $3.72 per gallon - compared to $3.52 nationally.

Teresa Thomas, AAA East Central director of public affairs, said there are two reasons for higher gas prices in the commonwealth.

“One is the gas tax, and we also use a special summer blend of fuel in seven counties in western Pennsylvania, and that makes the price a little higher than the national average,” Thomas said.

File photo / Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Ten days after the outbound Liberty Tunnel opened after a 16-day round-the-clock closure, PennDOT will close the inbound tunnel 24/7 for 17 days starting Tuesday at 8 pm.

PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said that like the recent work done on the outbound tunnel, the inbound tunnel will be painted.

"This allows a surface that allows crews to clean the inside of the tunnel,” he said.

90.5 WESA's Michael Lynch

More than two dozen Pittsburgh Parking Authority (PPA) lots and garages across the city are increasing rates Friday.

The increases vary by location. All-day parking at the Third Avenue Garage will jump from $12.75 to $16; the Oliver Garage will rise $4.25 to $17; and, the Mellon Square and Smithfield-Liberty garages will remain the most expensive city-owned parking structures in the city at $18.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Waiting for buses at stops can often mean standing in or near a bus shelter – typically it’s not a fancy or a very comfortable experience.

Enter the new Super Stop in the Ikea parking lot in Robinson.

The Airport Corridor Transportation Association (ACTA) held a grand opening for the stop Tuesday. It does have the bus shelters and benches, but outside of the shelters, there’s an area with tables and chairs, making it seem more like somebody’s patio than a bus stop. Though, as officials pointed out, the Super Stop is not meant just for bus commuters.

Electric cars have come a long way from having short ranges, and a wimpy top speed of 40 miles per hour. Now many electric cars can go upwards of 130mph, have a range of 250 miles, and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is trying to get more motorists to purchase one.

Pennsylvania ranks 19th in number of public electric car charging stations with 270 outlets—make that 274.

The Mall at Robinson Thursday unveiled four new car charging stations powered by solar panels mounted above the mall’s food court entrance.

Mall General Manager Beth Edwards said the stations take about 2 hours to fully charge an empty battery. That’s six times faster than the average at-home charge.

The solar panels are “actually offsetting the eight kilowatts that are needed for four full charges of the station,” Edwards said.

The state Public Utility Commission has approved emergency permits for two ride-sharing companies that have been operating in the Pittsburgh area.
 
The companies have come under fire over concerns that drivers, their vehicles and their insurance don't meet regulations for taxi cabs and other similar services. The companies have argued their services are just as safe but have been targeted because they don't fit neatly into current public transportation regulations.
 

The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission continues to try stopping ridesharing services Uber and Lyft from operating in the Pittsburgh area, often citing that the drivers are not regulated by the state, which is a safety concern.

This prompted one Pittsburgh man to look into a major safety issue – driving under the influence.

“Under that safety argument I decided to look into DUIs, arguably one of biggest dangers on the road, this could have been having a profound change in that area,” said Nate Good.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County approved shifting $1.56 million dollars from its capital budget to add to the amount needed to study a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line between downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland.

Port Authority Chairman Bob Hurley said an initial engineering and environmental study is a critical part of the process.

Study: PA's Rural Bridges Worst in the Country

Jul 14, 2014

Pittsburgh is known as “The City of Bridges,” but a recent study by national transportation research group TRIP suggests that there are other areas in the state whose bridges could use a little more attention.

The study, published Thursday, found that the condition of Pennsylvania’s rural bridges was the worst in the country. Pennsylvania’s country roads scored slightly better, at the 20th worst among the 50 states. The fatality statistics were grim—Pennsylvania has the 10th highest death rate on its country roads of any state.

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