Development & Transportation

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

On a daily basis, 18,500 vehicles travel through the outbound Liberty Tunnel. Effective at 8 p.m. Friday, motorists will need to find a new way to the South Hills.

PennDOT is closing the outbound tunnel around-the-clock through 6 a.m. Monday July 28.

Crews will prepare the tunnel walls so they can be painted and complete work that was halted in December.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

Mayor Bill Peduto lifted his cell phone up, showing the Lyft and Uber apps on his screen.

“I don’t drive them, but I use them,” Peduto said. “I’ve used them both in the city of Pittsburgh and also in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. It’s very easy to use.”

Montgomery County Planning Commission / Flickr

Right now, most Pittsburghers use their car to get around, but that may change in the near future. First of all, the city lacks sufficient parking, especially downtown. But new transportation options backed by the mayor will make it easier to get around “tahn” without owning a car. Mayor Peduto stopped by Essential Pittsburgh to focus on the city’s transportation goals going forward.

The most immediate issue the mayor has been dealing with was the Uber/Lyft dispute. Peduto said he is behind the two ride sharing companies and calls the ongoing dispute with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission "dysfunctional."

Pittsburgh International Airport will begin offering daily nonstop flights to Fort Lauderdale, officials announced Wednesday.

Travelers can book their seats now through JetBlue for the inaugural flight, leaving Pittsburgh Oct. 29 at 7:15 a.m. Those making the trip will receive discounted airport parking.

Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Chief Executive, said the new year-round flight will benefit travelers and businesses.

As PennDOT nears completion on the two-year long, $49 million rehabilitation of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels next month, it’s beginning work Wednesday evening on the first of three Parkway West (I-376) projects.

One outbound lane will be closed as workers install traffic control signs Wednesday and Thursday from midnight until 5 a.m.

This first project involves construction of a fourth outbound lane, about a mile long, from Rosslyn Farms to I-79. PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said he expects this part of the $3.72 million project to be completed by the spring.

The ride-sharing company Uber has asked the Public Utility Commission (PUC) for an emergency permit, which would allow the company to resume experimental service.

State Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) started drafting legislation last week that would legalize ride-sharing in Pennsylvania.

90.5 WESA's Michael Lynch

Pittsburgh is the 35th most bike-friendly city in the U.S., according to Bicycling Magazine.

Now, Bike Pittsburgh is introducing cycling classes in an effort to make the city be even more bike-able.

The “Fundamentals of City Cycling” class is taught indoors at The Wheel Mill in Homewood. Participants will learn about the basics of bicycling including techniques to maneuver obstacles such as curbs and potholes; using hand signals; how to start and stop in traffic; and, how to perform a pre-ride safety check.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and other city officials announced the construction of three protected bike lanes in the city. The lanes will be built from Schenley Plaza to Anderson Playground in Schenley Park, along Saline Street between Greenfield Avenue and Swinburne Street (Panther Hollow Trail) in Greenfield, and on Penn Avenue from 11th Street to Stanwix Avenue Downtown.

State legislators are preparing a measure that would allow ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber to operate in Pennsylvania, days after administrative judges with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) ordered the companies to cease operations.

Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) has already drafted a bill that would lessen the PUC's regulations on background checks, insurance, vehicle inspections, and most importantly, licensing.

Flickr user Dale Beckett

 

Fourth of July weekend travel is expected to reach pre-recession levels for the first time, even though gas prices are the highest they’ve been since 2008.

AAA is predicting that 41 million Americans will travel at least fifty miles this weekend, a 1.9 percent increase over last year, with 80 percent traveling by car.

In the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, the number of people traveling to celebrate the holiday is expected increase by 1.3 percent.

Gas Prices Closing in on the $4 Mark in Pittsburgh

Jul 2, 2014
Jenn Durfey / Flickr

Perhaps you have noticed the marquee at your local convenience store and other displays of the price of a gallon of gas inching upward in past weeks. Pennsylvania’s gas prices have been ranked the tenth highest in the country.

The average price of a gallon of gas in Pennsylvania is $3.76, well above the national average of $3.67. Pittsburgh is even higher than the rest of Pennsylvania, with an average price of a gallon of gas costing $3.84.

Gregg Laskoski, Senior Petroleum Analyst for GasBuddy.com, said in some areas of Pittsburgh $4.00 for a gallon of gas is a penny away.

Lyft

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has slammed the brakes on ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber in Pittsburgh effective immediately.

PUC Administrative Law judges have granted the emergency petition by the PUC Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement to issue cease-and-desist orders for the companies.

The two-judge panel wrote that they were not “blind or deaf to the public opinion,” but that the commission’s duty to ensure public safety is more important than the convenience of the companies.

Two administrative law judges have agreed with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to force two ride-share companies to stop operating in Pittsburgh.

The judges issued their rulings Tuesday, five days after PUC attorneys argued that Lyft and Uber are violating state rules that govern paid transportation services.

Uber, Lyft and other ride-share companies use smartphone apps to dispatch drivers who use their own personal vehicles.

Historic Tunnel to be Added to Bike Path

Jun 30, 2014

Pennsylvania’s cyclists will soon be able to enjoy some century-old history as part of their biking scenery.

After decades of being boarded up and blocked off, the Pinkerton Tunnel near Markleton in Somerset County is set to be renovated and made part of the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail sometime next year.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there could be a shortfall in the highway trust fund (HTF) as soon as mid-July.

For much of the country, that could mean a halt to construction on bridges and roads.

“What we’re facing in transportation is the transportation equivalent of a government shutdown, it is that simple, but it is that stark and disturbing if folks don’t start (to) surrender some of their predispositions on what should happen next,” U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) said.

Turnpike Tolls on the Rise For the Foreseeable Future

Jun 18, 2014
MPD01605 / Flickr

The PA Turnpike Commission has approved a toll increase set to begin in 2015. This is the seventh rate increase since Act 44 of 2007.  It is also the first time since 2011, EZ Pass rates have gone up. What do these toll rate changes mean for the future of the turnpike?

Tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike are going up for the seventh straight year.

The turnpike commission Tuesday approved a 5 percent increase that will take effect in January.

Officials say the increase will be applied evenly to cash and electronic E-ZPass tolls — marking the first time in three years that cash tolls are not subject to a steeper increase.

About three out of four turnpike drivers now use E-ZPass.

Regulators want two ride-sharing companies to stop doing business in Pennsylvania.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement is pursing cease-and-desist orders against San Francisco-based ride-share companies Lyft and Uber.

The companies have five days to respond.

Drivers planning to take the Parkway East (I-376) into the city will have to find an alternate route this weekend.

The inbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel will be closed from 9 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.

According to PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan, crews will be paving the road surface of the inbound tunnel and replacing the bridge expansion dam.

“Bridges flex, so there is an expansion dam between the two portions of the bridges,” Cowan said. “It’s minor work compared to the paving of the tunnel. That’s the main work.”

PennDOT says it has taken precautions to protect electronic roadside signs from pranksters seeking to change the message.

Numerous sign hacks have appeared across the country for years, drawing attention to security shortcomings.

But a spokeswoman for PennDOT says the state’s electronic signs and highway advisory radios are protected with passwords as well as physical locking systems.

Chuck Davis, who teaches ethical hacking and computer forensics at Harrisburg University, said that’s probably adequate.

With barbeques and picnics scheduled all throughout the Memorial Day weekend, the number of people traveling for the holiday is expected to increase, as are prices.

According to AAA, this year 36.1 million people are predicted to go at least 50 miles from their homes to celebrate the weekend. That is up 1.5 percent despite some travel costs rising: Average hotel prices have increased $3, rental car prices have risen 1 percent to $44, gas prices are expected to rise and airfare is up 6 percent.

Pittsburghers Tell Port Authority CEO How to Improve Transit

May 21, 2014
Jim Ritchie / Port Authority of Allegheny County

What needs to be done to improve the region’s public transit? That’s the question Port Authority of Allegheny County posed to the public through a survey, and the first round of results are in.

Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean said the results were revealing.

Exploring Pittsburgh's Forms of Alternative Transportation

May 20, 2014
Marnie Schleicher / 90.5 WESA

According to a Census report released last week, Pittsburgh ranks third among large cities with commuters walking to work. As residents of cities look for alternative transportation the reasons they cite include convenience, affordability and environmental awareness.

According to Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University,  gridlock on Pennsylvania roads costs commuters “billions in terms of time lost at work as well as increased gasoline expenses.” 

You make your airline reservations and you’re often instructed to arrive 90 minutes to two hours before your flight time for security purposes. Now Pittsburgh International is the first airport to have a co-located application site to get domestic and international travelers through security more quickly.

Ross Feinstein, press secretary for Transportation Security Administration (TSA), said TSA Pre-check is an expedited pre-screening program available at 118 airports, including Pittsburgh International, with designated express lanes.

Ground was broken  Monday on Phase 2 of the Southern Beltway (I-576) that will  eventually connect Pittsburgh International Airport to  the Mon Fayette Expressway.

This phase, totaling $550 million  includes construction of a 13-mile highway linking Route 22 with I-79 near McDonald and begins with the building of two bridges costing $14 million.

The project was made possible by Act 89, the $2.3 billion transportation funding plan, signed into law last November by Governor Tom Corbett who was present at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Flickr user HerrVebah

Transit and city planning experts from all over the country are converging on Pittsburgh this week to help the Port Authority of Allegheny County create a plan for the future.

Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said the nine consultants are part of the nonprofit Urban Land Institute and will come up with recommendations about how to improve the county’s transit system.

PennDOT wants to know what you think should be done to the Parkway East to reduce congestion and lower the number of accidents seen each year.

“We’re only going to look at things that would be something we can afford,” said PennDOT Dist. 11 Executive Dan Cessna. 

Ideas such as removing the Squirrel Hill Tunnel or completely reconfigure the highway will not be considered.

“These are affordable changes that could be done at the interchanges, to the networks of the traffic signal systems, other modifications to the lanes,” Cessna said.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Blame it on the roads, the drivers or the cars. Any way you spin it, Pittsburgh and traffic seem to go hand-in-hand.

But nearly two years after “smart traffic signals” were introduced in East Liberty, Mayor Bill Peduto said the project is ready for expansion.

“It’s not something for George Jetson,” he said. “It’s something that’s happening right here in Pittsburgh today and the beautiful thing about it is there’s no other urban environment in the world that has this level of technology to help to move traffic in the most efficient and effective method.”

Undercover Officer Tickets Uber, Lyft Drivers

Apr 25, 2014

The state Public Utility Commission (PUC) is cracking down on ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber for operating without licenses in Pittsburgh.

From the end of March through April 21, the PUC issued 23 tickets to Lyft and Uber drivers ranging in amount from $25 to $300 plus court costs.

An undercover PUC enforcement officer was sent to retrieve rides using the services’ smartphone applications, and once the rides were over, the officer submitted the tickets to the local District Justice’s office.

Trending on the 412 Blog and What You Need To Know About Ride-Sharing

Apr 8, 2014
Marnie Schleicher / 90.5 WESA

  Sean Conboy online editor at Pittsburgh Magazine's 412 Blog breaks down trending topics in Pittsburgh, from social mobility to dining trends, Google Fiber, and most notably, the ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber

“Basically it’s taking what people see as a jitney sort of service and actually taking it into the 21st century,” Conboy said about Uber and Lyft.

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