transportation

Honoring Dr. Thomas Starzl, A Medical Pioneer

Mar 10, 2017
University of Pittsburgh

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

This week's stories include a look back on the career of medical pioneer Dr. Thomas Starzl, known as the "father of transplantation," who passed away last Saturday. Transportation continues to be a major issue in the region. We'll discover the latest plans to better connect the counties. And in our final segment, we'll get updates on the mayoral primary, Wilkinsburg a year after a tragic shooting and the Mon-Fayette Expressway.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

On a snowy afternoon in the Hill District, Shafon Willis and her two kids waited for the 83 bus. Winter, 3, couldn’t seem to hold onto one of her pink gloves, which kept falling to the ground.

The Willis family rides the bus about three times a day to get to daycare and Shafon’s job on the South Side. She said she’s not a big fan of some of the recent changes to the bus system in Allegheny County. A new rule that went into effect Jan. 1 requires riders to enter in the front of the bus and exit from the back of the bus.  

Kaffee Instein / flickr

Pittsburgh's light rail commuters will soon be able to surf the web while they wait for a ride.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County announced Friday that Comcast will install Wi-Fi hotspots at seven of the city's T-stations.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Carnegie Mellon University will receive $14 million in federal funding to develop innovations in smart transportation, research and education, the school announced Tuesday.

Matt Slocum / AP

 

A retired Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission worker says executive-level managers are "out of touch" and that "jobs/promotions are filled by the politicians" — including positions created for unqualified workers.

Oh, yeah, Michael Stuban — the middle manager who filled out the scathing exit interview before he retired on Thanksgiving — hit "reply all," sending the emailed document to all of his more than 2,000 former co-workers.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Police in the Pittsburgh suburbs say they're investigating a woman's claims that an Uber driver made unwanted sexual advances.

Ross Township police said the woman reported the incident about 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday.

The woman says the driver started making advances while driving her to a restaurant. The driver allegedly stopped the vehicle, but the woman says she pushed him away and he continued the ride to the restaurant where she got out and called 911.

Police said the woman wasn't physically harmed.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

 

Municipal officials from around the country grappled with changes in transportation, such as self-driving cars and rail safety, while meeting in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

This week, Pittsburgh is hosting 3,000 mayors and council members from around the country, as well as local leaders, for the National League of Cities' annual City Summit. They’ll meet through Saturday to discuss the challenges currently facing cities and share best practices for energy efficiency, working with startups and increasing transparency.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has assessed a contractor more than $3 million in damages because a major Pittsburgh bridge was wholly or partially shut down for 24 days after a construction fire.

PennDOT says a spark from a blowtorch ignited plastic piping and a construction tarp on the Liberty Bridge on Sept. 2.

Contractor Joseph B. Fay Co. says it hopes to negotiate a lower amount of "liquidated damages" that accounts for the "hard work" the company did to limit the bridge closure and put the project back on schedule.

Around 4,700 public transportation workers in Philadelphia went on strike at midnight, shutting down many of the city's transit options.

The members of the Transport Workers Union Local 234 and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA, were unable to agree on a new contract.

The strike is causing widespread disruption, and raising concerns that if the situation is not resolved it may interfere with Election Day next week.

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads)

 After more than two years of contentious legal battles, Uber and Lyft may operate legally in Pennsylvania. On Monday, the Senate voted 47-1 to allow ride-hailing services to operate in the state — and to begin regulating them as their own transportation entity. Governor Tom Wolf plans to sign the legislation. 

Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

 

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is trying to shame trucking firms and other commercial haulers into paying more than $1.5 million in unpaid tolls.  

One firm, Green Coast Logistics of South Plainfield, New Jersey, owes the bulk of that money, more than $678,000 stemming from more than 7,000 violations.

The violations occur when vehicles drive through EZPass lanes and don't have an electronic toll-paying device attached -- or don't have enough money in their EZPass account to cover the tolls.

Matt Slocum / AP

 

A judge has ordered the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to pay a former worker more than $3 million after finding he was wrongly fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on agency practices.

Ralph Bailets sued the turnpike commission and two of its officials over his 2008 termination. He says he was dismissed for questioning a major computer contract, hiring practices and how large trucking firms qualify for E-ZPass discounts.

Prosecutors in 2013 used his testimony to file corruption charges against several agency officials.

PennDOT

 

When a construction fire damaged Pittsburgh's Liberty Bridge last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation closed it for 24 days to do repairs.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

The Liberty Bridge reopened on Monday to vehicles weighing less than nine tons.

“The bridge is good for cars, ambulances and pick-up trucks,” said PennDOT District Executive Dan Cessna. “It excludes buses, empty tri-axle trucks and heavier trucks than that.”

Feds Preview Rules Of The Road For Self-Driving Cars

Sep 20, 2016
Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Obama administration officials are previewing long-awaited guidance that attempts to bring self-driving cars to the nation's roadways safely — without creating so many roadblocks that the technology can't make it to market quickly.

Pokemon Go trainers will do almost anything for a rare find, including getting into a car and speeding around to catch them. And then they tweet about it. According to a study, there were over 113,000 social media messages in 10 days last July that showed people getting into potentially unsafe traffic situations while trying to catch cute virtual monsters.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Police Zone 2 Commander Anna Kudrav rented awhile, then bought her own wheels. Riding a bicycle calms her, she said.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Smoke enveloped the Liberty Bridge this afternoon after sparks fell onto plastic piping below and caught fire. Workers were torching beams to replace the bridge deck, says Scott Fennell, a laborer with Joseph B. Fay Company. There were no injuries, but Fennell said the incident would cost them time.

The final phase of the bridge deck replacement began August 29 as part of the $80.8 million Liberty Bridge Rehabilitation Project.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Advocates from Lawrenceville-based advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh said a fatal accident this week between a motorist and cyclist could have been prevented.

Oil Train Traffic Is Down — For Market Reasons

Aug 26, 2016
Frederic J. Brown / Getty via Marketplace

 

 

Oil and its downstream products enable most transportation methods, from the gas in automobile tanks to the rubber in shoes. For oil itself, however, there are only a few methods of movement, and each is controversial. In the U.S., one method that saw a recent boom is now on the decline.

Self-Driving Uber Cars To Carry Passengers Soon In Pittsburgh

Aug 18, 2016
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Uber's move to carry people with autonomous vehicles is not surprising, given the company's history of pushing into gray areas where there is little or no regulation, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina professor who studies self-driving technology.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Blue roadside signs reading “Bus Stop” could become a thing of the past as the Port Authority of Allegheny County begins its rollout of more robust bus stop signage this summer.

Starting in July, roughly 85 Downtown bus stops will be outfitted with signs that include route maps, bus schedules and frequency information. Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said the new wayfinding system will eventually be at all PAT bus stops in the county.

Bob Gaffney / Flickr

Pennsylvanians with aging family members are underutilizing many of the state’s assistance programs, Department of Aging officials said.

Secretary Teresa Osborne said the department could be doing more to inform the public.

“While we’re doing an okay job of it, we need to do better,” she said. “So, what better opportunities are we going to take advantage of in order to ensure that the services and support that are available to older Pennsylvanians and their caregivers are known before somebody is in a crisis mode?”

Colton Point State Park / dcnr.state.pa.us

Bicyclists exploring northern Pennsylvania’s scenery along Route 6, the state’s longest highway segment, can soon expect changes.

This month, PennDOT will collaborate with the departments of Conservation and Natural Resources and of Community and Economic Development to find ways to make the route safer and more accessible for bike riders. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Members of the Port Authority of Allegheny County board unanimously approved a measure to adopt a flat fare system by doing away with the three-zone system Friday. 

Google Maps

Around 55,000 commuters who cross the Liberty Bridge on a daily basis may need to choose a different route starting this month.

An $80.08 million renovation project begins at the end of April and finishes sometime in 2018, according to PennDOT District 11 spokesman Steve Cowan.

90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto wants electric avenues, responsive stoplights, a drop in city emissions totals and more self-driving cars, and he doesn't want to wait for a $50 million grant to get them.

The Steel City is one of seven finalists for a multi-million “Smart City” prize offered through the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve urban transit.

At an event Tuesday, Peduto said city officials need to treat the ensuing notoriety as an opportunity to consider innovative but realistic changes to city infrastructure regardless of the contest's outcome.

Self-Driving Cars Are Coming, But They’re Not Ready For Pittsburgh Yet

Mar 4, 2016
Anita DuFalla / PublicSource

Ninety percent of car crashes are preventable.

As it stands, about 30,000 people die in car crashes every year in the United States, said Mark Kopko of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation [PennDOT]. “If you could reduce that by 90 percent, that’s huge.”

Autonomous cars have the capacity to do that.

In Allegheny County, that could mean a vast reduction in the roughly 12,000 crashes in 2014 — especially of those attributed to driver error, like drunk or distracted driving and speeding.

Mike Richards / 90.5 WESA

Port Authority of Allegheny County officials heard from the public Wednesday on a proposed fare change that would take place next year.

Currently Port Authority buses and light rail lines run through two zones. Riding through one zone costs $2.50, with an additional $1.75 to ride through a second. Officials are proposing consolidating service into one zone, costing a flat $2.50 fee.

PennDOT Crews Brace For Icy Conditions Next

Jan 25, 2016
Stark / Flickr

After the weekend storm blanked parts of the state with as much as three feet of snow, commonwealth authorities must balance competing priorities: keeping state-owned roads clear while extending help to municipalities still digging out.

“This storm ... it’s historic,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards on Monday. “A lot of these cities and municipal public works departments are really trying to get on top of it... there are some very small roads, and it’s very hard with cars parked on the side.”

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