Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Valentine's Day 2-for-1 deal for Pittsburgh's Bike Share coming up

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 10:30 AM

Sure the Valentine's Day forecast is for a brisk 21 degrees, but Healthy Ride, Pittsburgh's bike share platform, is offering some incentive to brave the chills and take a ride with someone special.

Healthy Ride station on Penn Avenue, Downtown - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Healthy Ride station on Penn Avenue, Downtown
On Feb. 14, all rides will be half-off, or $1 for every 30 minutes on the bikes. No promotional code or reservations are required. Just rent a bike at one of the city's 50 stations, from Larimer to the South Side to the North Side, and be on your romantic way.

“We hope this encourages people to get out and ride with the ones they love this Valentine’s Day,” says Pittsburgh Bike Share director David White in a press release. “Whether that means people take a scenic ride around town on Sunday afternoon or they commute to a special night out, we want people to enjoy a bike ride this year.”

And while snow this week might cause some hesitation that routes will not be clear,  remember that after the last storm on Jan. 22, many city trails were plowed and safe to ride on, even if some of the protected bike lanes were not.

For more information visit the Healthy Ride website at


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Monday, January 25, 2016

Opinion: Transit advocate Chris Sandvig on the new Downtown bus 'super stop'

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 5:21 PM

  • Photo by Aaron Warnick

Editor's Note: This letter was sent to
City Paper Friday afternoon from Chris Sandvig, a transit advocate and nonprofit Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group staffer. The letter is concerning the new Downtown bus "super stop" at Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue that was completed by Envision Downtown, a public-private partnership established by Mayor Bill Peduto.

If you spend any time near Downtown Pittsburgh’s Sixth Avenue and Smithfield Street corner, you’ve probably noticed the sidewalk extension installed earlier this year. What that’s all about was revealed this week, as Envision Downtown — with support from the Colcom Foundation — transformed it from a narrow sidewalk stop to a wider, sheltered stop. We couldn’t be happier.

Why? For over 6,000 reasons, plus a couple more. And all of them are huge.

Every weekday, 6,500 people access Downtown via this corner. Like everyone else, they’re going to work, to school, to shop, to appointments. In other words, living their lives, spending money and making Downtown more vibrant. They’re spending their money wisely by leaving their cars at home, or not even owning a car, and they deserve something better than a sign on a stick.

Improving transit’s visibility also improves Downtown's quality of life — and, thereby business viability. The new "super stop" could help improve pedestrian access through the area and to nearby businesses. The design itself is also not only an accessibility improvement — it’s an image improvement. Investing in transit increases ridership and its attractiveness; unsnarls Pittsburgh streets; and improves the health and wealth of everyone — even if you don’t use it.

Most importantly for our neighborhoods, this sets in motion a change in thinking that we’ve been pushing for some time: improving transit’s viability and accessibility is not just the Port Authority’s responsibility. We all own it, and we all must step up. The streets, sidewalks, intersections and traffic signals influence transit’s attractiveness at least as much as how Port Authority puts buses on those streets. Mayor Peduto showed strong leadership by owning that responsibility and doing something about perhaps the most overlooked part of the trip —  waiting for the bus. Pittsburghers for Public Transit, agree, saying, “[We] are thrilled about this new and improved bus stop. We commend Mayor Peduto, Envision Downtown, and everyone who helped to implement this 'super stop.' We look forward to more opportunities to improve the transit riding experience.”

If Pittsburgh is to continue to attract new talent; realize its carbon-reduction and community-revitalization goals; and keep itself affordable for its most vulnerable residents, more "super stop"-like projects are needed Downtown and in our neighborhoods. This new way of thinking must become institutionalized. Our neighborhoods were transit-oriented before it was chic, and their rebirths are as linked to making transit, walking and biking safer and more appealing as any bricks-and-mortar redevelopment strategy. PCRG and its members are doing our part, advancing projects with similar transit-accessibility-improvement philosophies. We are also advocating for policy changes so that such future infrastructure projects simply become how we do business. We thank Mayor Peduto for his leadership and look forward to working with his administration, and all stakeholders, to make the Smithfield "super stop" the first of many transit street projects and a new way of thinking.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Commuter survey shows higher percentage of bikers among city participants

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 10:30 AM

Bike share station Downtown on Penn Avenue - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Bike share station Downtown on Penn Avenue
Last week, the city released the results of the "Make My Trip Count" commuter survey and they were what many expected they would be. Trips to Downtown and Oakland made up the vast majority of participants' commutes; the largest percentage of commuters drove alone to work; and about one third of participants used public transportation to get to their job.

(It should be noted that this survey was voluntary and primarily taken online. It also was not conducted by a neutral third party. It should also be noted that the survey counted individual trips, not what people said was their primary mode of transport.)

For bike lovers, the survey showed some promising numbers, including that 4.2 percent of trips to work were by bike. Eric Boerer of advocacy group BikePGH says that this number could be due to the nature of the survey, which allowed respondents to input multiple methods of how they commute. The American Community Survey, by contrast, asks for one primary mode of transportation. (And according to 2014 ACS figures, bike commuters in Allegheny County made up less than 1 percent of commuters, and Pittsburgh had 1.8 percent bike commuters.)

The riders over at BikePGH went even further with the survey data. The city sent them the survey broken down with information from the more then 9,000 responses from people with city ZIP codes, as well as some other results not initially released to the public. 

For Pittsburgh commuters, the survey shows that 8.6 percent of trips were done by bike. The city ZIP code respondents also showed higher percentages of walking to work (9.3 percent) and  taking public transportation (around 40 percent).

Boerer says he was impressed by the percentage of bike trips by city residents. "Pittsburgh is showing a pretty good breakdown in active transportation," says Boerer. "About two-thirds of people living in the city are getting to their jobs without driving. We still have a lot of work today to increase those numbers, but we are well on the way to making that happen."

And some of the survey data may speak to the potential increase of bike commuters too. Boerer says survey data shows 15 percent of respondents said they are interested in bike commuting but have yet to take to leap onto two-wheels. And 25 percent said that more trails and protected bike lanes would increase the likelihood they would bike to work. (City Paper reported about more bike infrastructure and trails that are coming to Downtown in the next couple of years, see here.)

In the end, however, Boerer is happy that more data is out there. "There is so little data in general out there, so it is great to have the [city partners] push for that and get more data out there," says Boerer.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Micro-Transit agency Ride ACTA growing and looking at expanding services

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 at 2:19 PM

Lynn Manion with the ACTA shuttle outside IKEA this past summer. - CP FILE PHOTO
  • CP file photo
  • Lynn Manion with the ACTA shuttle outside IKEA this past summer.

Ride ACTA (Airport Corridor Transportation Association), a micro-public-transit agency that serves Allegheny County’s airport corridor, is still micro, but it’s growing at a significant rate. In 2015, the agency that provides shuttle rides around Robinson, Findlay and Moon, grew more than 45 percent since the prior year and served about 89,000 rides.

The shuttle service mostly transports low-income employees who work in and around the Robinson Town Centre, since bus routes and sidewalks are limited in the area. City Paper wrote about Ride ACTA and other micro-transit agencies and whether they should be held to the same standards as the Port Authority in a fall feature, seen here.

Yesterday, Ride ACTA received a commendation at the county council meeting. Councilmember Michael Finnerty, who represents Robinson, thanked Ride ACTA for their continued transportation services.

“You really move a lot of people around and get people to work and school,” said Finnerty at the meeting. “We thank you.”

Lynn Manion, director of Ride ACTA, said the increase in ridership was partly due to support from the state and the county. A “super stop” which opened at the Robinson IKEA in summer 2014, was a combined PennDOT and county project. Manion says this stop has helped ease connections between Port Authority buses and Ride ACTA shuttles.

And Manion says Ride ACTA has goals to expand service options at the super stop, too. Manion says she has reached out to ZipCar, a car-sharing service, and hopes to put a car or two near the super stop that people could rent on an hourly rate. She says this would give people more options to travel around the airport corridor, without owning their own car.

Manion also hopes ride-sharing company Uber might have interest in working with Ride ACTA.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

New proposed Port Authority fare change will also benefit people with disabilities

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 1:19 PM

  • Photo by Ryan Deto
This week, we reported on Port Authority’s proposal to eliminate zones and charge every rider a $2.50 cashless fare on bus and light-rail rides (riders currently catching buses in the outer suburbs, known as Zone 2, pay a $3.75 fare). According to PAT spokesperson Adam Brandolph, it was the first major fare-change proposal in 35 years that will actually lower fares instead of raising them.

The $3.75 Zone 2 fare is the among the highest public transportation fare in the country, and PAT chair Bob Hurley says this proposal would eliminate that notorious distinction.

Some other interesting tidbits emerged from this proposal at the PAT planning committee meeting on Jan. 13, including a boon for people living with disabilities in the region.

Now, riders with disabilities are eligible for half-fare weekly and monthly passes ($12.50 and $48.75 respectively). Before, people living with disabilities who qualified purchased a special ConnectCard that took off half fares when used, but could only be loaded with cash amounts, not weekly or monthly passes, like regular ConnectCards.

PAT board member John Tague, who is a wheelchair user, thanked the authority for including the half-fare passes as part of the proposal. Tague says that many riders with disabilities currently purchase regular ConnectCards and load them with monthly passes because they ride so often that it ends up being cheaper than loading money on their reduced-fare cards.

“It is a good thing that they are doing this,” says Tague. “This has been requested for years, and Port Authority continues to work well with the disability community.”

Another new addition to the proposal is the addition of a $7-day pass. The day pass will offer unlimited rides for the calendar day it is used (details like whether you can purchase ahead of time are still being ironed out, according to Brandolph.)

Hurley says the day pass is primarily targeted at visitors, and it simplifies travel for tourists who wish to use PAT buses and light-rail cars. Pittsburgh is currently one of the only large cities in U.S. that does not have a day pass for its public transportation system. 

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Friday, January 1, 2016

Pittsburgh's bike share offering discounted annual memberships for a limited time

Posted By on Fri, Jan 1, 2016 at 9:24 AM

Are your New Year’s resolutions ready? You might want to consider adding “riding a bike more” to that list, and Healthy Ride has a nice incentive for you.

Pittsburgh’s favorite (and only) bike share system is offering annual memberships for the first time. Subscribers can now pay a one-time fee and ride all year at a discounted rate. Continuing now until March 1, members can purchase an unlimited 30-minute ride pass for $120 and an unlimited 60-minute ride pass for $200 that are good for the entire year. (This works out to a 16 percent discount compared to buying monthly passes).

Enjoy unlimited rides on these bikes all-year-round for a discounted rate thanks to Healthy Ride. - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Enjoy unlimited rides on these bikes all-year-round for a discounted rate thanks to Healthy Ride.

“While we always offer a monthly option that can be used year-round, this limited-time and discounted annual membership is an excellent option for those who want to ride all year without making a monthly payment,” says Pittsburgh Bike Share director David White in a press release. “We hope Pittsburghers in all neighborhoods continue to incorporate biking into their daily commutes.”

Annual passes are good for 12 months after you purchase them (for more information, click here). So if you buy one on Feb. 16, 2016, it will be good until Feb. 16, 2017. After March 1 of 2016, annual passes will not be available until possibly closer to the beginning of 2017, so commit to that “bike more” resolution early.

Also, to see what new lanes you might be able to ride on Downtown come 2016 and beyond, check our coverage of the city's newly announced plans for bike infrastructure.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

City reveals preliminary plans for new bike infrastructure Downtown

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2015 at 11:40 AM

Attention Downtown bikers: By summer next year, a more biker-friendly Golden Triangle takes another step toward completion.

City officials discussed new bike routes with community members Monday night. According to Pittsburgh Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Kristin Saunders, the city is currently gathering data and community input for the construction of bike infrastructure that would travel along either Boulevard of the Allies or Fort Pitt Boulevard and connect with the Eliza Furnace Trail (“Jail Trail”) at Grant Street.

Map of existing and proposed bike-infrastructure routes for Downtown. Lines in orange and red are planned and do not show the specific future alignments. - IMAGE COURTESY KRISTIN SAUNDERS
  • Image courtesy Kristin Saunders
  • Map of existing and proposed bike-infrastructure routes for Downtown. Lines in orange and red are planned and do not show the specific future alignments.
Construction is currently slated for August 2016 and the new infrastructure would also connect to the Penn Avenue bike lane, thus completing two sides of a biker’s "golden triangle" (see image). The third side of the triangle would place bike infrastructure somewhere in the vicinity of Smithfield Street, running north-south, and is slated for completion in 2017 or 2018.

Envision Downtown director Sean Luther has been working to compile data of bikers Downtown. While he notes that the success of the Penn Avenue lane (see maps showing popularity of Penn Avenue's bike-share rides here), he says additional data has shown demand from other areas too. Luther notes that counts taken at the Smithfield Street Bridge and Sixth Street Bridge both tally more than 100 cyclists per hour during rush hour.

And Saunders says these numbers could grow if the city creates even better bike infrastructure. She cites a survey from Portland, Ore., that says 60 percent of those surveyed said they are interested in riding bikes in the cities but are concerned about their safety.

“If you provide safer connections to bike infrastructure, more people will bike,” says Saunders.

And that is what the city hopes to do with their new Downtown bike infrastructure projects.

According to Saunders, initially the city was strongly considering bike lanes for Fort Pitt Boulevard, but after suggestions from key stakeholders, Boulevard of the Allies was thrown into the mix. 

At a Dec. 11 public meeting, cyclists and other attendees seemed to form a consensus that the Boulevard of the Allies route could be a better fit than the Fort Pitt route. Local organizations and businesses voiced disapproval of the Fort Pitt route due to parking challenges, and a few biking advocates who initially thought Fort Pitt was the stronger option said they were swayed toward Boulevard of the Allies by meeting’s end.

“It was interesting to hear that some people thought Fort Pitt was better, then say that they changed their mind during the meeting,” says Saunders. “That is rare, but that is why we [hold public meetings].”

Eric Boerer, of BikePGH, says he is also leaning toward supporting the Boulevard of the Allies route. He says the route benefits from being more of a straight shot, and it travels through a business district and past Point Park University.

However, he says the bicycle-advocacy group’s support depends on the final design of the bike infrastructure, which has a few options including a double-protected lane (like Penn Avenue) or two separate unprotected lanes.

Also on the docket for 2016, nonprofit Riverlife's Mon Wharf Switchback project will provide bike riders a car-free path from the Great Allegheny Passage entrance at the southern end of Grant Street to the Point that travels along the Mon River. A switchback allows cyclists to ride up a moderate slope that doubles back (see image below), so they can reach elevated areas (such as the Smithfield Street Bridge depicted here) in a relatively short length.

Rendering of Mon Wharf Switchback, which would connect Smithfield Street Bridge path with Mon Wharf trail to Point State Park. - IMAGE COURTESY OF WWW.RIVERLIFEPGH.ORG/
  • Image courtesy of
  • Rendering of Mon Wharf Switchback, which would connect Smithfield Street Bridge path with Mon Wharf trail to Point State Park.

Boerer adds that the these connections are important to the area’s bike tourism, too. The Great Allegheny Passage is part of a car-free trail that runs more than 335 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C., and is a growing tourism draw. Boerer says finishing these projects is important to making the last section of the trail better for riders, which helps draw tourists who want to ride to the Point, and also helps boosts all bike projects in the city.

“It is so important to have all of these connections,” says Boerer. “If we want all of this to be successful, we need to continually expand upon it.” 

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Free unlimited bike-share rides tomorrow throughout Pittsburgh

Posted By on Fri, Dec 11, 2015 at 11:53 AM

If you haven't noticed the unseasonably warm temperatures this December, you are probably overworked or a general hater of the outdoors. But for those who are soaking in all the beautiful days of this normally chilly winter month, Pittsburgh's bike-share Healthy Ride wants to celebrate with you this Saturday.

Healthy Ride stations like these are offering free rides from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Healthy Ride stations like these are offering free rides from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow (Dec. 12), all stations are offering unlimited free rides. You still have to register with Healthy Ride, but for those already registered, simply rent a bike between those hours and it will be free of charge. A promotional code is not required, but to register a debit or credit card is required.

“While Healthy Ride members can ride all year long regardless of the weather conditions, this warm December weekend is a perfect time to encourage people to get out there and take a ride,” says Pittsburgh Bike Share director David White in a press release. “It’s supposed to be a beautiful weekend. I hope our members get out and enjoy it.” (Saturday's forecast calls for sunny skies and highs in the upper 60s).

There are currently around 50 stations scattered throughout the city, with large clusters congregated in Downtown, Oakland and Shadyside. For more info on where the most people ride and when, check out these cool maps City Paper wrote about here. (The stations in Strip District and near trails along the Allegheny River are some of the most popular, so you might want to get to those early.)

To register for Pittsburgh Bike Share, visit, download the mobile app “nextbike,” or call 412-535-5189.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

CMU student creates cool maps of Pittsburgh bike-share stats

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2015 at 1:44 PM

Sure, the idea of riding bikes in December's sub-40 degree temperatures is not appealing for most. But maybe these maps and graphs will motivate you.

Mark Patterson, a Carnegie Mellon graduate student studying social and decision sciences, took one massive data file and turned it into maps and graphs that detail different aspects of Pittsburgh's bike-share system, Healthy Ride. In the bike-share’s opening three months, from June through August, Pittsburghers and tourists took about 40,000 rides combined, but Patterson wanted to see the intricacies.

“Ultimately it works great on both sides,” says Patterson. “We get a fun opportunity to explore, and they get a chance for more insight.”

Mapping the late-night rides of Pittsburgh - IMAGE COURTESY OF MARK PATTERSON
  • Image courtesy of Mark Patterson
  • Mapping the late-night rides of Pittsburgh
Patterson was intrigued by how far people rode (more than enough miles to circumnavigate the world), who rode late at night (see above), and how riders dealt with hills. For example, for every 26 riders who coasted downhill from Shadyside to Lawrenceville, only one rider braved the 200-foot-tall hill on the way back, according to Patterson.

“I live in Shadyside,” says Patterson, “and the bike ride down to Lawrenceville is great coasting, but the way back is not for the faint of heart.”

Patterson says that most of the data verifies what many already guessed — like how the majority of pick-ups are Downtown. But he notes there are some surprises.

When he first started to collect data on riders who pick up bikes from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., he thought the South Side, with its bar scene, would have the highest percentage. However after compiling the data, the station at Maryland and Ellsworth avenues had 16 percent of its rides occur late at night. Patterson says Shadyside may have the best nightlife, at least among bikers.

And Patterson is not the only one. The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission also went crazy with the bike-share data. On the Healthy Ride website, the SPC posted a spider-web map of riders' routes, station by station. From this map we can see that the most popular routes are clustered along the Allegheny River and that Lawrenceville, already the headquarters of BikePGH and Healthy Ride, might have some additional proof that it is the city's unofficial biking capital.

To check out more bike-share maps, graphs and stats visit Patterson's twitter page and Healthy Ride's website

Pittsburgh's most popular Healthy Ride routes in dark blue. - IMAGE COURTESY HEALTHYRIDEPGH.COM
  • Image courtesy
  • Pittsburgh's most popular Healthy Ride routes in dark blue.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Eleven new public-art bike racks unveiled in Pittsburgh Cultural District

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 10:16 AM

Myra Falisz posing with her public-art bike rack, "Time-traveling Mike." - PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN DETO
  • Photo courtesy of Ryan Deto
  • Myra Falisz posing with her public-art bike rack, "Time-traveling Mike."
A decade ago, there were no public bike racks in the city of Pittsburgh, according to Eric Boerer of BikePGH. In fact, Boerer says, it took two days of debate just to install twelve of the signature three rivers racks in the city.

Oh how far we have come.

On Nov. 24, Pittsburgh’s Cultural Trust unveiled eleven new bike racks in Downtown’s cultural district. And each rack is a unique public art installation created by a different artist.

“Even something as utilitarian as a bike rack, can function as public art,” says Cultural Trust President Kevin McMahon.

This is the second year the trust has sponsored a public-art bike rack program (last year’s created five bike racks, including one that looks like a miniature 16th Street Bridge). Now Downtown’s art and entertainment district is home to 15 public-art bike racks.

Boerer applauds the trust’s “creative approach” to a modern transportation issue and says the racks are a “perfect balance of form and function."

Wood Street Galleries curator Murray Horne says that four of the racks used stainless steel as their primary material and are maintenance free. The racks were funded thanks to $125,000 from the Colcom Foundation, an environmentally focused nonprofit.

This announcement comes on the heels of Allegheny County gutting the revenue of its public art law, which CP wrote about here.

Cultural Trust vice president Nick Gigante says he was glad to work with Colcom toward their goal of creating more beautification projects. He is also glad that the bike racks can be enjoyed and used every day of the year.

“Part of why we did this was to mark [the cultural district] as a preeminent entertainment and art destination,” says Gigante.

Myra Falisz created the bike rack titled “Time-Travelling Mike” said she was influenced from french author Jules Verne and the culture of the late 1800s. She adds that her art works perfectly as a bike rack because it was inspired by a time frame when bikes became a very popular mode of transportation.

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