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Five quick ideas to mull over in 2014

Sometimes the key to coming up with a big, new idea is throwing a bunch of little ideas against the wall to see what sticks. So here are a handful of proposals for making Pittsburgh a better place, some very simple and others that might be a bit more outside the box.

Last year, a lot was made of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's notion that buses should be rerouted from the heart of Downtown. He had half a good idea: Instead of buses, cars should be removed from the Downtown area. Gridlock would be eliminated, as would the exhaust from thousands of idling cars every day. Certain streets beyond the main thoroughfares could even be turned into green space or permanent food-truck parks, complete with al fresco dining.

Citizens often feel like they don't have enough input into decisions made by government officials. We should follow the lead of several British cities and install Citizens Panels. The panels — which can vary in size from a couple of dozen people up to a couple of thousand — take surveys and attend community discussions about quality-of-life concerns and other issues affecting the city. And legislators actually take their advice to heart when making decisions.

One of the most frustrating parts of riding a Port Authority bus is being stuck on the back of a crowded bus and being unable to exit through the back door. The agency needs to change that by allowing ConnectCard users to pay their fares and exit through the backdoor. It would save time and encourage more riders to get ConnectCards, which we assume is what Port Authority has wanted all along.

Pittsburgh is the City of Bridges, so why not connect two of the three sister bridges that span the Allegheny River with a pedestrian bridge? It would be a great marketing tool: "Even our bridges have bridges."

The city has spent a lot of time and money on new walkways along the rivers. How about a few picnic tables to allow people to enjoy their lunch or an afternoon picnic without sitting in goose poop?

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