Transit | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |
Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Posted By on Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 10:20 AM

click to enlarge UPS's electric-assist bike-cart - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
UPS's electric-assist bike-cart
Bikes are a very contentious issue in Pittsburgh. So much so that Pittsburgh’s 2017 mayoral primary  had candidates run on anti bike-lane messaging. But bike proponents are moving ahead anyway. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a champion of bike lanes, dominated his anti-bike challengers in the May primary elections and won re-election on Nov. 7. U.S. Census figures show the city’s bike commuters increased by more than 50 percent from 2015 to 2016.

And now delivery giant United Parcel Service (UPS), is getting in on the bike action. Starting Nov. 9, Downtown Pittsburgh will be home to UPS’s only year-round delivery route that utilizes an electric-assist bike-cart in the U.S.

The pedal-powered cart can hold up to 15-20 packages and up to 400 pounds of cargo. It comes equipped with all the lights and turn signals that cars have, but is pedal-powered  Drivers are given a boost from an electric motor, that recharges as the driver pedals. (The cart is only partially powered with electricity; drivers must pedal to keep it going.)

UPS spokesperson Deanna Cain says the bike-delivery carts have had success in the crowded cities of Europe, and UPS uses the carts on special occasions in Portland, Ore. UPS first started using the “eBike” in Hamburg, Germany, in 2012. Now, UPS utilize bike delivery in 12 European cities. Cain says Pittsburgh is the perfect place to start the company's first U.S. year-round route.

“It’s good for downtown areas with narrow streets like Pittsburgh,” says Cain of the electric-assist bike-cart. “It has zero emissions and no fuel consumption. As more cities move towards sustainability, we want to follow that model.”

Karina Ricks, Pittsburgh’s director of mobility and infrastructure, is “thrilled,” that UPS will be utilizing bike-powered delivery in Downtown.

“This aligns with our climate-change goals, we like progressive solutions like these,” says Ricks. “This will help with traffic congestion, given our narrow streets Downtown.”

UPS’s Three Rivers division manager Nick Passaro says the new bike cart will reduce carbon emissions, noise and congestion Downtown. “We want the world to view Pittsburgh as a progressive place, that cares about the environment.”

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Posted By on Wed, Nov 1, 2017 at 6:14 PM

Station Square light-rail stop in South Side - CP PHOTO BY JORDAN MILLER
CP photo by Jordan Miller
Station Square light-rail stop in South Side
Most public-transit riders agree that using a light-rail car is more enjoyable than taking the bus. But for years, buses in Port Authority of Allegheny County’s system have had an upper hand: They could be tracked with the authority’s TrueTime app. Users can follow the bus’ progress in real time on a map or a text-version on their smart phones.

But now, that same technology, through Port Authority’s TrueTime tracker, is being applied to the light-rail lines. The lines, commonly referred to as the “T," run from the North Side through Downtown and into the South Hills. Both red and blue lines will be tracked with the real-time technology.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Posted By on Tue, Oct 24, 2017 at 4:56 PM

The Pittsburgh Steelers' new star wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, is known for catching touchdowns and coming up with innovative celebrations, including a hide-and-seek number during the Steelers' win over the Bengals on Oct. 22. But Smith-Schuster is also known as the team's best bike commuter, as he often rides his bike to practice at the Steelers' training facility in the South Side. And in a town where city councilors might scream at you for riding your bike, that's an impressive feat.

However, Smith-Schuster tweeted today, Oct. 24, that his bike has been stolen. "I hope it's not an end of an era #TeamFindJujusBike," wrote Smith-Schuster on Twitter.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Posted By on Thu, Oct 12, 2017 at 4:13 PM

click to enlarge Advocates march through Morningside to protest Port Authority's proposed fare-check policy - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Advocates march through Morningside to protest Port Authority's proposed fare-check policy
The Port Authority of Allegheny County is proposing a new fare-check policy on its light-rail trains, in which Port Authority police officers will be patrolling stations and cars and asking for proof of payment. If a rider fails to prove payment, officers will run the name through a background check and give the passenger a warning. Upon repeat infractions, riders can be issued criminal charges.

On Oct. 12, a group of 30 advocates marched in Morningside, requesting that state Rep. and Port Authority board member Dom Costa (D-Stanton Heights) reject the fare-check proposal. Gabriel McMorland, of the social-justice advocacy group The Thomas Merton Center, has met with Port Authority officials and spoken at multiple authority board meetings about the potential harm this policy could have on vulnerable populations that often use public transit, like low-income earners, the homeless and undocumented immigrants. Before the march, McMorland said that possibility of putting someone into the criminal-justice system for failing to pay a $2.75 fare is overly punitive.

“They do not appear at all concerned about the potential dangers we brought up,” said McMorland. “We want to stand up against over-policing in this community.”

Nationwide, there are a handful of other transit-police agencies that use armed officers to enforce fare-evasions, such as in New York, Dallas and Cleveland. The policy of Cleveland's Regional Transit Authority is similar to the proposed Port Authority policy, as it makes multiple infractions of fare-evasion a criminal offense. However, recent news reports from Cleveland have highlighted flaws in the RTA system.

In September, the Cleveland Scene wrote about how some RTA transit cops believe that RTA’s fare-check policy is merely a way to generate revenue, and how citations were disproportionately targeting black riders. And in July, TV station WKYC reported how the RTA was charging teenage students with criminal offenses for failure to show their school ID, which acts as their transit pass.

At the Oct. 12 rally, Brandi Fisher, of the Alliance for Police Accountability, worried that if Port Authority were to institute this policy, a minor fare-evasion infraction could escalate, given the oft-tumultuous relationship between minorities and police officers. “Things like traffic stops and pat-downs often escalate to a place where serious things occur, like death or major injury,” said Fisher. She cited the case of Leon Ford, who was severely injured by Pittsburgh Police officers after being pulled over for running a stop sign.

Alma Brigido, the wife of deported immigrant-rights activist Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, told the crowd that this policy will likely decrease ridership among undocumented immigrants, who utilize public transportation because Pennsylvania doesn't allow them to obtain driver’s licenses. “We are obligated to use public transportation in our daily lives.”

As City Paper reported in June, undocumented immigrants could be potentially in threat of deportation with their first fare-evasion infraction. Even though the proposed Port Authority policy prohibits officers to ask for identification, authority officers will still run people’s names through a database that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has access to.

A coalition of advocacy groups surveyed local Latino transit riders and found that about 80 percent of them would stop taking the T, if the proposal were implemented. Monica Ruiz, of Latino-service organization Casa San Jose, said this is troubling because many Latino residents and many undocumented immigrants live in Beechview and other South Hills neighborhoods which the light-rail serves. Ruiz told CP she spoke to one woman who would stop taking the T if the policy were implemented, and she told Ruiz that armed officers on the light-rail would make her and her children “very afraid.”

The group of 30 marchers ended their march at the office of Costa and delivered more than 300 letters from constituents, asking Costa to oppose the proposed change.

When asked for comment on this story, Costa’s office directed CP’s request to the Port Authority. Adam Brandolph, spokesperson for the Port Authority, emailed CP  the following statement: “Interim CEO David Donahoe delayed implementation of the proposed fare policy on our light-rail system in June due to unexpected equipment issues. He has taken that time to review how other transit agencies enforce fare payment, and he has not recommended any changes thus far.”

The date for the Port Authority vote on the fare-check policy has not been determined.

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 3:34 PM

click to enlarge Now-deleted post by North Side constituent photographing Darlene Harris as she drove by on pedestrian path - IMAGE COURTESY OF FACEBOOK
Image courtesy of Facebook
Now-deleted post by North Side constituent photographing Darlene Harris as she drove by on pedestrian path
In April, Pittsburgh City Paper reported about a video showing Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris honking at a cyclist who was obeying all traffic laws and yelling at him to “get in the damn bike lane,” when there was no bike lane to ride in. This video was from 2016, but the story ran when Harris was running for mayor.

Now, it appears Harris and her gold Jeep are drawing ire again. A now-deleted Facebook post shows a Jeep that matches the description previously reported by CP driving in the pedestrian path in Allegheny Commons Park in the North Side. The post’s author writes: “Does Darlene Harris realize it is a sidewalk not a road through our park? Apparently not since she almost ran over my stroller.”

CP reached out to the post’s author, who asked not to be included in the story, but Harris confirmed that she was driving through the park in a Oct. 5 Facebook post that reads in part: “I have received reports that some people are upset that I was using my vehicle in a park. I’m so glad that we have such vigilant citizens who are willing to report what they think is wrong, but I’m here to set the record straight. I was out on business personally investigating complaints that I had received from my residents.”

The post from the North Side resident received a lot of comments on Facebook when it was posted on Oct. 4, but was taken down relatively quickly. Still, Harris indicates in her post that people were “jumping to conclusions” when accusing her of any wrongdoing. Harris writes: “If anyone has an issue with me in the future — no matter how big or small — I invite you to contact me directly so that we can have a conversation. I have dedicated my life to public service and don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I was out serving my community and will continue to do so!”

One Harris constituent spoke to CP and was upset about Harris driving in the park.

“I am not very happy it, I live across the street from the park,” says Zandrea Ambrose, who has lived in the Mexican War Streets section of the North Side for 10 years. “It is concerning that she is driving in there. … I don't think I have ever seen a car in the park, outside of an event, or city park vehicles.”

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Posted By on Sat, Sep 16, 2017 at 12:48 PM

West Mifflin residents celebrate the 55 bus extension, but proposed cuts could ax the route. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CHANDANA CHERUKUPALLI
Photo courtesy of Chandana Cherukupalli
West Mifflin residents celebrate the 55 bus extension, but proposed cuts could ax the route.
The U.S. Census just released its 2016 estimates for commuters in Allegheny County, and the number of Pittsburghers biking and using public transit is growing. Compared to 2015, people who commute to work via public transit grew 0.8 percent, and by bicycle by 0.2 percent. (In the city of Pittsburgh, bike commuters increased by 0.9 percent).

Allegheny County is actually bucking national and statewide trends, in terms of public-transit use. The U.S. as a whole decreased its share of public-transit users by 0.1 percent from 2015 to 2016, as did the state of Pennsylvania.

But six five state representatives from Allegheny County just voted for a House budget bill that proposes $50 million in cuts to public-transit funds, as well as cutting $50 million in multi-modal funds, which are used to build non-car infrastructure, including bike lanes. The representatives —
John Maher (R-Upper St. Clair), Jason Ortitay (R-South Fayette), Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth), Hal English (R-Allison Park), Mark Mustio (R-North Fayette) and Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Marshall) — all voted for the bill, and were the only Allegheny County representatives to do so. The bill passed by two votes. The only Allegheny County Republican to vote against the proposed budget was Eli Evankovich (R-Murrysville); Hal English (R-Allison Park) was marked "excused" from the vote.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Posted By on Tue, Sep 12, 2017 at 3:14 PM

click to enlarge A protected bike-lane cycletrack on Penn Avenue, Downtown - CP PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK
CP photo by Jake Mysliwczyk
A protected bike-lane cycletrack on Penn Avenue, Downtown
The protected-bike-lane train keeps on rolling through Pittsburgh. Last month, City Paper reported on Oakland receiving Pittsburgh's first counter-flow, protected bike lane and other big bike-infrastructure changes coming to the student-heavy neighborhood.

Now, the North Side is the benefactor of improved bike infrastructure. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's office announced on Sept. 12, the soon-to-come installation of a cycletrack, or two-way protected bike lane, coming to Allegheny Circle, called Commons on road signs. Currently, the four-lane, one-way road loops around the former Allegheny Center, now called Nova Place. Peduto said in a press release that the road needs to be redesigned to create a "multimodal, pedestrian-friendly urban street."

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 4:55 PM

click to enlarge Rich Fitzgerald at Steel Plaza station in Downtown Pittsburgh - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Rich Fitzgerald at Steel Plaza station in Downtown Pittsburgh
Light-rail riders rejoice. Waiting underground for the T will no longer include the frustration of no signal, and being unable to check your smartphone or mobile device every two minutes to see if your Facebook feed has changed.

Starting Aug. 28, seven Port Authority of Allegheny County light-rail stations will provide complimentary Wi-Fi, thanks to a partnership with internet-provider Comcast Xfinity. The stations to offer Wi-Fi are: Station Square, on the South Side; Allegheny and North Shore, on the North Side; and First Avenue, Steel Plaza, Wood Street and Gateway, all Downtown.

“This is part of continuous efforts improve our transit system,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald at an Aug. 28 press conference. “[The Port Authority] continues to be connected and not be out of touch with what riders want.”

Port Authority Interim CEO David Donahoe said this technological improvement is necessary, in order to keep up with public-transit competitors. “Today we are in competition with driving, ride-hailing, and biking,” said Donahoe. “No longer do we just say, 'We are here and you have to ride us.’”

The Wi-Fi is public and open to everyone. Users just need to connect to the Xfinity Wi-Fi on their device, and then they will be prompted to register an account with Xfinity. (Current Comcast Xfinity customers can use their username and password to login.)

Comcast Xfinity spokesperson Bob Grove said Pittsburgh joins Boston, New York City and southern New Jersey as the only regions to offer free, public Wi-Fi at transit stops. Grove noted that Comcast Xfinity is considering expanding the service.

The Wi-Fi comes at no cost to Port Authority.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Aug 18, 2017 at 10:56 AM

click to enlarge New bike lanes being painted in Oakland - CP PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK
CP photo by Jake Mysliwczyk
New bike lanes being painted in Oakland
In 2015, when Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning went out to count the number of cyclists on city roads, four Oakland intersections saw 124 cyclists pass by per hour. By this count, Oakland is the second most bike-trafficked neighborhood; only Downtown saw more cyclists.

But for years, Oakland had been without any substantial bike infrastructure. In 2014 and 2015, bike lanes were installed on Schenley Drive, Bayard Street and Bigelow Boulevard to meet the bike demand of neighborhood residents, including thousands of college students, but a key piece was still missing.

On Forbes Avenue (between Bigelow and Craig Street) and on Bigelow Boulevard (in between Fifth and and Forbes avenues), there was nothing but space for cars. But as of Aug. 18, that has all changed. Pittsburgh has installed bike lanes on these streets, including the city’s first counter-flow bike lane on Forbes, adding another piece to the bike-infrastructure puzzle in Oakland.

“These things have been building over time,” says Kristin Saunders, the city’s bike/pedestrian coordinator. “It is really filling in those gaps.”

With the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's imminent construction of bike lanes on Forbes from Craig Street all the way into Squirrel Hill, Saunders says the cyclists will now have clear directions on how to navigate Oakland on bike infrastructure.

“It is a space where we need dedicated space for cyclists. It is the right application for this street,” says Saunders.

One of those new applications is unique to the city, but necessary since Oakland has many one-way streets for cars. Saunders says the counter-flow bike lane, which will run on the left side of Forbes Avenue from Bigelow to Bellefield, will be important to give cyclists safe passage through Oakland. But it will also help take cyclists off the sidewalk, where they are not legally allowed to ride, but often do because bike lanes were not present. The counter-flow lane will be marked by a double yellow line, and will transform that section of Forbes into a two-way street, but only for bikes.

click to enlarge An example of how cyclists should use a "Copenhagen" Left in Oakland. - IMAGE COURTESY OF DEPARTMENT OF CITY PLANNING
Image courtesy of Department of City Planning
An example of how cyclists should use a "Copenhagen" Left in Oakland.
Other new designs include bike boxes at heavily trafficked intersections that encourage riders to complete a "Copenhagen Left," a term used to describe when cyclists avoid left-turn lanes for cars and instead pass over the intersection in the right-hand lane, and then wait for an opposing green light to cross (see image). Saunders says there will also be a separate signal at some lights, so bikes don't have to cross the street at the same time as cars.

Saunders says city planning will be looking to educate the public on how to properly use the new bike infrastructure. She adds the new infrastructure will minimize conflicts between drivers and cyclists. In 2015, cyclist Susan Hicks was killed at the intersection of Forbes and Bigelow when a car crashed into a line of cars and Hicks, who was waiting to turn left onto Bigelow. The new bike infrastructure now gives cyclists an area to wait to cross over Forbes onto Bigelow that they did not have before.

The new Oakland lanes will surely have their critics (after all, two of this year’s mayoral candidates ran on anti-bike-lane messaging), who might say that not enough people bike in Oakland to deserve additional infrastructure.

But Saunders is confident demand is there and points out that criticism of bike lanes sometimes contains flawed logic. “[Oakland] streets are pretty unaccommodating right now for cyclists,” says Saunders. “If we build a system that’s not unaccommodating for cyclists, and then ask why there are no cyclists. That doesn’t really make sense.”

And below are some images of the newly installed bike lanes from our photo intern Jake Mysliwczyk.
click to enlarge New bike lane on Bigelow Boulevard - CP PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK
CP photo by Jake Mysliwczyk
New bike lane on Bigelow Boulevard
CP photo by Jake Mysliwczyk
CP photo by Jake Mysliwczyk

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 2:12 PM

Image courtesy of
The Rail~Volution conference has been a national leader on engaging communities to improve public transportation and development centered on transit, and to create walkable and bikeable neighborhoods. For more than 20 years, it has set up shop in booming cities that have experienced decades of growth in their respective regions.

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