Pittsburgh officials unveil ambitious, long-term transportation vision plan | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh officials unveil ambitious, long-term transportation vision plan

click to enlarge Pittsburgh officials unveil ambitious, long-term transportation vision plan
Image: courtesy city of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Karina Ricks, director of the city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, announced a 50-year Mobility Vision Plan on Thu., Sept. 23, sharing the city of Pittsburgh's ambitious transit goals.

The long-term transportation plan includes ideas for a central terminal location, a hyperloop system, an aerial tram system connecting neighborhoods, and new bridges that allow vehicles to cross the Monongahela River from Hazelwood to the Hill Top neighborhoods. Pittsburgh leaders acknowledged the plans were extremely ambitious and can appear fantastical, but said that a lot can change in 50 years, and wanted to provide a vision for transit in the region.

A feature in the plan involves a multi-modal terminal near Downtown, which could host stations for potential a hyperloop (a high-speed train enclosed in a tube), vertical vehicles, and aerial tram systems in the next 50 years. Hyperloop is a system that could send passengers or freight through low-pressure tubes at high speeds, but the technology is largely untested and has garnered criticism.

“It may be tempting to dismiss the 2070 Mobility Vision Plan as fantastical or audacious,” Ricks said on Sept. 23 during a news conference in the Strip District, “but that would be a mistake. Fifty years is a long time, and a lot will change. Look back at how much has changed over the last 50.”

Another note to the plan details using gondolas, aka aerial trams, to connect Mount Washington to the North Shore, linking the Strip District to Carrick and connecting the Hill District, Oakland, Hazelwood, and the South Side along the way. This part of the plan aligns a bit with Port Authority of Allegheny County's long-range plan, which also calls for the use of aerial trams as a way to connect the Strip District to Hazelwood, via the Hill District.

For three years, city officials worked to put together this mobility vision. They designed it to work alongside a Downtown Mobility Plan released in May; another long-term regional plan revealed last year by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, the agency that manages transit projects in the region. Overall, the goal of the 50-year project is to ease congestion and reduce pollution by inspiring people to use public transit, shared rides, or bicycles rather than driving alone in a car.

Other long-term intentions include improving short-distance trips that can be made without a car, ensuring households don’t spend more than 40% of their income on housing and mobility, and everyone inside the city can get to fresh fruit and vegetables within 15 minutes without a car.

“What this plan is is not a plan that is written in concrete,” Peduto said. “It is a plan that is adaptable to the changes in technology and the changes in mobility and the changes in neighborhood priorities.”

The announcement of this plan also came the day before Ricks' last day as head of Pittsburgh's Department of Mobility and Infrastructure. Ricks, under Peduto, focused on making the city streets safer and more friendly for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and drivers by redesigning streets to slow down traffic. She also helped to usher in a multi-modal mobility pilot program that brought e-scooters to the city.

In other transit related news, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced this week that Port Authority would be awarded $216.9 million in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which helps them avoid layoffs and a further reduction in services.

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