What Will Pittsburgh’s Penn Ave Protected Bike Lanes Look Like?

Last week Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto held a press conference in Schenley Park announcing the details of the City’s first protected bike lanes. At the conference the Mayor showed rendering of the largest of the three proposed bike lanes on Schenley Drive through the park.

Apparently the plans for the downtown bike lanes on Penn Ave are not ready for roll out yet. So we took the liberty of visualizing them using Street Mix. Based on the details of an earlier article the two way protected bike lane will replace the single eastbound lane and not affect westbound traffic.

A rendering of what the Penn Ave bike lane may look like.

A Street Mix rendering of what Penn Ave may look like. Westbound traffic configuration is not expected to change with the outside vehicle lane becoming a parking lane outside of peak hour traffic times.











Penn Ave looking east  - Google Street View

Penn Ave looking east – Google Street View

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Can Buses And Trains Work Together As A Statewide Network?

Over the years bus travel has declined in Pennsylvania as routes have slowly fallen by the wayside. Mid size towns such as Gettysburg, Chambersburg and Franklin have lost their intercity bus stops.

The lack of amenities and information for bus passengers, poor coordination with Amtrak and the difficulty of buying a bus ticket online all contribute to the stigma and unpopularity of bus travel in most of Pennsylvania. Additionally many rural bus stops are unmarked and thus lightly used, its not unheard of for a once a day bus to pass by without stopping for flagging customers.

Despite these setbacks bus travel can still get you to far more places than air travel for a fraction of the price. A survey of the 14 commercial serviced airports in Pennsylvania on Kayak shows a typical day before price for a one way ticket from Philadelphia to be about $500, compare that to $68 for a Philadelphia to Erie Greyhound Bus Ticket. The travel time to some smaller airports such as Franklin can take from 7 to 12 hours.

For a few major cities and college communities, bus service is alive and well. Megabus for example allows you to buy a Philadelphia to Pittsburgh ticket well in advance for as low as $13. Bolt Bus serves Philadelphia and competes with Amtrak and Megabus for the Northeast Corridor while the Chinatown bus companies Top Bus and Great Wall serve State College and York from New York City. These companies, which emphasize internet ticketing and express service have done quite well, even if some of their stops leave you off on the edge of town.

Some gaps in the intercity network have been filled by local transit agencies, offering high end commuter bus service during the weekday peak hours. These buses often include real time location, wifi access, outlets, cup holders, bike racks and high back seats.

Perhaps the key for restoring routine bus travel in Pennsylvania lies in the ability for transportation providers to modernize business practices. Could rural shared ride services learn something from Uber? PENNDOT also has a role here. California has managed to coordinate bus services with Amtrak offering timed connections and thru ticketing. Some of these connections already exist, for example from the Harrisburg Transportation Center local and intercity buses serve State College, Williamsport, Lebanon, Hershey Park, Gettysburg and York but there is no single online resource available to book these trips.

PA Transit Map

There are many ways to get around PA. View this as an interactive map.

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Scottdale Takes A Second Look At Its Downtown Bike Ban

According to Pittsburgh Trib Live, the Westmoreland County Borough of Scottdale is reconsidering a decade long ban on riding bicycles in its downtown business district. Scottdale is at the west end of the Coal and Coke Trail and 6 miles from the Great Allegheny Passage. Local trail advocates have been discussing the bike ban with borough officials and hope to see a change in the ordinance.

The animated GIF below shows proposed streetscape improvements to downtown Scottdale. Planners saw the trail connection to the town as an asset and incorporated that element into this mockup.

Read More in Trib Live

Streetscape Plan for Scottdale encourages bicycling.

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Speed Cameras Save Lives

In 2012 1310 people died on Pennsylvania roads, that’s larger than the population of 994 municipalities in the State and equal to one fourth of the population of Cameron County. That grim statistic includes 168 pedestrians and 16 bicyclists. Speeding was the primary cause of 371 traffic deaths.

Speed cameras have been found to reduce crashes and injuries. Washington DC recently published a report that included crash and injury trends at 257 speed camera locations. The report looked at crash data for those locations up to 3 years prior to camera installation, and for up to 3 years after camera installation. The results found a 15% reduction in crashes in 20% reduction in injuries.

In Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Stack has introduced a bill in the PA Senate S1211 which authorizes the use of speed cameras on US1 (Roosevelt Boulevard) in Philadelphia.

The idea of using cameras to catch drivers doing what they shouldn’t draws in populist ideas of big brother and that the cameras are cash cows for strapped municipalities. And the media eats it up. For example an article in Phillymag.com recently carried this headline - Roosevelt Boulevard Crashes Have Increased Since Red Light Cameras – True, but perhaps it should have read Roosevelt Boulevard Fatalities Decline 65% Since Red Light Cameras (from 124 to 43 over 4 years). Minor fender benders have increased but fewer people are dying, and that’s the point. Furthermore those crash statistics were taken for the entire highway not just the 8 intersections with red light cameras.

Much of the populist rabble rousing has come from the National Motorists Association (NMA). The NMA also opposes current DUI laws , black boxes in cars and traffic calming in general, claiming that the relationship between the speed of a striking vehicle and pedestrian mortality is greatly exaggerated. They also have proposed a $20,000 stop sign tax on the responsible agency (based on alleged time lost and fuel consumed).


National Motorists Association

Finally let’s talk about revenue. It is likely that Speed Camera revenues will follow a process similar to the Red Light Camera program in Pennsylvania. The costs of maintaining and administering the cameras are deducted from revenues by the sponsor, in this case its the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The remaining surplus is then deposited into a restricted PENNDOT Motor License Fund account. This account known as ARLE is disbursed to municipalities through a competitive grant program to fund transportation safety improvement projects across the state.

Finally speed cameras should part of a more comprehensive approach to traffic safety. Along Roosevelt Blvd PennDOT’s safety efforts have included signalizing five mid-block crosswalks; removing five mid-block crosswalks; installing twelve pull-off areas in the median to provide police a safe location for enforcement and a visual presence; enhancing median pedestrian refuge areas in two locations; and installing speed advisory signs on three bridges over the Boulevard.

As Professor Stephen Glaister Director Royal Automobile Club Foundation which published a comprehensive report on the subject in 2010 - “Speed cameras should never be the only weapon in the road safety armory, but neither should they be absent from the battle.”


Posted in around the state, Info you can use, legislation, Policy | 4 Comments

Propose trail and bike/ped projects for PennDOT investment

Do you know a PA state road that could go on a road diet and get bike lanes or wider shoulders? Or a trail that needs state investment to get designed and built? PennDOT is seeking public input on projects that need state investment for its “Long Range Transportation & Comprehensive Freight Movement Plan.”  

Please take this opportunity to suggest the projects you would like PennDOT to prioritize by filling out this survey. Deadline is May 30th.

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Posted in around the state, Policy, statewide | 5 Comments