Tuesday, October 15, 2013

if by "Bus Free Zone" they meant, "Street Flow Renaissance 2014" ...

by Vannevar Bush

My previous post examined the misbegotten public rollout of a backroom plan to remove 48 bus stops from a core downtown area defined by Liberty Avenue, Stanwix Street, Blvd of the Allies, and Grant Street. The plan was publicly declared to be motivated by business concerns about queues of transit users on public sidewalks. Whether it was also motivated by cost savings through service reductions, implicit racial bias, or class bias to keep the streets clear of lower classes - who can say?

Let's put aside the botched rollout and consider what might have been, even what could have been their best intention? What jewel might the ChangeMakers have hidden within their rhetoric of satisfying downtown merchants?

Suppose when they said, Bus Free Zone, they meant Street Flow Renaissance 2014? Suppose their mantra was, Safe Sustainable Streets but they wrapped it up funny to sell it to the downtown chamber of commerce? Maybe Fitzgerald isn't crass and PAT hasn't caved and they're just very shrewd in the way they've packaged a very wise and courageous vision.

The vision would be the next Renaissance for Pittsburgh. Instead of focusing on real estate development, on buildings or riverfronts, this would focus on establishing a modern safe street flow - in other words, on implementing a downtown Complete Streets program.

This would make downtown safer for pedestrians with traffic calming. The downtown core, so aptly identified in the early proposal, would see traffic calming, a 20-mph speed limit, some lane reductions, an HOV-2 policy and restrictions on truck traffic during office hours.

The lane reductions would have two effects; the downtown core would become less attractive to through-traffic, saving downtown streets for downtown traffic, and opening lanes for downtown walking plazas and bikelanes (remember, bikeshare debuts in 2014).

(click to embiggen)

Some streets within the Ren2014 core that are currently two lanes would become a single lane plus a segregated walking plaza, or a single lane plus a segregated bike lane.

Street congestion in the designated core would be also be reduced by enforcing an HOV-2 policy on privately owned vehicles, and restricting large vehicles (other than public transit) between the hours of 0600 and 1800.

StreetFlow Ren2014 would see more mass transit, and a re-designed transit flow. There probably would be a downtown circulator route, somewhat like San Francisco's cable cars.

Persons departing the Ren2014 Core via mass transit would get transfers for their complete trip to their destination, and their travel home is free - hence, "bus free zone". Sunday mornings, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the Ren2014 Core streets would be closed to vehicular traffic for a Ciclovia.

If that's what they meant by their proposal for a smarter downtown street flow, then by cracky I am all the way behind them, and why wouldn't they do such a thing - why shouldn't they do such a thing? Make Pittsburgh a livable city, a safe city, a walkable city? If that's what they mean to come out of this process, I compliment them. Huzzah!

edit to add: spoiler-explainer


  1. I guess I have one question: it seems like this drastically curtails car traffic Downtown, especially by individuals. I'm all for nudging the culture in advantageous directions, but politically, can we pull of inhibiting automobiles to this extent without provoking a violent counterrevolution?

    As a thought exercise, I wonder if this is just long-overdue, good, strenuous exercise; or a way to blow out our hamstring (make the bike-ped-transit movement seem so unreasonable as to be a trial to engage).

  2. I suspect that in practice an 'HOV-2' policy on downtown streets would be enforced much as the similar policy on the Parkway North HOV is: i.e., hardly if at all, but the fact it's law and *could* be enforced keeps all but the most daring from trying it.

    Or we could make like London and try congestion pricing.

  3. Next logical step would be a London like fee with cameras and a toll for driving into town. But that would be too crazy to take root in da Burgh.

  4. This posting by Van makes almost no sense in its attempt to portray downtown businesses as being prejudiced.

    Where are all of the people catching the bus at current stops coming from? Few actually live in the downtown area.

    The reason that most people are catching the buses downtown is because downtown is the center of the hub from which most buses go to ultimate destinations throughout the county. So, these downtown stops are simply through-put stops to take from one outer location through downtown to another outer location on another bus route.

    So, all this proposal is doing is simply moving the center focus of the hub from the actual downtown to a ring surrounding the downtown.

    This will help alleviate traffic especially during the morning and afternoon rushes. Nothing racial about that whatsoever. Could understand his conclusions if the move actually affected the buses ability to support the customer base; but, this proposal does not have a negative affect.

  5. What is missing here is bus-only lanes on Stanwix, Liberty, Grant, and the Blvd, to allow the now dozens of routes that will all be on the same ring to move with ease. Else all you are doing is replacing a big grid of congestion with a big ring of congestion.

  6. Though I must say, my favorite part of Romero's "Land of the Dead" was that downtown had become car free and damn lively.

  7. To clarify, my post declaring the Core Zone single-driver-PO-free and truck-free from 6am to 6pm, and replacing current streets with bike lanes and walking plazas, makes as much sense as PAT declaring that the Core Zone will be bus-free.

    They're both arbitrary impositions of one narrow agenda without discussion or public input, and they're both equally wrong. What we need is an informed public discussion that starts with an agreed definition of the problem(s) and alternatives.

  8. Peduto loves this plan. Now that he is mayor he loves the business community and wants to be loved by them. Just watch. He was against TIF's during the campaign, but mark my words he will be supporting TIF's for big developers soon enough. He was against things that don't go through community process but will champion projects and laws against community interests soon enough. He was against the "old Pittsburgh," will quickly fill key posts with "old" Pittsburghers. Nothing new except a reshuffling of the deck so that he and his cronies can settle scores. Big donors will be on his side and the same vendors will get the same deals. Pay attention and strap on your seat belt.

    1. I heard that Bill Peduto is responsible for Obamacare and running guns to Syria and toenail fungus.

    2. Anyway, it's been a weird day for people saying made-up stuff to hide the fact that they've blown crap to bits through their own error, and that's people with real jobs using their actual name.

  9. I think having a downtown circulator route would be fantastic. It would finally get rid of the ridiculous downtowner zone and all buses could convert to pay upon boarding all of the time. This would allow the drivers to utilize the back doors as exits at all stops, allowing for faster loading/off-loading of passengers.

  10. Uh, except that putting all the buses on the same route would mean a lot more buses on that route and significantly more traffic on the main arteries in, out of and around town. This is a noble idea, but a practical disaster.

    1. That's what I was thinking also. I could see the concept as being good, but I very much doubt the execution would work like they say.