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).
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