Pittsburgh’s Transit-Oriented Trends

25 October, 2018

Event Recap: Rail~Volution

October 21-24, 2018 | Pittsburgh

Since 2005, Rail~Volution has been held annually for industry leaders in the public transportation and land development fields. The national conference is a forum to discuss ways to design and implement transportation options that benefit the economy, community, and environment.

This year’s conference, held this week in Pittsburgh, PA, brought together more than 1,200 professionals. Bohler Engineering Associate and leader of Bohler’s Pittsburgh office, Michael Takacs RLA, attended the informative event. He gave us the scoop on the ever-evolving transit progression that Pittsburgh is experiencing.

How is transit-oriented design evolving in Pittsburgh?

The City of Pittsburgh has been embracing transit-oriented design for the last several years with many recent projects near transit stations. One such project, a new 300-unit apartment complex in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, is oriented immediately adjacent to the South Hills Village Light Rail Station, which provides access to downtown Pittsburgh and the rest of the City’s Port Authority transit options.

The City has seen a resurgence in urban living over the last 5-7 years with many of these developments being located along either public transit connections or the extensive rail trail network that is located around the City and its rivers. To help support the new residents’ desire for bike travel in and around the City, the Mayor has initiated a plan to incorporate dedicated bike lanes into the street network. All of these changes have transformed the City of Pittsburgh and its neighborhoods into one of the most accessible and livable cities in America.

With the expansion of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh, how will these new vehicles impact design and master planning?

Pittsburgh has been home to many of the companies spearheading autonomous vehicles from their inception. With companies such as Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, Aurora, Argo AI, and Delphi all performing testing of their systems on the streets of the City, Pittsburgh is at the leading edge of this technology. One of the hopes for autonomous vehicles is for cites to recapture space dedicated to parking. The possibility of reducing impervious surface on a large scale or to repurpose it into public space is an exciting concept.

What are the recent and/or upcoming changes in Pittsburgh’s transportation?

The City of Pittsburgh is embarking on our first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project to connect the University community in the Oakland neighborhood to Downtown. This limited direct connection is one of the most anticipated transit projects in the City. This system will utilize existing roadways but will have dedicated lanes for the BRT operation, thus reducing delays from traffic. These projects have been successful in other cities across the country to provide a relatively low-cost, fast transit solution.

What are a few of the most impactful takeaways you took out of Rail~Volution? Why?

There has been an estimated $80 billion spent between 2014 and 2017 on autonomous vehicles and associated technology. With this much investment, the advances in this area of transportation are coming much faster than anyone realizes. In addition to autonomous cars being integrated into future site designs, the industrial segment will also see change with autonomous delivery and trucking now being tested. These changes present an opportunity for our business to be at the forefront of this expanding technology.

Technology will change the way our cities function in the future. Making our city curbs flexible and dynamic in their uses with technology will allow more efficient use of our city streets, and will help to reduce congestion within our urban cores. The introduction of autonomous vehicles will allow all these elements to talk to one another and work in a more harmonious fashion, compared to today’s streets. The City of Pittsburgh is working on a flexible parking and loading system for the highly congested and variable Strip District, where usage of the street changes throughout the day. Having flexibility in how this street functions in real time will allow for maximum efficiency to this district.

A helpful link: The following accesses a design solution to take advantage of the potential reduction of parking spaces along our streets using a modular system of interchangeable square units designed to fit into the existing street grid.

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