March 19, 2013 | Vol. 73 No. 34

City transportation recomendations

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl last week announced the release of IBM’s official written recommendations on how to help make local transportation more convenient, efficient, cost effective and eco-friendly, and highlighted the city’s progress to date.

Pittsburgh was one of only 100 cities chosen from a pool of more than 400 applicants over the past three years to receive an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant, which funded the work last year of top IBM experts who studied local transportation opportunities. In October, IBM presented verbal recommendations, which focused mostly on the numerous benefits realized when all transportation agencies work close together.

“As we continue to work with local universities and stakeholders to improve our city’s multi-modal transportation system, we are committed to utilizing IBM’s recommendations to help prioritize our next steps,” said Mayor Ravenstahl. “I want to thank the IBM team of experts for working diligently with stakeholders, local leadership and our city planners to help identify ways we can work together to improve the future of our region by creating smarter transportation strategies.”

Mindful of the city’s comprehensive transportation plan, MOVEPGH, the IBM team studied the city’s challenges, constraints and strengths to create a tangible roadmap of near-term and long-term actions that can be implemented. Recommendations aim to help Pittsburgh develop into a technologically empowered “Smarter City” by improving urban transportation planning.

The proposed recommendations include:

Streamlining traffic flow by developing a distributed traffic management center;

Empowering travelers by creating an integrated transportation data and information services platform;

Promoting alternative modes of transportation to reduce the number of cars on the road; and,

Coordinating governance for data sharing to develop and deliver a shared transportation data vision and framework.

“We look forward to partnering with the city and IBM in implementing the recommendations of this report, particularly in developing a transportation data analytics center to deploy technology that makes all transportation modes in Pittsburgh smarter,” said Al Biehler, Carnegie Mellon’s University Transportation Center executive director.

Since reviewing IBM’s written and verbal recommendations, the city has continued to work to improve transportation, increase safety and mobility and enhance Pittsburgh residents’ quality of life. Some of the continuing progress includes:

The city’s first 25-year transportation plan, MOVEPGH, is currently in its policy development stage. Including ideas and suggestions from residents and stakeholders during multiple public forums, MOVEPGH will develop innovative transportation solutions from the City of Pittsburgh. In November, the city identified its priority projects and encouraged residents to continue to provide helpful input.

Earlier in the week, Mayor Ravenstahl – joined by BikePGH, stakeholders and residents – announced plans for Pittsburgh’s first-ever bike share system. Pittsburgh Bike Share will include 500 bikes available for point-to-point trips to any of the 50 solar-powered stations planned throughout the city. The system is intended to enhance mobility within the city, promote tourism and provide a fun and healthy way to visit Pittsburgh’s diverse and exciting neighborhoods.

A senior planner, a new position created to help coordinate on-going efforts between the city, stakeholders and IBM to improve transportation, will be hired. The senior planner will assist with transportation impact analysis and development review, help develop the first set of policies to implement IBM’s recommendations, and assist the principal transportation planner in all areas of transportation planning. Qualified candidates are encouraged to apply.

The city is working together with Carnegie Mellon University’s Traffic 21 initiative, the University of Pittsburgh, PennDOT, IBM, a number of foundations and others to focus on the Smarter Cities Challenge recommendations. The group will create framework and resources to devise a “smarter” approach to development that incorporates developers’ and community members’ aspirations regarding large scale infrastructure and investment, including the possibility of creating the city’s first Smart Site.

The city is collaborating with universities and other stakeholders to collect, store and manage vast amounts of data and increase transparency. Recently, city data was used when dozens of Pittsburgh’s best and brightest coders had 24 hours to turn government data into an app that benefits Pittsburgh residents, visitors or businesses during Steel City Codefest, the city’s first-ever civic software app development competition.

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