CMU, Pitt students study and then make recommendations for the Mount
A quick introduction of Laura Guralnick, a recent hire as Economic Development Director for the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC), opened the organization’s April Community Forum.
MWCDC Board President Breen Masciotra said Ms. Guralnick’s background is in socially oriented non-profit work and housing development in many forms. Among her duties will include implementing the organization’s housing strategy, working on issues within the district and more.
The featured speakers for the evening were teams of students from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. The students undertook transportation and parking studies of portions of the Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights neighborhoods and then made recommendations according to best practices they are studying.
Kicking off the discussion was a team of students from CMU who looked at transportation concerns as it pertains to the sustainability of the neighborhood. The goal of the study was to highlight and enhance the strategic access to transportation in Mount Washington with a focus on accessibility.
The students examined five areas related to transportation in the neighborhood: Tourism, traffic, public transportation, parking and the local business community.
It was noted 1.2 million visitors come to Mount Washington annually. However, the tourists come to the neighborhood, look at the view and leave without staying and spending any money in the business district.
Traffic in the neighborhood is made worse by people speeding through the community and tourists getting lost on side streets due to a lack of signage to help them find their way out.
Public transportation was described as “limited” and “unelaborate” with two bus routes and two inclines.
Parking in Mount Washington is one of the biggest issues with lax enforcement of parking rules in the neighborhood.
They also considered that neighborhood residents often leave the neighborhood to do their shopping instead of patronizing local businesses.
As part of the data collection process, the CMU team looked at the demographics of the neighborhood, along with the business district occupancy, available public transportation and more.
The team’s analysis showed the Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights neighborhoods have lost 11 percent of its populations since 1950. In addition, the communities have a relatively young population (including many students and young professionals under 24 years old), but fewer children as part of the neighborhood compared to the City of Pittsburgh in general.
Roughly 50 percent of residents drive to work while slightly more people bike than the city average.
The student team also looked at the walkability of the neighborhood in relation to public transportation. Although the Monongahela Incline was within a 20-minute walk to Downtown or much of the neighborhood, it amounted to a 40-minute walk for commuters when taken as a whole.
In addition, they found much of the neighborhood was not within a five-minute walk of a current bus route.
Using the data they collected about the neighborhood, the CMU team made five recommendations:
The inclines should be incorporated as a valuable neighborhood asset. As an asset, they should be better used to connect Mount Washington residents with the rest of the city.
In addition, the team recommended an education process to teach newer residents about the options for using and paying to use the inclines. As an example, they said many people don’t know they can transfer onto the “T” for free.
The pedestrian environment in the business corridor needs improvement. They recommended façade and sidewalk improvements along with better way-finding signage, particularly between the inclines.
They suggested a parking assessment be conducted in the neighborhood to see if the spaces available were being used to greatest advantage.
Another recommendation from the team was to enhance the connection between the neighborhood and Downtown by connecting the inclines and the business district through the use of a shuttle or some other means.
The final recommendation from the CMU team was to have more community social events to allow residents to take charge of their neighborhood.
In concluding, the team said keys to making the neighborhood sustainable in the future is having a safe, walkable and thriving community.
Engineering students in the Urban Transportation Planning class at the University of Pittsburgh undertook the job of collecting data on specific transportation issues within Mount Washington and then making recommendations. The project was broken down into four segments with a student team each taking on one of the traffic issues.
The four issues included: Parking utilization; traffic; a traffic calming evaluation; and, a pedestrian safety audit. Each issue was looked at in a specific area of Mount Washington.
The first Pitt team, sparked by discussion at previous MWCDC public forums, undertook a parking evaluation of Kambach Street. Complaints from residents on the street included illegal parking and the concern emergency vehicles wouldn’t be able to make it up the street.
The students visited the neighborhood between Bailey and Kathleen streets on several days twice a day at peak hours to inventory on-street and off-street parking spaces.
The students found there was “not a big problem” with existing situation and there was plenty of parking capacity. However, because of complaints at previous forum meetings, they proposed to eliminate parking on the north side of the street to allow emergency vehicles to be able to get up the street.
The “worst case” according to their analysis, is that parking will still only be at 76 percent occupancy in that part of the neighborhood after eliminating the parking on one side of Kambach. Even considering that people sometimes use more than one space, the students estimated the maximum parking capacity would be at no more than 89 percent for the neighborhood.
The next team examined the intersection where Virginia, Kearsarge and Woodruff streets come together. The existing conditions include three-way stop signs and a posted 20 mph speed limit on Virginia.
Data collection was taken on two days from 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. each day. They included pedestrians, trucks and buses in their traffic counts.
The team’s analysis concluded the level of service wasn’t great enough to require improvements.
However, if the community wanted to increase safety in the intersection, a roundabout or traffic circle could be considered. The students explained the roundabout, would be safer for vehicles and pedestrians.
The advantages of traffic circles include: increased safety, higher capacity, less delay, they don’t require a signal and have a traffic calming effect.
The disadvantages, however, outweighed the advantages in this instance and included: a larger footprint, it may not have a higher capacity or have less delay, there are visual impairment issues with pedestrians and it is a non-traditional pedestrian crossing.
The third Pitt team looked at traffic calming along Grandview Avenue east of McArdle Roadway. The students determined the road surface is in need of rehabilitation and there are faded signs at the four existing crosswalks.
The existing distance between stop signs on Grandview Avenue is 2,000 feet. Permit parking is available on the east side of the street while metered parking is available on the west side.
Traffic averages 4,500 vehicles per day with 85 percent of the vehicles traveling at 30 mph or less.
The team’s recommendation to calm or slow traffic along Grandview was to install speed humps in the street. They explained the humps typically result in a reduction of 8 mph and are relatively inexpensive to install at $1,500 to $3,500 each depending on the road width.
They estimated speed humps on Grandview would cost $2,000 each.
Speed humps work best installed at mid-block and should be at least 150 feet from a signalized intersection.
The last team to report was assigned to perform a pedestrian safety audit around the Whittier Elementary School and the Mount Washington Senior Center on Virginia Avenue.
The safety audit identified safety issues such as crowed streets, missing crosswalks, pedestrian visibility issues, control sign concerns and illegal parking in school zones.
Among the recommendations the students relayed were: installing crosswalks to the school driveway on Piermont Street and on Piermont at Oneida Street. Elevate the curbs from the street and add more signage to prohibit parking on the east side of Oneida Street.
The team recommended asking officials to enforce the parking laws during school days. In addition, they said Pawn Street should be one-way south-bound and parking should be prohibited on the north side of the street between Cohassett and Meridian streets.
In addition, the team said the city should remove unnecessary stop bars on the street from removed stop signs and install warning signs and flashing beacons at the crosswalk intersections.