South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

South Side could see a multi-modal hub for transportation soon

 

November 17, 2020



The guest presenter at the Nov. 10 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum was policy analyst Tosh Chambers of the city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI).

He discussed MOVE412/Mobility Hub, a multi-modal transportation strategy.

The meeting also featured updates on the South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED), the PennDOT construction project, and local development activities meetings (DAM).

The Zoom video conference included participant city Councilman Bruce Kraus.

Mr. Chambers works in the Bureau of Policy, Planning, and Permitting. In part, it plans for the future and coordinates with companies and stakeholders to provide alternative transportation.

The goals of DOMI are to improve transportation, safety, equity, and access.

The focus is “shared mobility,” which is transportation services and resources shared among users, either concurrently or one after another. 

It includes: public transit, micromobility (bike and scooter sharing), automobile-based modes, and community-based modes or ridesharing.

The benefits of shared mobility are: provide services to “transportation deserts”; make transportation more affordable; bolster the transit system; and reduce the need for car ownership for those wanting to change their lifestyle.

Mr. Chambers said MOVE412 helps Pittsburghers select the right mode for their trip. For instance, to walk if visiting friends and want fresh air; to take transit for its reliable schedule and affordability; to bike to enjoy the scenery and get exercise; or to scooter to save time and sweat, and acquire help ascending hills.

MOVE412 is being piloted as a groundbreaking public-private approach. DOMI is supported by nonprofits and others like Zipcar, Wave Carpool, Spin, and more.

Zipcar provides affordable access to a car. Wave Carpool is the world’s largest crowdsourced navigation app.

Spin, a micromobility unit of Ford Mobility, had deployed electric scooters in more than 70 cities and campuses in the U.S. and Europe. They can launch here in the spring, Mr. Chambers said.

Mobility hubs for all of the options would be created throughout the city. Services would be tailored to local needs. Digital screens would provide information on nearby transportation services.

Most would be co-located with Port Authority Transit (PAT) stops, he said.

During the question-and-answer session, Mr. Chambers was asked about plans for South Side. He said he is working with South Side groups on possible area hubs.

 A good potential site, he said, is at 18th and Carson streets as bus lines convene there and there is a parking lot.

To a question about equipment at the site, he said it would be on the sidewalk in line with traffic and light poles, but not blocking traffic on the sidewalk.

Mr. Kraus said this is the first he is hearing of this. He told Mr. Chambers he recommends a briefing to city council.

Regarding scooters, Mr. Kraus asked if the company will have hubs for returns.

Mr. Chambers said hubs are an option, and that users are incentivized if they end their trips at hubs.

The scooters cannot be operationed on sidewalks. They must be driven on streets, and preferably in a bike lane.

The plan is for about 900 scooters citywide.

Mr. Kraus said the practice is highly controversial and a liability in other cities.

“That raises a big flag for me,” he said.

He also said the 1700 block of East Carson St. is much better for a transportation hub. The site is about one-half block from the other proposed site.

It was looked at, said Mr. Chambers, but a power source link is needed for a transportation hub. He also said scooters cannot be left anywhere at all.

“We will designate various places,” he said.

Mr. Kraus said there is already a problem with speeding motorized vehicles and illegal quads in the area.

He said there has to be a clear enforcement system on who has the authority to make sure scooters are not being ridden on sidewalks.

Mr. Chambers said it would be enforced like bikes which the police can stop. Citizens can also self-enforce and call 311, he said.

Mr. Kraus said he would want clear information on enforcement agents, infractions, and more. He again advised a presentation to city council members.

In the PED update for October, Mr. Kraus reported revenue for the month was $11,041.73. For 2020, revenue totaled $82,990.82.

The PED is the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

The funds must be invested back in the neighborhood for public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements. 

While the PED has taken a financial hit with COVID-19 closures, it is steadily improving.

“We are down about two-thirds of what we see in a normal year,” Mr. Kraus said.

Since the PED began in April 2017, $669,507.26 has been collected.

“It astounds me that we could leave that money on the table,” he said of the years preceding the PED.

The October cost for Block by Block, the two-person Clean Team, which maintains the E. Carson St. corridor and is paid by PED funds, was $14,190.77. The larger amount represents a union wage increase.

Mr. Kraus said a means must be found to increase revenue or else tailor the Clean Team.

“They are very dedicated and always show up. I hate to run the risk of losing these guys,” he said.

South Side Community Council (SSCC) President Barbara Rudiak said, speaking as a resident, she is so happy the streets are kept clean, and would hate to see the Clean Team go away.

Mr. Kraus said the projected 2020 PED revenue of about $90,000 will fall short on funding the Clean Team. He said maybe supplemental funds could be acquired, and that weekend revenue will rise in 2021.

The councilman said he was “ecstatic” about the quality of work in the ongoing PennDOT safety improvement construction project on East Carson St.

“I am very pleased with the craftsmanship of it all,” he said.

Six months are completed of the 18-month project, which will extend from the Smithfield St. Bridge to 33rd St.

Project upgrades include: milling and resurfacing; signage and signal updates; sidewalk improvements; ADA ramp and guiderail installations; high visibility crosswalks; and more.

Mr. Kraus said he believes work will continue through the winter.

The overall completion date for the project is spring of 2022.

Next, Ms. Rudiak updated participants on the SSSC’s Oct. 22 DAM.

A DAM provides an opportunity for citizens, property owners, business owners, and stakeholders to learn about the proposals that affect them and to resolve concerns at an early stage of the application process.

The proposed projects were the town square renovation and new dog park at SouthSide Works, and five micro townhouses at 90 South 12th St. across from Armstrong Park.

The next step for the town center and playground projects is the Planning Commission for final land development plan approval.

The townhouses proposal will next go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Residents have 10 days to provide comment.

The next DAM will be on Nov. 19 regarding two outside façade proposals for 1213 and 1502 East Carson St. for historic review.

In committee reports, Blake McLaren of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) reported the first DAM of the SSSNA on Oct. 21 was on South Side Park Phase 1 improvements.

He said improvements should be done by the end of fall, 2021.

The SSSNA is also planning its first virtual holiday party.

Next, the Progressive Holiday Mingle 2020 of the South Side Chamber of Commerce will be held on Dec. 2, with $50 tickets sold in groups of four. Sixty-four tickets remain. 

In light of COVID, the event will consist of groups of four going to various sites for food and drinks instead of one site as in the past.

The chamber’s executive director, Candice Gonzalez, reported the Clean Team cleaned the Veterans Memorial in South Side to get it ready for Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

Small Business Saturday will be celebrated on Nov. 28.

Next, Candice Benson of the Brashear Association said groundbreaking for the new Brashear Center on Brownsville Rd. in Knoxville will be held at 11 a.m. on Nov. 18.

On Nov. 20, a blood drive will be held at the Brashear Center in South Side from noon to 6 p.m. to benefit the food pantry.

Toys are also needed for the holiday toy drive.

The final announcement was from Gisele Betances, the new liaison with the Mayor’s Office, who reported the Snow Angels program has begun.

The city is in need of volunteers for the program, in which snow shovelers help elderly residents and others with disabilities.

Incentives for volunteers are being offered, like raffles for lunch with Mayor Peduto. Volunteers may also win a “Golden Shovel Award.”

For more information, visit: pittsburghpa.gov/snowangels, contact the Snow Angels Program at snowangels@pittsburghpa.gov or call 412-255-0846. 

The next Planning Forum meeting will be on Dec. 8. 

 

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