Ideas on Less Parking and Buses

Having spent some significant time in cities where transit really seems to work, meaning it’s easy to use, people actually do use it, and it’s affordable, I thought I’d jot down some notes about what I believe Pittsburgh needs to do to improve it’s own public transportation system, as well as a few other ideas to curb driving and bump ridership.

The Basics

  1. Take people where they want to go. This is so obvious, and reports that the Port Authority have recently done reflect that a big bunch of their routes just don’t cut it. We need to be able to take a bus from the North Side to the South Side. From Lawrenceville to Squirrell Hill. Connect neighborhoods, don’t just try and get everyone downtown and into Oakland.
  2. Simpler schedules. These need to be posted at every stop, or routes need to have easy to learn schedules. Like, the 500 comes every 30 minutes. Not at 5:15, 5:17, 5:38 and 5:92. An automated phone system and a much better website would greatly improve things as well.
  3. Day passes. Every other city I’ve ever been to where riding transit was easy has them. They’re typically cheaper than buying 3 rides and more expensive than one. They also give you the feeling that you should ride the bus as much as possible to get your monies worth for the day. The more you ride, the more comfortable you are with riding.
  4. Fix those electronic signs. The scariest thing about taking a new route into a neighborhood you’re unfamiliar with is trying to look out for street signs, which don’t always exist. The first time you end up at the airport when you were trying to go from Oakland to downtown you’ll probably never make the mistake of riding a bus again.
  5. Fares. What’s the problem here? $2.00 for a trip is getting out of control. Whatever needs to happen: eliminate trips to the suburbs, revamp the whole route system, fire the 10-minute-hold-times call center and pay driver’s less, you can’t raise fares anymore.

But improving the system is just one step in a larger problem. City streets should not be a car-dominated environment. Think about the city you live in for a moment. It’s broken up into blocks. Most blocks consist of residences, which you aren’t allowed onto unless you live there, or businesses, which you typically can’t enter unless you have business there. Then there are the streets, which are primarily reserved for cars. That leaves you with two places you can go: public parks and the sidewalk. City residents really can only access about 2% of the land they live in. This makes sense for residences (you don’t want people just hanging out in your back yard) and businesses, but why do we have to have streets dominated by fast moving vehicles and their dormant, parked counterparts? If we want radical change to how people get around the city, stop dedicating so much space to personal vehicles.

Moving Away from Cars

  1. No on-street parking in residential areas. Put up parking garages, maybe one per four blocks. If you want a car and don’t have a driveway, park it over there. This will keep every street from being lined on both sides by vehicles, and by forcing people to walk a block or two to their cars, you’ll decrease driving and step up America’s foot and lung capacity. Business areas like Liberty Ave in Bloomfield and East Carson could still have on-street parking, but there’s no reason every street needs to be bombarded with cars.
  2. Speed bumps galore. If you want to drive from neighborhood to neighborhood, use Liberty, use Penn, use 5th and Forbes. There you can go 40 mph or whatever speeds you need to get from bar to bar during halftime. But if you’re driving around neighborhoods with schools and kids on bikes and people trying to live, keep it around 20mph, max. This will keep people from trying to dodge their own car-created traffic jams by speeding down Friendship Avenue every 6-9am and 3 – 6pm.

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