US Bike Route System comes to PA. Pittsburgh is still just a spur.

Via Bike Pittsburgh, another piece about PA joining the US Bicycle Route System, which was announced by the Adventure Cycling Association a month ago.

Ironically, though there’s multiple points in these pieces about riding to and through beautiful Pittsburgh on your way across PA, if you do so you’ll actually have to turn around and ride 20 miles back to McKeesport before continuing—that’s how bad the infrastructure is west of the city. There’s no safe way to get from the Point to the Panhandle on a bike, so the USBR 50 turn-by-turn directions (PDF) don’t even try.

How many USBR 50 riders will simply skip Pittsburgh, recognising that the route switches from the GAP to the Montour at McKeesport?

Campaigners have been working for many years toward a trail extending the Great Allegheny Passage along the Ohio River, from Pittsburgh up to Beaver and beyond to Ohio and West Virginia.  As trails are extended toward the City along Turtle Creek, the Allegheny River, and elsewhere, there is potential for Pittsburgh to become a great nexus of trails stretching in every direction–not just to Washington, but to Altoona, to Butler and Erie, to Cleveland, and to Columbus.  Towns like West Newton, Connellsville, and more have written of their revitalization on the strength of tourism brought by the completed GAP trail through their towns.   When will McKees Rocks, Monaca, Midland, and the many river towns in between get to see such benefits?

For a great many reasons, it is long past time for safe, accessible infrastructure for all west of Pittsburgh.

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Letters to Legislators: Speed Cameras Save Lives!

Over in Philly, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is asking folks to contact legislators to vote for House Bill 1187, a bill to pilot speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard, one of Philly’s notorious deathtrap stroads.  I don’t live in or anywhere near Philadelphia, but I still thought it was worth writing the local legislator:

This letter is to ask you to vote YES on House Bill 1187, which would legalize a speed camera pilot program on Roosevelt Boulevard, and to support future action to place speed cameras in Pittsburgh and across Pennsylvania. HB 1187 recently passed the House Transportation Committee, and will soon be debated in the full Pennsylvania House.

Roosevelt Boulevard is one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the United States.  This one roadway makes up only 0.6 percent of all Philadelphia’s 2,500 miles of streets. Yet over a 5-year period, 2011-2015, 13 percent of all traffic fatalities occurred on Roosevelt Boulevard. And 36 percent of those killed on Roosevelt Boulevard were pedestrians.

In Pittsburgh, dangerous roads with speeds well in excess of posted limits separate many of our neighborhoods; just for one example, we have a tremendous resource in the bike track at Highland Park, yet there is no safe access without a car due to high speeds and missing sidewalks along Washington Boulevard. Getting from The Hill to Bloomfield requires long, roundabout routes and unnecessary hill climbs because speeds on Bigelow Boulevard and Bloomfield Bridge are twice the posted limit, or more. Crossing through Schenley Park should be a safe, calm way to get from Oakland to Squirrel Hill, but isn’t because of dangerous speeds on Panther Hollow Road and other roads across the center of the park that have become freeway bypasses instead of park streets.

Long term, Roosevelt, Bigelow, and Washington Boulevards and roads like them need to be re-designed and engineered. But in the meantime, speed cameras have been proven to calm traffic and save lives. Please help make a safer Roosevelt Boulevard, and safer streets across the Commonwealth, a priority. Pass HB 1187 and lead the fight for speed cameras and traffic calming Pennsylvania-wide.

Letters to Congress: Trump’s SCOTUS nominee, Cabinet appointees must be able & willing to stand up to him

Write your senators. I did:

Dear Senator,

President Trump pledged throughout his campaign to appoint an anti-choice nominee who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and his first 11 days in office have shown that we absolutely should take him at his word when he threatens to enact policies that restrict our freedoms.

As your constituent, I’m asking you to ensure that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee commits to upholding the Constitution, all of the Constitution, including Roe v. Wade. If they won’t, I ask that you commit to blocking the nominee by whatever means necessary.

Trump has shown he will go to any length to get what he wants, regardless of legality, up to and including purging Cabinet departments of senior career leadership, using Congressional committee staff while not even telling the Members what he is doing, and firing officials who refuse to fall obediently into line.  It is imperative that if he is to be given a new Justice, that it be someone who is not afraid to stand up to him.

Sincerely,

I.Buffalo
Pittsburgh

(via NARAL Pro-Choice America.)


Once again, you can also write your House reps and other elected officials—they may not have a vote, but they know the folks who do a lot better than we do. Don’t forget to thank your local Democrat for standing against the illegal executive order on immigration.  A simple note such as the one below should suffice: 

Mr Doyle,

Thank you for standing up and joining as a cosponsor HR 724 to void the President’s unconstitutional travel ban. Please continue to do everything necessary to oppose this disastrous Trump/Bannon regime.

​Copied from a friend: 

​“You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have a [chuckles], you know, you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.” Donald Trump, April 2014, Fox News interview.

​“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Steve Bannon, Nov 2013, Daily Beast interview.

I think a lot of people are still in denial about what we are up against here. This is a fascist coup d’état, whose first step is to deliberately sabotage the government and turn the U.S. into a failed state. If you sit around waiting for the next election, I promise you there will not be another election. Any effective resistance must be more visionary and more revolutionary than the fascists.

Copy, paste, mutate, disseminate.

Letters to Congress: Ben Carson

Write your senators. I did:

Dear Senator,

As your constituent, I urge you to oppose the nomination of Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Carson has no experience working in government or running large organizations. But he has a long record of intolerance and of opposing fair housing laws and programs that help the poor—laws and programs he’d be in charge of at HUD.

Carson calls transgender people “abnormal” and same-sex couples “an abomination.” How can I expect him to prevent discrimination against gay couples, or ensure HIV+ individuals have equal access to public housing facilities? I believe Ben Carson would be a nightmare for gay and trans youth and adults facing poverty and housing discrimination.

As a member of the LGBT community, I am disturbed by Carson’s appalling comments about me and my community and his opposition to the very safety net programs HUD administers. Please vote no on the Carson nomination.

Sincerely,

I.Buffalo,
Pittsburgh

(via National Center for Transgender Equality.)


You can also write your House reps and other elected officials—they may not have a vote, but they know the folks who do a lot better than we do.  Here’s the letter I sent to Pittsburgh’s rep in the House, Mike Doyle:

Dear Congressman Doyle,

I realize that as a member of the House, you do not have a direct vote on Secretary confirmations. However, I hope you will use your influence on your colleagues in the Senate and urge them to oppose the nomination of Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

[…]

As a member of the LGBT community, I am disturbed by Carson’s appalling comments about me and my community and his opposition to the very safety net programs HUD administers. While I know you do not have a vote yourself, I hope that you will oppose and urge your friends and colleagues to do everything possible to defeat the Carson nomination.

Thank you,

I.Buffalo
Pittsburgh

Letter: Oakland’s dangerous streets demand attention, a champion

This was written to be a letter-to-the-editor in early September, 2016, but for some reason was never sent.

I work for a small non-profit affiliated with Pitt–an international professional association for academics–which has been based in Bellefield Hall since 2010.  I’m also a 2007 Pitt graduate with a BA in Linguistics.  As a student and a staff member, I’ve spent nearly nine of the last thirteen years on campus in Oakland.  At various points, I’ve primarily driven, biked, or taken a bus to Oakland; in the last several years I’ve increased my riding and now bike to work nearly daily.  Public transit is my second choice, and through several moves since 2011 I have consciously chosen to live near a direct bus line to Oakland.

As a Pitt alum and staff member of an affiliated organization on campus, I have been and continued to be appalled at the University’s response–or lack thereof–to the death of one of its own last fall and the continuing terrorizing of its students, staff, and faculty on a daily if not hourly basis.  According to one Post-Gazette article last fall, after the death of Susan Hicks in the shadow of the Cathedral of Learning, the only comment from Pitt spokesman John Fedele was that ‘the university has bike racks throughout the campus, encourages car-pooling and stresses pedestrian safety to students beginning with their freshman orientation’.  None of which does a thing to protect their personnel from reckless, speeding drivers.  At least CMU’s students and staff are getting trees between them and Forbes’ flying vehicles…

Except during special events, Bellefield is usually two lanes, and with no speed or crosswalk enforcement, many drivers speed and few yield to the hundreds of students and staff that cross the road to and from Bellefield Hall each day.  I can’t so much as walk to lunch without nearly getting hit by a car directly in front of my office.  Every day, I watch people trot, jog, and outright run across the street because drivers refuse to yield despite the painted crosswalk and cross-here signs.

As this week’s crash indicates, speeds on the roads that ring the University of Pittsburgh are dangerously high–if anything, the constant congestion which slows drivers and reduces PennDOT’s holy Level of Service is a good thing; it’s awfully difficult to flip a sedan at twenty miles an hour, and any person hit by a car is orders of magnitude more likely to survive at low vehicle speeds.

As Linda Bailey, Executive Director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (an organization of which Pittsburgh is a Member City), wrote this week,

“With 80% of the U.S. population living in urban areas, we should be building streets and designing cities that work for everyone, including those traveling on foot, on bike, or via transit.… In particular, arterial streets [such as Forbes Ave in Pittsburgh], which represent less than 10% of roadways but are the site of 49% of fatalities, should be prioritized as places where we can quickly make the biggest safety gains….All levels of government must do better. Elected officials should be champions for safe street designs.”

Where is our champion?

As Noel Mickelberry, Executive Director of Oregon Walks, wrote this week,

“None of these crashes look like one another. Yet each crash reminds us that a true change to the status quo on our streets is required to provide solutions. Each person injured or killed on our roadways demands attention and action from our city’s leadership and from everyone traveling through our streets.”

Where is the attention and action from our city’s leadership in Pittsburgh?  The mayor Friday urged us to wait for Port Authority to make a decision on BRT, but as even Port Authority’s own representative acknowledged at Wednesday’s meeting, that decision has been delayed repeatedly.

How much longer must we wait?  How many more students must be terrorized before Port Authority manages to get its act in gear?  How many more community members must die before we act?

We’ve spent sixty years tossing up our hands and ceding public space to public menaces. It’s time to take our roads back for all users.

Comments on Port Authority’s Fare System Proposal

Port Authority is considering overhauling their fare system.  If you missed the two public hearings, in late February and today, you can submit your comments online, by email to farepolicy@portauthority.org, or by mail to Port Authority, Attn: Fare Policy Proposal, Heinz 57 Center, 345 Sixth Avenue, Floor 3, Pittsburgh PA 15222, until the end of March.

My comments:

  • I favour the reducing of fares as much as possible. However, as I’m sure you’re aware, certain long distance (especially suburban commuter) routes cost significantly more to operate, and it is substantially unfair to those who live in and near the City to be forced to once again subsidize exurban riders. I am also concerned about the impact of eliminating the Downtown free-fare zone on the elderly, disabled, and others who use it to bridge the gap between one side of Downtown and the other.Consider, for one, the rider who takes a bus in from lower Greenfield Avenue, planning to transfer to, say, the 12 to McKnight Road. Without the free-fare zone, they are faced with either a double transfer or a long walk from Allies or Fourth Avenue to Liberty and Seventh. With it, a rider who doesn’t feel like making the walk doesn’t have to worry about whether they can pay for the transfer or whether the farebox will accurately credit multiple transfers against their card.

    I would much rather see the zone system recalibrated so that it has less impact on lower-income communities such as McKeesport and Clairton while not further privileging suburban commuters.

  • I am generally opposed to a surcharge for using cash, as those who are using cash are often either infrequent riders or those who can least afford (in terms of money or time) the outlay to acquire a special farecard. However, I do recognize that it does cost extra for PAT to process and handle cash, and so I am not strongly opposed to a minimal cash surcharge that allows the system to recoup that cost.
  • I am strongly opposed to a fee to acquire a farecard, especially in concert with a cash surcharge. If there must be a fee to recover the cost of stocking vending machines, it again should be as little as possible, and not charged at in-person service centers, groceries and other sales agents, etc. (Additionally, there should be many more such sales agents–Giant Eagle is still not as ubiquitous as they’d like to think they are…–and either the hours of the Downtown Service Center should be massively increased or it should be possible to handle farecard problems at other locations or remotely.  I know of too many people who’ve had problems with their farecards but because they don’t work Downtown or don’t work a standard 9-to-5 (or both) can’t get to the DSC to resolve the problem without making special arrangements.)
  • I am especially opposed to any fee to transfer lines, especially if there is any movement toward more trunk-and-feeder systems. Transfer fees disincentivize riding, especially along feeders; even a trip from the Hill to the Strip can require multiple routes, and if it costs yet more to ride just because there isn’t a single vehicle that makes the trip, it will further encourage driving for trips that shouldn’t need it.  (Or, as Jarrett Walker puts it, Charging for connections is insane.)
  • Regarding light-rail proof-of-payment, I strongly endorse PPT’s concerns about enforcement. Especially in light of the multiple recent violent incidents involving PAT Police and related agencies, PAT must tread very, very carefully when considering expanded policing on and around its system.
  • Not only am I strongly in favour of the day-pass idea, it should be automatic.  Rather than forcing someone to purchase a day-pass special, if a card user uses their card more than some number X (2? 3?) times in a day, further rides should be free.  If someone realizes on their way home from work that they need to stop at the grocery store, they shouldn’t have to worry about how much more they’ll need to pay in bus fare–it should just work.  Similarly for weekly, monthly, and especially annual passes; individuals should not be denied the benefit of being able to pay for 11 monthly passes and get the 12th free just because they don’t have nearly $1,100 in the bank at one time… if you buy eleven monthly passes in a row, the twelfth should just be free, whether or not you paid for them all at once.