DOT wants input on Interstate 376
Do the survey at
Regarding Interstate 376 between Pittsburgh and Monroeville, the Department of Transportation says
we are asking for your help to:
• Identify the role the I-376 corridor and other
area roadways serve in your community,
• Discuss the existing condition and function of the
I-376 corridor and other area roadways, and
• Locate potential improvement areas.
They’re never really going to read whatever is written, but I asked for a protected bike lane along the shoulder and for light rail. I was also going to ask for a pony but I’m sure they wouldn’t have gotten the joke.
Swalfoort wrote:Colin, did you actually write that on your survey?
i was slightly more constructive and diplomatic.
i wrote, “tear it down, build light rail and bike/ped paths. move people, not cars.” in several places instead.
I’d be happy with a bus lane to the airport. On our last trip I finally got my wife to take the 28X, only to get screwed over because some throng of assholes was going to star lake, plus a few of them wrecked for good measure. 2.5 hours later, we had missed our flight and if I didn’t get super lucky with Delta customer service she would have killed me.
Ah, I can’t read, it’s not that part of 376… Oh well, I’m sure it could use a dedicated bus lane too. People can drive their cars if they want but they shouldn’t have the power to screw up the buses.
I don’t think PAT uses the Parkway East for any revenue trips, though they might use it for trips to and from the garage. Logically, therefore, the lanes in question would be better reserved for bikes and/or ponies.
But PennDOT is asking the wrong question. They should really be asking what to do with the Mon Fayette Expressway. Given the traffic it gets now, I think they should reserve two to four lanes for bikes, ponies, or perhaps something like NYC’s High Line.
Really, nothing has changed concerning the Parkway East since the 1980s. There are no new towns, no huge changes in population, no new roads. The closest thing to a new road is indeed relevant, an extension of the East Busway to Swissvale/Rankin, which now crosses the Parkway.
In the 1980s, I made thousands of trips between Monroeville and Shadyside Hospital, where my wife went to nursing school. I was one of those crazy people screaming down Penn Avenue through Point Breeze every day, and some of that’s when Penn was still brick with trolley tracks. Try making it from 48 & Northern Pike to Centre & Negley in 25 minutes sometime! 35, routinely. Actually, the trip was from New Stanton to SHSN to Westinghouse in about an hour 15 minutes. Or skipping the Parkway altogether on the way home, SHSN out Penn & Ardmore to past the Turnpike on 30 (38 traffic lights at that time), and six miles on Arona Rd, about as fast as I could make the car go in traffic. Sometimes the Parkway was useful, sometimes it was useful as a storage mechanism for all the other traffic so I could get where I was going. I know *every* thread of neighborhood bypasses and cut-throughs on this corridor, and how to speed through them. I did it daily for years.
In the 1990s, still working at Westinghouse, I started using transit from my home in McCandless. Many hundreds of times I sat on a bus as it wiggled its way from the end of the Busway at Wilkinsburg, through that town’s wavy brick streets, to 376. The key then was the length of time it took from getting off a bus from the North Hills in the heart of downtown, to the time it got on 376 at Ardmore Blvd, and I think that’s the heart of what they’re getting at. From time to time, I would be driving, and compared the time it took to cross the Veterans Bridge to the time I passed the Wilkinsburg exit, and that distinction was critical. Unbusy, the Parkway was 30 minutes faster, but if the Parkway was clogged, the bus was faster.
The biggest change they could make would be to make a seamless connection, for buses only, from the Busway to the Parkway. It would involve convincing the Luddites in Edgewood to have anything to do with Port Authority, which they’ve resisted doing for decades, and would involve removing one lane of traffic on 376 from Churchill to Edgewood.
Wow. Thinking about this at 5:00 a.m., digging up stuff I have had rattling around in my head for 25 or more years. I could just be getting started here. I had a grand plan all figured out back in early 1993, when they were thinking about extending the busway all the way to McKeesport. I myself suggested a Light Rail system, starting at Murrysville, through Trafford and Braddock. It would not have been difficult; the tracks are already there. Still there, now unused, in fact.
But the biggie is making fast transit connections to the busway from the east feasible. Move people, not cars. You’re not going to do it if it involves 15 mph brick streets in Wilkinsburg.
And now that I’ve gone back to bed and thought about this for another 20 minutes, one critical point: The powers that be want SO BADLY to build the Mon-Fayette to Monroeville. Getting this survey out there is a piece of that.
One more time: Move people, not cars. We do not need one lane-mile of new road. Anywhere. Make transit feasible, likeable.
Steven wrote:I don’t think PAT uses the Parkway East for any revenue trips
The P12 uses the Parkway East from the Churchill exit to the Monroeville/Plum Exit just before the junction with the turnpike.
I went ahead and filled out the survey asking for a bypass around the Squirrel Hill tunnel. Maybe they could build a new highway from slightly southeast of Monroeville and connect it to the PWE after the tunnel. It would be sort of like an Expressway…
@jay, but why build what already exists? People have been using Commercial Street, 837, Penn/Braddock as a tunnel bypass for years. Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to just widen/enhance those existing roadways?
One thing I’ve heard they’re thinking about is regulating access to the Parkway, so that it doesn’t get congested. There’s no sense in allowing more drivers on than the road can hold. You would get a green light at the on ramp, and then proceed. In this model it would be easy to give buses preference. Not as good as a dedicated lane, but better than nothing.
Adding more highways is not the solution. There’s a phenomenon called “traffic generation” which results in more traffic the more roads you have. It’s been pretty well understood since the 1950s, I think. What you need to do to reduce traffic is, as Stu says, move people not cars. Adding a transit line east would do more to reduce congestion on the Parkway than any new highway or other improvement.
If all you do is move people and not cars, there will be no reason to move people. No sense in moving people to the grocery store or jobs if there are none because you’ve gutted your transportation corridors.
I don’t think PennDOT is going to care very much about the results of their survey and I don’t think many people here are going to give meaningful input – but be realistic – it takes good infrastructure all around to have a healthy region. That includes highways.
Addendum: Light rail would be great. Things like “tear it down” or “turn it into one lane/one bus lane” are asinine.
@swalfoort: I couldn’t agree more! Commercial would be the perfect candidate for a “highway enhancement.” I’m talking guard rails, center median dividing 8 lanes of traffic, and a full-bore 70 mph speed limit to make it a true expressway. I’m sure the government could use the power of eminent domain to bulldoze all those houses and the Irish Community Center right out of the way. Heck, they could probably get an Obama grant to pay for it.
Well, you’ve convinced me. I’m going to use my officemate’s computer to retake that survey and propose your solution. Thanks, Swally!
I didn’t take the survey, primarily because whatever happens on the parkway east doesn’t impact me at all, and partly because any information they do glean will be manipulated into some kind of support for the MFE. But if I did, my response would be – do absolutely nothing.
Partly because of what Jonawebb said, more highways do not reduce congestion, they generate congestion.
And partly because one of the largest contributors to congestion on the PE seems to be people trying to evade Allegheny Co taxes by running to Westmoreland County (not to mention the more subliminal reason of wanting to avoid them undesirable “urban people”). So if those folks want to spend 90 minutes of their lives, twice a day, sitting in a semi-mobile parking lot burning their money that way instead of just paying a fair share of taxes, scroo’em. Don’t spend one more public dime trying to “alleviate” automobile congestion.
edmonds59 wrote:Don’t spend one more public dime trying to “alleviate” automobile congestion.
I agree. We need more efficient infrastructure, which wouldn’t be in the form of all the SUVs driving in from Murrysville and Monroeville. Maybe there could be a busway/light rail or some other alternative? Maybe a park and ride or if there are some, more. I understand people needed to drive from their home to a point of public transportation, so parking is needed to allow people to do that. Also, many busses. The busway from East Liberty and beyond moves one heck of a lot of people. There should be more of that.
I responded. Busway improvements, congestion pricing, multi-modal transit hub, possibly around turtle creek, well connected to the GAP.
I concluded with:
I sincerely hope this isn’t just a way of saying there’s demand for the mon fayette expressway and try and push that absurd boondoggle forward. Yes there’s congestion with the tunnels and it stinks.
But even ignoring the many drawbacks of such a project, we’re a moderate sized city, not a huge one. Common sense should dictate that we cannot afford to be #3 (and probably #2 by the time the project would be done) on this list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_U.S._public_works_projects
I don’t think adding transit is going to reduce congestion. I think it is just going to help it not get any worse than it already is. However, it will mean more people can get to and from the city without driving, bypassing the issue of traffic.
Reducing congestion by widening roads and creating bypasses is going to have more people driving in to the city, making demands for parking higher, and making our city streets more congested. Leading to a vicious cycle of build, build, build.
Look at cities with some of the best transit systems. NYC, washington DC, london. They all have good pubilc transit AND terrible traffic congestion.
Adding more automotive capacity is going to generate more car traffic, cause parking problems, create more expensive roads to maintain, and divert money from fixing our already decaying infrastructure.
Giving people an alternative to driving that is cheap and effective is a much better alternative. Transit should serve where people are and not simply provide a sea of parking spaces.
Safe commuter bike routes out of the city should also be developed in addition to the GAP trail. We need to address accessibility across the rivers, mountains, and traversing some dangerous routes in the suburbs.
Benzo wrote:They all have good pubilc transit AND terrible traffic congestion.
NYC and DC, at least, are gradually digging their way out of a huge overinvestment in highways versus mass transit. In the 1960s NYC was famous as a place where mass transit (among other things) was a apocalyptic disaster — even as they were investing huge sums in the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. So, yes, they have traffic congestion, and they are trying to overcome existing problems by adding mass transit. They just haven’t gotten near where they need to be yet.
andyc, we already have good highways, they just don’t function well because of too many people moving far out of the city then whining about the traffic. Asinine would be spending billions of dollars to make that cycle repeat itself – it is time for 1950s priorities to change.
Where are you going to put light rail that you couldn’t put a bus lane instead? I’ll take either, so it doesn’t really matter to me.
Also don’t forget the Traffic21/Surtrac people are pitching the idea of using their system to create an “alternative to the Parkway East” on surface streets (Penn, Centre/Baum, etc.). It’s a terrible backward-thinking idea veiled as “high tech”.
There’s nothing wrong with the idea timing lights for a green wave.
The problem is if the goal is that said waves move as quickly as possible, they create an exceptionally hostile environment where nobody wants to loose speed and have to wait for the next one, and that pressure is more palpable because people become more accustomed to making all the lights.
So anything pitched as creating an alternative to a highway needs to be eyed very suspiciously. You CAN move more cars, but dear god no, you don’t want to do that at highway speeds. That’s what highways are for.
There needs to be a limit to how quickly these green waves can move, and that limit needs to be slightly below the speed limit (since someone would have to break the law to keep position in a green wave starting from a stop if it were timed to the speed limit and we do want to have the front edge of that wave occupied, right?). Starting from a 25mph limit, if green wave moves at, say 20… that sounds just ducky. 0mph relative velocity if I’m huffing it. 5mph relative velocity if I’m being lazy. Sign me up, right? In fact, just drop it a bit through the most bike heavy / potentially bike heavy corridors (through the universities in Oakland would be a fine place to start) and tada! you’ve got an environment for cycling that’s pretty good if people can get themselves into lane for the first time (still a big psychological hurdle).
In an ideal world, I’d say that’s the key point to press, and from a technical standpoint it should be a trivial parameter to make the system conform to. You can still move more cars from A to B over surface streets without necessarily creating a more hostile environment.
In the real world, I don’t know if you can expect that you’ll ever have that kind of transparency and responsible decision making. This could be a real monster.
jonawebb wrote:You would get a green light at the on ramp, and then proceed.
The problem with this kind of metering is that it actually gives preference to people who live farther out, because they live far enough away that it’s not congested when they get on the road. So you’re basically making life harder for people in the nearest suburbs, so that the exurban commuters can have a smooth trip all the way in.
WillB wrote:you’re basically making life harder for people in the nearest suburbs, so that the exurban commuters can have a smooth trip all the way in
I respect your opinion in this, because you would be affected by it and I wouldn’t, but the metering is really not supposed to make life harder for people in the nearest suburbs, since they would be waiting in traffic anyway, on the Parkway in front of the Squirrel Hill tunnels. It’s actually supposed to increase the capacity of the road overall, benefiting everyone.
I guess it’s possible people would just move further out to get the benefit of the non-metered on-ramps; I don’t know if this happens in practice, though, because they would obviously be spending more time in total commute, being further out. You could always extend the metering outwards to prevent this.
I live in Edgewood near the east end of the Squirrel Hill tunnel. Here’s roughly what I wrote in my comments on that survey:
I believe that the Squirrel Hill tunnel backs up as much as it does, westbound, in the morning because people slow down in the tunnel unnecessarily. They slow down because a) tunnels induce claustrophobia, and b) the road is climbing. My suggested fixes are: paint tunnel white, put up electronic “recommended speed” signs that help drivers avoid stop & go behavior. Monitor traffic speeds electronically. Drivers emerging at the west end of the tunnel too slowly (and causing backups) should be ticketed stiffly, every day.
The eastbound backups before the tunnel in the evening have a different explanation. I believe they are primarily due to the crossing traffic at the horrible Squirrel Hill interchange, not directly due to the tunnel itself. Fix that interchange.
Don’t build any more Mon-Fayette Expressway! It is a porkbarrel project that wastes taxpayer money. No more Southern Beltway, either! Use the billions that are saved to build a mass transit system; say light rail between the airport, downtown, Oakland, Squirrel Hill, and Monroeville. And improve the bicycle trail network to encourage more people to bicycle commute.
paulheckbert wrote:Drivers emerging at the west end of the tunnel too slowly (and causing backups) should be ticketed stiffly, every day.
I would put this below ticketing speeders in priority.
Way, WAY below.
I hope enough people suggest bike lanes and bus lanes on the survey, like I did, so we can’t be just dismissed.
So noted, Mick, when I fill it out for real.
I also plan to pound the drum of providing transit information. I’ve been pounding that drum over 20 years. Put some serious money into that, then ridership will grow, transit’s finances become more stable, service improves (more routes, more service on routes, reduced head ways, longer hours of coverage, easier transfers), obviating the need to expand the road network.
You cannot ride a bus you do not know is there. You will not board a bus you do not know where is going. You will vow never again to ride if you’re stranded, lost, and/or late, and paid for the privilege. Lack of information is at the heart of all that.
Building that info system is far cheaper than a road.
@byogman – I specifically asked the Traffic21 people if their calculations considered the speed limit and they told me they did not.
There’s another important variable you’re leaving out which is cycle time. Unsurprisingly, it is absolutely abysmal along Penn Ave where their system is in place. Obviously if you keep the lights green in one direction longer, more cars get through, and that’s exactly what they do. You see them touting “improvements” in vehicle volume and travel time for a specific corridor, while completely ignoring the collateral damage it causes. This is not limited to pedestrians – cars and bikes on side streets get the shaft as well. But hey, people driving in from the suburbs can make good time.
In any case, talk of an “alternative to the Parkway East” going through the city should make anyone’s stomach turn. Would you want that through your neighborhood? Why should the people who live in Regent Square, Wilkinsburg, East Liberty, Garfield, etc. be subjected to it?
I don’t disagree that it’s *possible* for a “smart” system to make things better for all road users, but that is *not* what is actually being done. Come to my office sometime and we’ll go for a little walk.
Also, I know I harp on this a lot, but I think the time for action is now. By the time they send out a survey for public comment, their minds will have already been made up. I can only hope Peduto sees through this nonsense.
Mick wrote:I hope enough people suggest bike lanes and bus lanes on the survey, like I did, so we can’t be just dismissed.
I want heated bike lanes so snow and ice are not problem anymore.
“Your survey response has been successfully submitted.”
Regarding attempts to speed up inbound traffic through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel, we have this from 1961:
Originally, the posted speed limit on the Penn-Lincoln Parkway (now known as the Parkway East) was 50 mph. In the tunnel the limit was reduced to 35 mph.
The result? Traffic snarled at the tunnel entrances. So authorities raised the tunnel speed limit to 50 mph.
The jams persisted.
State police were urged to stand at tunnel entrances to try to “whip motorists through the tunnels with gestures, scowls, shouts or whatever it takes” to keep traffic moving at a proper speed. Signs were posted inside the tunnels, urging drivers to maintain a 55 mph pace.
Still, drivers slowed to 35 or even 25 mph.
I like the idea of using gestures, shouts and scowls to regulate traffic. I do it all the time.
I finally completed the survey. I hope it isn’t too late.
it’s penn dot. it was too late when the put the survey up.
HiddenVariable wrote:it’s penn dot. it was too late when the put the survey up.
I heard from my friend the traffic engineer that PennDOT got all kinds of pro-cycling feedback from the eastern suburbs related to this. When a lot of homeowners complain about the lack of cycling infrastructure and say how it affects the resale value of their homes, that is likely to have a real impact on resource allocation in the future.
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