Penn Ave redesign

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scott
Keymaster
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I know there’s a thread somewhere about this, but I can’t find it. Here’s the latest news story that aired last night on KDKA.


HiddenVariable
Participant
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Penn avenue is actually a state roadway — maintained by PennDOT — which believes that reducing lanes is a recipe for congestion.

gah! i just want to shake the hell out of people sometimes. i mean, i’m interested in what the engineering studies say, but a) countless studies have demonstrated that increasing the size of roadways increasess congestion, and 2) i’m pretty sure penn dot wouldn’t give a damn what the engineering studies say.


rice rocket
Participant
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You’re applying blanket statements as much as PennDOT is.

Just sayin’.


LizziMac
Member
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This article references a University of Toronto study that showed building more roads and widening roads indeed caused more traffic.

I like the article’s fix that the best way to reduce congestion is to increase tolling! Make that section of Penn a bike-exempt toll road… PennDOT would likely be all for that! Although it may not bode well to improve the current driver climate as it pertains to bicycles…


scott
Keymaster
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Congestion pricing is definitely where we need to head, but it has yet to be passed in a single U.S. municipality/region.


bear250220
Participant
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arent they closing penn avenue in garfield soon for a rebuild


Benzo
Participant
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bear250220 wrote:arent they closing penn avenue in garfield soon for a rebuild

Yes, and also the bridge on butler st right before the highland park bridge. In front of the zoo parking lot, you’ll be able to detour around it via the parking lot.


Drewbacca
Participant
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scott wrote:Congestion pricing is definitely where we need to head, but it has yet to be passed in a single U.S. municipality/region.

You mean within a city itself? San Diego (I-15) and Seattle (WA-167) Suburbs both have congestion pricing. Granted, this is just for the express lanes.


Benzo
Participant
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Peduto really isn’t in to the idea of a road diet on penn.


Benzo
Participant
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Again, I love the idea of putting speed sensors corridors where speeding is rampant that trigger the next traffic light to turn red if you’re exceeding the speed limit. Put signs up notifying drivers that ‘speeding triggers red light’. Removes incentives to speed. Slows down drivers in front of speeders so they just can’t speed.

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/18476/instead-of-tickets-turn-lights-red-for-speeders/


Mikhail
Member
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Benzo wrote:Again, I love the idea of putting speed sensors corridors where speeding is rampant that trigger the next traffic light to turn red if you’re exceeding the speed limit. Put signs up notifying drivers that ‘speeding triggers red light’. Removes incentives to speed. Slows down drivers in front of speeders so they just can’t speed.

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/18476/instead-of-tickets-turn-lights-red-for-speeders/

We need an extra piece of info here. Somehow the car that causes red light should be pointed out so other drivers would ridicule the violator.


Benzo
Participant
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Put a ‘your speed is’ sign up at the sensor. If someone ahead of you is speeding, you’ll know it was them. The sensor would have to be set back appropriately so that the offender is not encouraged to run the light.


Marko82
Participant
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@benzo, I’ve seen those signs/sensors before (Canada I think) and I really like the idea. But they will only work when people, ya know, like stop at the red lights.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Ya, cuz then they’d just blow thru lites like cyclsts do, ya kno.


salty
Participant
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Whoa, I have fantasized about that so many times – I thought it was all my idea. :) I think it would be a great way to de-incentivize speeding.

Of course, the downside is it only works on roads with red lights, and probably relatively close together. I think about this a lot when I’m headed down Beechwood and routinely passed by cars doing 40+, but I think the distance between lights is too large to have an effect.


sloaps
Participant
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… see below


sloaps
Participant
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sloaps wrote:The current head of PennDOT is of the opinion that neither rural roads, nor urban transit pay for themselves without the revenue of fees generated by motorists from parts inbetween.

Any changes to the flow of traffic along Penn Avenue through Wilkinsburg and Pittsburgh is tricky, as the road is state-owned but is located in dense, urban settings.

It may take a decade or more, but don’t give up the notion that “ “green book”solutions to traffic safety don’t work in urban settings.

I think I’ve been in enough design/construction meetings and court rooms to realize that lawyers and civil engineers have no business in developing modern, urban traffic policy.


edmonds59
Participant
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sloaps wrote:It may take a decade or more, but don’t give up the notion that “ “green book”solutions to traffic safety don’t work in urban settings.

I wasn’t quite clear on the meaning of that.

sloaps wrote:I think I’ve been in enough design/construction meetings and court rooms to realize that lawyers and civil engineers have no business in developing modern, urban traffic policy.

+1,000


scott
Keymaster
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I’ll let Bill speak for himself, but the best thing that will come from that story is a call for a public process. Prior to the stories this week, PennDOT was just going to start “fixing” Penn without any public process. That means you all need to show up when the public meeting(s) happen.


Benzo
Participant
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scott wrote:Prior to the stories this week, PennDOT was just going to start “fixing” Penn without any public process.

I do understand why Bill would be wary of this plan. It’s a big change. I do think his comments (below) about the issue is on the money.

““The end is to create safe streets for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles; and to do so, there are many options, but it has to start with the participation of the entire community,””

I think the big reason why most of us are unhappy with PennDOT is exactly this issue. Almost all the changes to city streets here come after at least a couple rounds of public input. This should definitely be done for PennDOT projects too.


scott
Keymaster
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What’s interesting is it’s not actually a plan. Or at least I don’t think it is. KDKA somehow made the title of the story “City proposes changes…” Well the City wasn’t proposing anything. PennDOT is on the verge of sinking over $1M to make the street safer, only their plans will do next to nothing for safety. I suppose Patrick Roberts (who posts here occasionally) has some ideas on how Penn Ave could function more as a complete street, but there are no drawings or plans yet. I’m pretty sure he was reacting to PennDOT’s actual plans, which we should all be wary of.


edmonds59
Participant
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We would all be better off if Penndot was dissolved and replaced with an infinite number of monkeys clicking at an infinite number of CAD stations.


Marko82
Participant
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While I agree that Penn should be completely redone, I think Peduto’s comment about unintended consequences is a good one. You wouldn’t want to fix Penn at the detriment to Forbes, for example. Thus the need for more community involvement and input by those not wearing a State hard hat.


byogman
Member
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Devil’s advocate question.

Let’s say

#1: The wedge formed by Penn and 5th were much more directly and nicely crossable from Reynolds over to ELB (and Walnut would be nice)?

#2: A continuous connection could be made say, from the dead end at Ben Hur Street over to S Richland Lane, or better yet, work with Shadyside Academy (right?) to connect over to Richard Lane?

#3: Sidewalk riding on Penn (presumably last block or two stuff, since #1 and #2 are directed at neutralizing its necessity as a through street) were made officially ok (presuming right now it’s a business district and as such illegal presumably).

How much would these three things improve matters for folks trying to get around by bike who are uncomfortable with Penn but find themselves forced to use it?

To be clear, I think it’s a desirable thing to try and do road diets, complete streets and get all the benefits that come with. I just fear that the amount of development further east, bottlenecked parkway and 28, and resulting traffic on Penn… this may be too big a monster to tackle right now, with even our forward thinking (likely) future mayor warning against unintended consequences to neighborhood roads. So presenting alternates that suck less than the current situation might be a more practical way of going about things. Now, if there were only a way to get PennDot to help fund these alternates…


gg
Member
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Penn Ave is sure a mess in that area. I don’t think making it a two lane road would reduce traffic flow, but I am not sure. If the line of cars gets long enough it could back up to 5th Ave and cars wouldn’t have room to proceed far enough to get through that light. If that would be the case, it would be a real mess. Penn is heavily travelled now and after the build Bakery Square up, it will be even more congested. What makes Penn extra dangerous is that is goes from two lanes to one lane and people try and speed in the right lane to beat others and cut in. Not good for a cyclist in that right lane. Not sure what the answer is. Sure I would love Penn to be a two lane road with a bike lane and it might actually be a better option if they can have a middle turning lane. That would lessen cars jockeying for position, but I don’t know the net effect. Thanks for posting the news on this.


jonawebb
Participant
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Is PennDOT committed to having public comment? If so, are they required to listen? I’m thinking of the Boulevard of the Allies reconstruction. They are required by state law to consider cyclist access, as I understand. So they considered it, and decided not to do anything about it. How can we ensure that the Penn Ave reconstruction doesn’t work the same way?


edmonds59
Participant
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jonawebb wrote:How can we ensure that the Penn Ave reconstruction doesn’t work the same way?

There is not a way. Refer to any “West Carson Street” thread. Penndot may or may not have a public comment period, if they do, they then shitcan what they get and do whatever the F they like.


buffalo buffalo
Participant
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byogman wrote:#1: The wedge formed by Penn and 5th were much more directly and nicely crossable from Reynolds over to ELB (and Walnut would be nice)?

The other end is harder (so I’ve skipped it), but this is easy: ride through Mellon Park. There are various issues with the Beechwood-stub parking lot that can be hazardous, but in the absence of a rideable Penn Ave it’s perfectly legal to ride through the park.

#3: Sidewalk riding on Penn (presumably last block or two stuff, since #1 and #2 are directed at neutralizing its necessity as a through street) were made officially ok (presuming right now it’s a business district and as such illegal presumably).

Penn Ave west of Fifth is a business district, as that phrase legally includes industrial facilities as well as retail shops. In fact, I believe it’s technically a business district from the beginning of the church just east of Fifth all the way to Penn Circle West.

However, east of Fifth, Penn is mostly residential until you hit the Wilkinsburg line, which is part of why the speeds through there are so grating. There is next to no ‘business’ on Penn from Fifth to past Lexington, and other than the Factory (EE co-op, etc.), precious little between Lexington and Braddock. You could probably count the ‘business’ establishments on that part of Penn on two hands.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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Could the lanes on Penn between Wilkinsburg and East Liberty be treated the same way as the lanes on the Liberty Bridge (with the inner lanes reversing direction to accommodate traffic – “inbound” in the morning, and “outbound” in the afternoon.

With the exception that one lane would be removed from motor vehicle traffic and physically separated from the other three for use as a two-way bike lane. Other wise the three remaining lanes would be one full-time inbound, one full time outbound with the center lane alternating depending on time of day.

(I anticipate the obvious retort that drivers are slow to adapt and this concept would result in head-on car crashes… but, it works on the Liberty Bridge, so why not Penn?)


Benzo
Participant
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They also need to figure out whether to have penn ave between the busway and braddock ave be one lane or two each direction. Put in some lane dividers or a shoulder, but the 20+ foot wide lanes just make people confused.


buffalo buffalo
Participant
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I believe Greentree Rd also has a reversible centre lane up at the top of the hill, from about Parkway Centre to past the Parkway itself.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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@edmonds59 said There is not a way. Refer to any “West Carson Street” thread. Penndot may or may not have a public comment period, if they do, they then shitcan what they get and do whatever the F they like.

…and that would be whatever dinosaur-era traffic planning manuals says to do when you have a certain number of cars per hour on a street, and to hell with cyclists.

If they really cared, they would come and ask us.

If they really wanted to care, they would actually consider restricting traffic flow. Actually make it more difficult to travel through one of the thinnest funnels in the city.

If they will not consider that, then we’re basically screwed. Someone at PennDOT, please prove me wrong.


sloaps
Participant
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There are short and long-term, as well as, localized and systemic solutions to problem corridors like the residential section of Penn Avenue.

What I hope for with Bike-PGH and its members, is understanding how best to apply all this piss and vinegar. We have gripes and possible solutions to transportation problems, but where is the best forum to express these thoughts and to whom should we express them for the best possible outcome?

Solutions to issues at any number of these streets can be addressed in some way by the City (or other local municipality), PennDOT, Allegheny County, SPC, Port Authority, City, County and State Economic Development Programs, URA, Harrisburg (State Representatives and Senators), D.C. (Federal Representatives and Senators) and all the bureaus and departments within.

Some examples of this are:

PennDOT will accept comments, but understand where your comment fits best. Demanding bike lanes on Penn is specific to the “project”, but demanding changes to PennDOT’s priorities (car vs. bike vs. pedestrian) is a policy issue that cannot be solved at the project level. Lucky for you PennDOT has a “policy” office. Link

If we want to inhibit traffic flow through this section of Penn Avenue with hard infrastructure, like barriers and toll gates and armed TSA agents, then as a long-term and systemic goal we must provide these displaced commuters with options. One of the systemic problems in this corridor is having thousands of commuters passing the Busway, and dozens of bus stops, and not using them. Perhaps the transit system doesn’t meet their needs and changes at the Port Authority could have a positive affect on traffic volumes during the peak commuting hours, but the Port Authority isn’t an active participant in PennDOT roadway project meetings and isn’t considered as a solution to a road problem. That kind of intergovernmental coordination is something that is sorely lacking, and can only become a reality if riders, commuters and Pennsylvanians, in general, demand this kind of cooperation.

It’s late, that’s all for now.


cdavey
Participant
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It’s just SO much easier as a matter of administrative convenience for PennDOT and the other agencies that sloaps mentioned to just continue doing what they already know how to do. In PennDOT’s case that is move motorized vehicular traffic. God forbid if they had to add in a second variable (bikes) or a third (bikes + pedestrians in a residential area). Gee, reality is SOOOO hard sometimes. How much easier it is just to ignore it and pretend it’s what we want it to be so it fits what we’re comfortable doing.

Never-too-much-mind the carnage from property damage (car crashes), injuries, and the occasional poor unfortunate who actually dies there. Collateral damage. Gee, if we can kind of address those things within our existing paradigm that we are comfortable with, that’s a good thing we can show off to the public while we feel good about ourselves.

And this is why sloaps comments at the end of above post as well as everyone else’s in this thread are right. We will never get them to change their way of thinking unless we advocate, jump up and down and yell, and otherwise drag them kicking and screaming into the real world that clusterfucks like Penn Ave are before we will get them to change their way of thinking.


Marko82
Participant
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How about this for a compromise: Leave Penn ave. as four lanes, but eliminate all left hand turns and traffic lights on Penn from Braddock all the way to fifth ave. You could then add two traffic circles; one at Dallas and one at Homewood. Add a few HAWK pedestrian crosswalks in the middle of a few blocks. Finally, lower the speed limit to 25mph and paint sharrows.

This will allow the same car volume (if not increase it), eliminate the lane jockeying caused by left hand turns, and slow traffic speeds due to the circles. Cyclists receive the least amount of consideration in this compromise by only getting sharrows, but the neighborhood would gain greatly.


Lee
Participant
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Bike boulevard on Meade instead?

If I were king of every street except Penn, I’d be tempted to ignore it and turn meade into a bike-prioritized street with speedbumps that would discourage car through traffic while allowing local access. Cut narrow holes in the bumps to allow bikes to pass freely. Eliminate stop signs for the whole length and make it so the cross streets have to stop. I think that would at least slow cars down to a reasonable speed and make a viable alternative to Penn. As it is, cyclists don’t just “stick to the side streets” for the same reasons motorists don’t. It’s inefficient to stop at the end of every block.


WillB
Participant
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I don’t ride around that area of Penn much, so I don’t know about the particulars, but in general I really the idea of focusing on side streets as bike boulevards. I don’t mind going a block or two out of the way if it means I have a safe and easy route with many fewer cars. This is basically what I do when taking Smallman/Railroad/River Trail to downtown from Lawrenceville, and if one of those roads were really engineered for bikes it would be amazing, and we wouldn’t have to worry about riding on Penn at all.


Ahlir
Participant
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Thomas Blvd, the next block over, is already striped for bikes.
Braddock-Meade-Lexington gets you there from the east.
At Dallas things “T” and you can go down to Hamilton or up to Reynolds and beyond.
Hamilton is an alternate Reynolds-Thomas connector.
This doesn’t really deal with between Braddock and Wilkinsburg, but it’s pretty good.

Yes, it’s a bit circuitous, but it’s there now.
No, there is no excuse for not enforcing traffic laws along Penn.


rsprake
Participant
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I seriously wonder what a traffic circle at Penn and Fifth would look like.

I also wonder if we could extend the separated bike path across from Bakery Square all the way to the busway.


jonawebb
Participant
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If you’re riding in from the Wilkinsburg direction it’s awfully convenient to just stay on Penn. Otherwise you have to deal with diversions around the busway, and Meade itself makes a few diversions around blocks and doesn’t even run all the way to Fifth. I wouldn’t ride Penn myself in its current condition but I can totally understand people wanting to. It’s a direct route, and can and should be made into a complete street.

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