Safe Oakland streets for all

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OPDC is committed to the Oakland 2025 Master Plan vision for a neighborhood whose multi-modal transportation network incorporates “complete streets” principles (accessibility and safety for pedestrians, cyclists, automobiles and transit) and connects all parts of the neighborhood.

Below is our report of all the projects in the works to improve infrastructure for transit riders, pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers in Oakland. Some are massive undertakings that will take years to complete. Others are lower-hanging fruits that will bring small but meaningful improvements in the short term. OPDC is directly involved in some of these projects. Perhaps our most important role, though, is to be an advocate and messenger for you, the public, about all of them.

This report will be a living document which we’ll update regularly as projects move forward and public input opportunities arise. Contact 412.621.7863 or questions@opdc.org or @OaklandPlanning if you have additional questions or feedback on any of these projects.

But first, where do you fit in?

The Oakland Green Team, supported by OPDC, is Oakland’s bicycle/pedestrian advocacy group. In partnership with organizations like Bike Pittsburgh and the City of Pittsburgh, they are involved in many of the projects we’ve detailed in this report as an advocate and source for information. They meet on the third Thursday of every month at 6pm at the Oakland Career Center, 294 Semple Street, 15213. If you want to share feedback on any of the projects in this report, or have a new concern you want to bring to the table, the Oakland Green Team meeting is the place to do it.

A quick snapshot of some recent Oakland Green Team activities: In 2015, the Oakland Green Team submitted a list of Oakland safety concerns to all three of Oakland’s City Council members and the Department of City Planning. Details of those requests, as well as council responses, are detailed in the May and August meeting minutes.

The team is also in talks with the City of Pittsburgh Police, the University of Pittsburgh Police, and Bike Pittsburgh about increasing traffic enforcement throughout Oakland and establishing a regular reporting structure to the community on that enforcement.

Bus Rapid Transit

  1. What is it? A high-quality, bus-based transportation system that provides fast, cost-efficient service through a specific district. It does this through elements such as dedicated lanes, fewer stops, off-board fare collection, and enhanced transit stations with real-time passenger information. The area of the proposed BRT system for Fifth and Forbes Avenues is from from Downtown to Oakland.
  2. What’s the current status of the project? The City of Pittsburgh has responded to public outcry for safer streets by accelerating the timeline for deciding Bus Rapid Transit’s Oakland alignment and how it will relate to bike lanes. (Jargon alert: the word “alignment” in BRT context means “where dedicated bike and bus lanes would go”). We will post more information as it becomes available.
  3. Who is involved? Forbes Avenue is a state-owned road, while Fifth Avenue is a city road, so PennDOT, Port Authority of Allegheny County, and the City of Pittsburgh are all decision-makers in the BRT planning process. Working alongside them is a stakeholder advisory committee. OPDC has served on that committee since its inception in 2011. Our goal is to help decision makers align with the complete streets vision of the Oakland 2025 Master Plan and ensure community involvement in the process.
  4. What else should I know?
    • Because the city is also embarking on the EcoInnovation District planning process (scroll down for more on that) for Uptown and West Oakland, the BRT alignment for Uptown will be determined through the EID public input process.
    • The BRT planning study is funded by Port Authority.

Forbes Avenue Betterment Project

  1. What is it? A PennDOT project to improve road conditions on Forbes Avenue between the Birmingham Bridge and Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) campus.
  2. What’s the current status? In a late August public meeting at Carnegie Mellon University in 2016, plans were announced for new bicycle lanes in each direction on Forbes Avenue between South Craig and Beeler Street. Among such improvements included were: curb bump outs to provide buses more room for pick up and drop off traffic flow, as well as strips amidst the curb and road. Additional public meetings will discuss further progress.
  3. What else should I know? The Forbes Avenue Betterment Project is closely tied to implementation of the Transportation Management recommendations in CMU’s 2012 institutional master plan (see page 44 of link), and the recommendations of a 2009 Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative (PCTI) study on pedestrian safety mobility, done jointly for CMU and the Oakland Transportation Management Association (OTMA). To implement those recommendations, CMU and OTMA received a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant to improve traffic signals and cyclist and pedestrian safety on Forbes Avenue, from South Craig Street to Margaret Morrison Street. Because the focus areas of both the CMAQ grant and the Forbes Avenue Betterment Projects overlap, PennDOT is collaborating with CMU to complete repaving for both projects simultaneously. According to Bob Reppe of CMU, the design phase for the CMAQ project will begin when PennDOT finalizes the contract with engineering team Whitman-Requardt. Work is scheduled to begin in fall 2017 and continue through 2018.

Uptown/West Oakland EcoInnovation District

  1. What is it? EcoDistricts are a new approach to urban planning that originated out of Portland, Oregon in 2009. The approach focuses on eight performance areas that each have a specific set of goals and indicators of success. Those performance areas are: Equitable Development, Health and Wellbeing, Community Identity, Access and Mobility, Energy, Water, Habitat and Ecosystem Function, and Materials Management. Put more simply, it is a community-driven plan to ensure equitable growth and improve the community, create a green district in Pittsburgh, and expand job opportunities for local residents. The Uptown/West Oakland EcoInnovation District includes all of Uptown and part of West Oakland, terminating near Craft Avenue. To learn more about the origins of the project, visit the city’s website.
  2. What’s the current status?
    • In summer of 2015, the City of Pittsburgh selected Interface Studio to provide consulting services for the project.
    • The consultant team released an online survey open to the public between January and April of 2016 that gauged who live, work or commute through Uptown or Oakland. The findings of the survey were released later in the spring of that same year and can be read here.
    • As of winter 2017, the Uptown/West Oakland EcoInnovation District is in the action plan stage of development. Updates can be regularly found on their website.
  3. What else should I know?
    • EcoDistricts are distinctly different from other planning processes. Equity is prioritized front and center throughout the process, and indicators of success and benchmarks are baked into the whole thing. Plus, EcoDistricts are smaller-scale, defined districts with specific boundaries, making goals more achievable.
    • Remember, planning that takes place through the EcoInnovation process will impact decisions made about the BRT alignment.

Potential bike lane on Bigelow

After further traffic analysis, the city will install bike lanes on Bigelow in 2017. Thanks to a previously awarded $300,00 Federal Transportation Alternative Grant in 2014, the city will also move forward with the implementation of bike lanes from Negley Avenue from Howe Street in Shadyside to Stanton Avenue in East Liberty in 2017. More information can be read here.

Forbes Avenue construction/lane closures

Due to the development of the Skyvue Apartments at 3333 Forbes Avenue, the leftmost lane of Forbes Avenue will be closed through February 2017.

New bus shelter at Fifth/Atwood

Port Authority of Allegheny County will construct a new, glass covered bus shelter, on the north side of the Atwood Street/Fifth Avenue intersection that will include bike racks and ticket vending machines. Port Authority is funding the project through a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant, and is working closely with UPMC on design, access and maintenance plans. A contract is now in place with construction estimated to begin in spring 2017, and to be finished by December 2017. The new shelter will be approximately 104 feet long and include four stalls for riders.

The return of the 84B?

Each year, the Port Authority of Allegheny County reviews several service requests from residents for the following fiscal year. Fiscal Year 2017 featured a service request for the restoration of the 84B South Oakland. Based on their criteria used to determine if a route is recommended to be restored or not, Port Authority decided to restore another requested route over it. Port Authority is now currently accepting service requests for Fiscal Year 2018. Requests for the 84B or other other restored routes can be submitted with the following linkStarting January 1st, 2017, Port Authority will utilize a single-zone system whereas all riders will pay $2.50 with a ConnectCard. Riders who wish to pay with cash will have to instead pay $2.75. Review all the details on these changes at simple.portauthority.org

Schenley Drive Green Street Project

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is exploring redesigning a portion of Schenley Drive through Schenley Park to make the street safer for cyclists and pedestrians, calm traffic, and improve stormwater management. Schenley Drive is an important piece of the stormwater management plan for the Panther Hollow Watershed.

Junction Hollow Transit Connector

The City of Pittsburgh announced in late 2015 they were exploring a transit connector from Hazelwood to Oakland through Junction Hollow. However, this process is currently on hold as the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy leads a comprehensive planning process for the Four Mile Run watershed in Lower Greenfield. 

Joncaire Street Steps reconstruction

The City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works received $384,000 in federal funding through the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) to demolish and rebuild the Joncaire Street Steps. The steps connect Panther Hollow to Central Oakland near Schenley Plaza. For years, they have been unlit, enclosed by vegetation, and in poor condition. The new steps will be wider, have new lighting, a bike ramp or ‘runnel’, and adjacent landscaping improvements. The project was originally put out to bid in fall of 2016, but the received bids were deemed too high by the city. This project is currently being re-evaluated for the purpose of rightsizing in order to be sent out for new bids again.

In late 2015, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) completed a road safety audit of Bellefield Avenue at the request of the Western PA School for Blind Children (WPSBC) and Oakland Transportation Management Association. The audit included the entirety of Bellefield Ave between Centre and Forbes Avenues.

While the report is not available online, SPC submitted their safety recommendations to the City of Pittsburgh and made presentations of their findings to community groups including the Oakland Task Force, the Bellefield Area Citizens Association, and the Oakland Green Team.

Some of the recommendations include:

  • painting turning lanes at Fifth and Bellefield Avenues,
  • narrowing Bellefield Avenue between Fifth and Forbes Avenues by way of pavement markings,
  • adding bulb-outs (jargon alert: bulb-outs are traffic-calming measures that extend the sidewalk to reduce the amount of crossing distance for a pedestrian),
  • installing signage for pedestrians crossing midway between Fifth and Forbes,
  • and, adding a crosswalk on the eastern side of Bellefield Avenue at Fifth Avenue

According to WPSBC, they intend to implement many of the recommendations specific to their location.

The Oakland Green Team will work with partners at the city to learn about implementation.

PCRG's Better Busway Project

The Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG) has embarked on a multi-year project to comprehensively explore land use and development opportunities along the MLK East Busway. Considered one of the region’s most significant transit assets, the nine-mile, $500 million bus rapid transit corridor opened in the 1980s and was celebrated as cutting edge. However, many considered the project a missed investment opportunity that further isolated struggling neighborhoods from their more affluent adjacent neighbors.

According to Chris Sandvig of PCRG, the organization is currently kicking off Phase 2 of the project, during which project consultant EvolveEA will conduct intensive assessments at several stations and conduct stakeholder interviews in neighborhoods near these stations.

“What this means for Oakland is an assessment of development and transit linkage potential that the Neville ramp, at Centre and Neville, can provide for North Oakland and adjacent neighborhoods,” Sandvig reports. “PCRG, working with OPDC, BACA, the Baum-Centre Initiative, and others, will build upon existing visions to help create a car-free/light redevelopment strategy and possible transit service changes to better link to the East End, Oakland’s commercial/institutional core, and potentially Downtown.”

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