Friday, May 12, 2006


Lucas Piatt, the vice president of Millcraft Industries, one of two developers vying to redevelop Downtown Pittsburgh, read and responded to this recent post taking his company to task for proposing that buses be restricted from the Fifth and Forbes shopping corridor. Below is his response, taken with his consent from an email he sent me:

We really want to do what is best for the city as a whole. We are planning affordable housing, luxury housing, more parking, more transit, student housing, wonderful retail, some work live boutique offices, and some great public space for downtown. Development doesn’t get much more comprehensive than that.

We just can’t build buildings; we have to look at all of the issues. We have to look at transportation and the vital infrastructure and how to make it work the best. I don’t think the situation now is what we need. The fact that nearly 1,000 buses per day are humming down 5th avenue is staggering! There has to be a better way of doing this.

We think that maybe the city could bring back a trolley or a connector system to shuttle people to where they need to go. Maybe the buses should be on a city wide loop with larger bus stations where the rider transitions are made. Then if people want to travel downtown they can take the connector which could be a free system… I am not sure. It really needs to be studied to make proposals.

Our true goal is to create a livable neighborhood around market square that is sustainable, environmentally efficient through LEED certified design, and finally get the city back some $$$ so it can operate properly. Please, we are not racist or elitist; we just want to make things happen for the better.

What follows is my response to Lucas, also from an email:

I may need to reconsider my position about the buses. My concern is that there has been too much central planning, and too much resistance to the sort of organized chaos, if you will, that makes great cities work. You are the second person to suggest to me a shuttle bus system with outlying depots. (Trolleys would be great. My wife's always said that would garner great publicity for the city.) My big concern is that the depots, or substations, would create more blight than the buses do. Part of that comes from my lack of faith in the Port Authority--as a friend once remarked, the T stations are reminescent of 1960s-era East Berlin.

But if they could be attractive buildings, with amenities like a coffee kiosk, newspaper stand, well, that's something different.

If you read the comments that follow my original post, you will see that Lucas' idea for shuttle buses and outlying depots is similar to what Mark Rauterkus proposed. In any case, I hope Lucas continues to read and that we can continue this dialogue.


Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

the piatt crew raises a good issue about the number of buses rumbling through downtown. the problem though is that the bus stops here...and here...and here...and here. there are way too many stops on just about any PAT route in any city neighborhood.

Pittsburghers (and i use that term to describe all of us who live in the metro region) don't seem to realize that buses and trolleys are public transit, mass transit — and not a private car service. Follow the 500 bus from north side to west view and you'll discover that the average distance between stops is less than one tenth of a mile! in one location, you can stand in one spot and see three blue and white PAT bust stop signs in way less than one-tenth of a mile. That's too much.

Generally, buses seem to stop at nearly every corner — and sometimes in between — regardless of the distance. Jamming up matters even more, many times routes overlap and, though, some might disagree, service is too frequent on many routes during off peak hours. yes, i know it's a pain in the ass to have to take a bus that gets you to work or school 30 minutes before you need to be there. but as i said, it's a bus, not a limo.

12:05 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

You are right--there are too many stops along many routes. (Though I'm sure there are some routes with too few.) This is particularly true in Downtown and Oakland, the neighborhoods where I am most familar with bus service.

For example, there is a stop near the intersection of Forbes and Morewood Street in Oakland, and another, scarcely a block away, across from Hamburg Hall, halfway between Morewood and Craig. Now, when you consider that the majority of people getting off at either of those two stops are college students and not, say, senior citizens, it's pretty ridiculous.

Downtown isn't much better. People forget how small Downtown Pittsburgh really is. Most blocks are very walkable.

1:49 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

OK, another example--Brookline. I catch a bus heading Downtown in the morning about 50 yards from the preceeding stop along the route--which is one small block from the stop before it.

2:42 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

JP...honestly, it's ridiculous. i was in nyc last year and took a bus from 138th in the bronx to yankee stadium, at 162nd. when i got on the bus i figured a 24 block ride would take about 15 minutes, based on the pittsburgh experience of a stop at every intersection, and adding in new york traffic. instead, the bus stopped just five time along the way and i was across the street from the ballpark drinking beer in the bars under the elevated tracks — less than 10 minutes after i got on the bus. anyone who's been on a few subway rides in new york knows that the trains don't stop at every block.

what's ever worse about our over abundacne of stops here, is the number of people who will ride the bus that extra .09 miles rather than get off at the previous stop.

3:52 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...


A Sopranos note on a nicely funny scene transition. In yesterday's episode as Vito turns on his side for Johnny Cakes, the scene fades to Bobby's garage — to show a speeding locomotive entering a tunnel. That's why I love On Demand.

1:48 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I just watched it tonight, off my DVR. (Which is better than On Demand because you can forward and rewind at different speeds.) That was a good episode, much better than last week, which I thought was one of the worst Sopranos ever.

9:31 PM

Blogger Mark Rauterkus said...

Thanks for the pointer and notice of my concept -- that isn't really mine -- but one I've latched onto as well.

I'd love to sit down with the developer and tell them what Pittsburgh really needs.

Furthermore, the downtown connectors do NOT need to be free. Why "FREE?"

We need a system like I saw in Hong Kong -- called the OCTOPUS pass. With that card they can collect real data on rides, density, times, trips, etc.

Today a rider gets on a bus route way in the burbs and the money goes into the pot. Then 15 get onto the bus for the final stretch into the city. So, the pot shows 16 riders. The out reaches cost 10-times as much per mile per rider than the average and 25 times as much per the central city.

But.... today we don't know that as the data isn't being collected.

I too don't trust PAT.

1:06 AM


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