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From tunnels to the T, this group has a plan to fix Pittsburgh's transportation woes

| Wednesday, March 8, 2017, 2:45 p.m.
The Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The Squirrel Hill Tunnel.

The vision for the region's transportation future includes improving the Squirrel Hill and Fort Pitt tunnel entrances, establishing rapid bus transit links between Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland and encouraging partnerships between transit agencies and ride-share companies.

Those ideas and dozens more were outlined Wednesday in a Regional Transportation Alliance's study aimed at improving transportation in the 10-county Pittsburgh region.

“Our regional vision for transportation looks at every mode to figure out how to work together,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said. “It's a system of systems. With enhanced public transportation, we can create urban mobility that we don't have yet.”

The Regional Transportation Alliance, made up of public and private partners under the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, was formed in 2015 with the goal of finding transportation solutions.

Dubbed “Transportation 2.0,” the study outlines seven principles and 50 ideas to improve mobility in the region.

“Our No. 1 problem is we don't have enough people to replace the baby boomers who are retiring,” Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky said.

Yablonsky said projects could be prioritized based on need — and which could be done quickly. “From there, we'll go about funding them,” he said.

He and other officials did not say how projects would be funded, but they said they would work with local organizations to move the ideas forward.

“This won't just be a report that sits on a server that no one looks at,” said Ken Zapinski, senior vice president of the Allegheny Conference.

The plan's guiding principles bear the hallmarks of a basic business plan. They read, in part: optimize existing assets; prioritize connections to jobs and education; embrace new operating models; make flexible, future-proof investments; and support multiple mobility options.

Pittsburgh is “uniquely positioned to meet (transportation) challenges, regardless of what's happening,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

Other ideas outlined in the study include offering online reservations for paratransit service, providing real-time park-and-ride information for commuters and completing access and service upgrades to Port Authority of Allegheny County's busways and light rail system.

“We're at a very challenging time in the history of transportation. It feels like the age of the car has peaked. We're at the dawn of the era of self-driving vehicles,” said group steering committee co-chair Brian Heery, who also is president and CEO of Mitsubishi Electric Power Products. “(During the trip to Denver), many of us saw how a better transportation system can result when an area comes together as a region and does the hard work to achieve a shared vision.”

Kim Lyons is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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