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IBM gives Pittsburgh multiple suggestions to improve transportation flow in city

| Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 10:02 p.m.

Technology giant IBM on Friday identified 11 ways that Pittsburgh should improve transportation for motorists, pedestrians and transit users in the next six months.

A team of IBM analysts spent the last three weeks in Pittsburgh, looking for technology-based ways to improve transportation in the city. Pittsburgh received an estimated $400,000 worth of free technical help through the company's Smarter Cities Challenge program.

“Pittsburgh has all the ingredients. It just needs to build upon them,” Prashant Washimkar, a travel and transportation industry executive at IBM, said during a presentation on the company's short- and long-term recommendations.

Among the short-term recommendations, the analysts said Pittsburgh should accelerate plans to centralize its management of traffic signals. IBM software architect Viswanath Srikanth said Pittsburgh is “moving in that direction,” citing an East Liberty pilot project led by Carnegie Mellon University that reduced congestion. The project, which is being expanded, used sensors to control multiple traffic signals based on traffic conditions.

Still, he noted, the city manages about 130 signals in a coordinated fashion today, while 480 others operate independently of all other signals.

Other recommendations include:

• Developing a “multi-use smart card” that can be used to pay fares on Port Authority of Allegheny County buses and light-rail vehicles, Amtrak trains and at local parking facilities, among other places.

• Establishing an online or mobile application that details conditions at all public and private parking garages in the city.

• Establishing a bike-share program that involves placing bicycles around the city for anyone to use for free or at low rates.

• Improving Port Authority bus stops to include real-time information about service and local events.

• In areas without sidewalks, requiring them to be installed as part of road construction projects.

IBM plans to provide a more detailed, written report in November.

“I look forward to digging into all of the details,” said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Ravenstahl has said the recommendations could be incorporated into a comprehensive plan being developed to address the city's transportation needs for the next 25 years.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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