On today's program: Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman explains the latest adjustment to Pittsburgh's federal BRT application; legislation would mandate adult changing tables in public venues; and the United Steelworkers will represent 90 tech workers contracted with Google.
Will the third time be the charm for Port Authority's BRT application?
(0:00 — 12:23)
Officials of the Federal Transit Administration are in Pittsburgh today to meet with CEO Katharine Kelleman and other leaders of the Port Authority of Allegheny County. According to Kelleman, it’s a regular review of the transit agency’s big projects, but she’s hoping to discuss the authority’s plans for a Bus Rapid Transit project.
The agency submitted an updated application August 23 seeking $99.5 million in federal funds to build the BRT, which would run on dedicated lanes between downtown and Oakland with branches to Highland Park, Greenfield and some eastern suburbs including Rankin, Braddock and Duquesne.
“If you’re trying to get through Oakland, (Port Authority is) definitely not part of the solution." Kelleman says the BRT, and its accompanying smart signals, would help Pittsburghers move faster through the corridor.
Kelleman says they have commitments from local, state and county partners to come up with the estimated remaining $130 million to pay for the project. She says that "actually works well for the attractiveness of the project, because we’re not asking for the FTA to cover half. It’s getting closer to 45 or 40 percent.”
Kelleman says she hopes for an answer from the FTA on the funding request in late winter or early spring. If the money comes through, part of the BRT would be operational in 2022 and fully up and running in 2023.
Advocates say adult changing tables dignity and inclusion
(13:45 — 26:41)
A bill unveiled Monday in Harrisburg would require state-owned buildings and some public facilities, including convention centers, sports arenas, auditoriums and amusement parks, to install at least one powered, heigh-adjustable adult changing station to better accommodate people with disabilities and their caretakers.
As a person with disabilities, going out in public for an extended amount of time can often come down to a calculation of time, disability rights advocate Josie Badger says.
“From the time you have a drink or any time when you’re going to need to go use the restroom and you base your day off of that equation of how much time you have. And sometimes that math doesn’t add up,” she says.
Badger, who owns disability consulting firm J. Badger Consulting Inc., says it can be isolating, sometimes to the point of not going out at all.
Christina Abernethy, who helped write the new legislation, says she knows that feeling well. Her son, 8-year-old Ethan, has autism and requires assistance using a public restroom. Abernethy says sometimes her only option is to lay her son down a beach towel on the restroom floor. A photo of Ethan on a public restroom floor sparked a petition last year to support the accommodation.
Badger and Abernethy praise facilities and organizations that have installed changing tables on their own, including the UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, the Miracle League Field in Cranberry and the Pittsburgh International Airport, which included the project in a new suite of sensory rooms.
Workers at Google's Bakery Square office vote to unionize
(26:47 — 31:08)
Contract employees at Google’s Pittsburgh offices voted 49-24 Tuesday to unionize with the United Steelworkers under a new arm called the Pittsburgh Association of Technology Professionals. The 90 employees don't work directly for Google, but rather for by HCL Technologies, a multi-national tech and consulting company based in India. 90.5 WESA's Liz Reid reports workers say they want to bargain for sick days, job security and to close pay disparities.
90.5 WESA's Kristofer Stubbs contributed to this program.
The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.