Pittsburgh Will Revamp Its Streets As Economy Begins To Reopen

May 18, 2020

With the warming weather and the city of Pittsburgh squarely in the yellow phase of Gov. Tom Wolf's reopening plan, more people are leaving their houses. A City of Pittsburgh task force has proposed a number of ways that streets and transit could be modified to balance the demands of physical distancing with an increase in economic activity.

In a letter to Mayor Bill Peduto, the Streets and Mobility Task Force stressed its recommendations are not meant to be all-encompassing.

“It is a rapid response to an urgent need for creative problem-solving,” wrote Allen Biehler, the chair of the task force and the former secretary of PennDOT. “No one size or one approach will suit all places, contexts and needs.”

The report recommends clear signage across the city to help people navigate newly modified expectations in shared spaces, suggests employers stagger work start times to spread out transit demand, and offers ways to reimagine parking lanes, open lots and delivery services.

Each kind of business, from restaurants to grocery stores to retail – will have its own unique needs. The Department of Mobility and Infrastructure launched a survey of businesses to find out how a redesigned street may help them address challenges to reopening. In addition, city officials urge better management of curb space, and removal of regulations that hamper the ability of a business to use space effectively.

The report also suggests how to create more non-car travel space, with recommendations that ranged from sidewalk expansion at bus stops to a “slow streets program," wherein streets would be either closed to cars or limited to low speeds. The Department of Mobility and Infrastructure has begun work on a permitting process for the program.

The report also suggested how the city could expand biking and permit other modes of personal transit such as electric scooters; state law currently prohibits the use of stand-on scooters in the road.