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Pittsburgh’s First Mobility Director Is Joining The Biden Administration

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
The city's first director of the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure is leaving the role to join the Federal Transit Administration.

On today’s program: Karina Ricks reflects on shaping priorities as the city’s first Department  of Mobility and Infrastructure director before moving on to a role with the Federal Transit Administration; and the principal oboist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra shares what it was like to not practice with the full orchestra for a year and a half, and how it feels to be reunited, making music again.

Karina Ricks is leaving the city’s Department of Mobility and Transit for the Federal Transit Administration
(0:00 - 12:44)

The city of Pittsburgh’s first director of the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) left that post on Friday after four-and-a-half years on the job. Karina Ricks helped shape the priorities of the city’s newest department, outlining principles of safety, equity and resilience for the city’s infrastructure, namely city sidewalks, streets and bridges.

“Transportation isn’t just about being able to randomly move around in the city,” says Ricks. “Transportation is about getting you to the places that you need to get to for the needs of daily life.”

Last week, the department and the mayor unveiled the city’s “2070 Mobility Vision Plan,” a roadmap to address equity and investments in infrastructure and mobility over the next fifty years.

“There’s lots of room for infill development, Pittsburgh of course used to be very much an industrial city,” says Ricks. The places where infill is most possible, Ricks says, are not well-connected to the rest of the city.

“The plan really talks about connecting the [economic] centers. … How do we look at completing our bicycle network so that you can move between these areas? Looking at things like water taxis,” Ricks says.

Ricks will join the Biden administration as the associate administrator for research, innovation and demonstration with the Federal Transit Administration. According to a press release, Ricks will be supporting, “initiatives around transit safety, electrification, mobility on demand and transit of the future.”

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra returns to the stage
(12:50 - 22:30)

If you’re part of an orchestra, you practice. You practice on your own, with your cohorts and then together as a group. But the pandemic meant it was unsafe for symphony musicians to gather in such a large group.

Recently, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) had its first full practice in more than a year.

“To keep up those skills at that level for that long without your colleagues with you was near to impossible,” says Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida, principal oboist for the PSO.

She says there was some trepidation about how the group would sound when finally reunited, but DeAlmeida says the group sounded “...fantastic because people’s hearts are in it.”

DeAlmeida says she and her partner, principal horn player William Caballero, created a pod to practice songs arranged only for oboe and horn. Other members of the orchestra did the same, creating many small pods to practice.

“In our happiness and joy to be together, we know we have a job to do, and that’s the job of bringing … the joy of music,” says DeAlmeida. She adds that online music is nice, but “there is nothing like the sound of a great concert hall.”

The PSO’s 2021-2022 season began last weekend with a performance at Heinz Hall and continues into next June.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.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. 

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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