Statement Before the Board of the Glenn A. Walsh
Port Authority of Allegheny County P.O. Box 1041
Regarding Enhanced Pedestrian Access to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15230-1041
the New Wilkinsburg Busway Station Telephone: 412-561-7876
2003 January 24 E-Mail: < email@example.com >
Web Site: < http://www.planetarium.cc >
Good morning. I am Glenn A. Walsh and I reside at 633 Royce Avenue in Mount Lebanon. I am a regular user of Port Authority Transit, particularly the Light Rail Transit System. I do not own or operate an automobile.
A year ago, I addressed the Port Authority Board’s Engineering and Construction Committee regarding the need for enhanced pedestrian access to the new Wilkinsburg Busway Station, particularly considering that a staircase and ramp for the disabled already existed to implement this. At the conclusion of my statement, Port Authority Chief Executive Officer Paul Skoutelas stated that the staff would consider my comments and come back to the Committee with a recommendation. This did not happen!
In July, I attended a meeting at the Wilkinsburg Station site, specifically so that I could explain my proposal to Henry Nutbrown. It was my understanding that I would be notified when Mr. Nutbrown had formulated a recommendation, as he had made no determination at that time. I was never notified of any recommendation!
At a Planning Committee meeting of the Allegheny Count Transit Council, in November, I learned that a decision had been made to implement the original staff proposal, and that this decision was already being implemented. This week, Neal Holmes and Jason Fincke contacted me to apologize for any lack of communication.
However, I do feel that I was purposely not notified of this decision by the staff. Apparently, the thought was that once the staff recommendation was built, I could no longer argue for my proposal.
Well, I am here today to argue, again, for my proposal. The implementation of the staff’s preferred alternative does not necessarily preclude the implementation of my proposal. I am not asking for a multi-million dollar project.
I am simply asking for the construction of a sidewalk, from the site of the original Wilkinsburg inbound platform to the new inbound platform, which will allow renewed use of the original large staircase and wheelchair ramp.
This sidewalk would run between the mainline busway and along the western edge of a bus layover area. Hence, a barrier along this section of sidewalk may be appropriate. But, I do want to point-out that a pedestrian sidewalk did exist on the southeastern edge of this bus layover area, for twenty years, with no barrier!
This additional sidewalk would provide easy and more direct access between the newly relocated Busway station and the Wilkinsburg business district, without the necessity of crossing busy Penn Avenue.
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Enhanced Pedestrian Access to New Wilkinsburg Busway Station – 2003 January 24 – Page 2 of 2
The staff alternative sidewalk is very round-about and far fewer people will actually use it. Instead of being inconvenienced by walking further, many people will simply run across Penn Avenue, illegally.
For people originating east and south of Wilkinsburg’s Pennsylvania Railroad Station, my proposal provides a “straight shot,” using the existing wheelchair ramp, to access the new Busway station without crossing busy Penn Avenue. In fact, it is such a logical and direct route that many people will use this walkway and not even contemplate running illegally across Penn Avenue.
And, this will allow wheelchair patrons, originating on the south side of Penn Avenue, to access the new Wilkinsburg Station without crossing busy Penn Avenue, which is not currently possible.
The Port Authority staff has argued that this sidewalk would be dangerous, because it would require people to cross two driveways into a bus layover area. Crossing these two bus driveways, which have limited traffic, is much safer than crossing busy Penn Avenue—legally or illegally! Further, if crossing these two bus driveways is deemed unsafe, then, under the same rationale, you will need to eliminate all pedestrian at-grade crossings of the mainline Busway, which are much more dangerous!
One of the staff’s objections to my proposal was that openings in a sidewalk barrier, at the two bus driveways, would allow pedestrians to access the mainline busway, perhaps as a short-cut to the outbound platform. I was told that a barrier along the staff’s preferred option would prevent such short-cuts.
Well, now that the staff’s preferred alternative has been built, we can see that this walkway is not as advertised! Halfway between the original and new outbound platforms is an opening in the barrier, to allow Norfolk-Southern access to railroad property.
In addition to safety, there is another reason to implement my proposal: added convenience to the potential transit rider, which will attract more people to Port Authority services.
At the present time, the Steel Plaza Subway Station and the East Liberty Busway Station are the only two stations in the Port Authority system, which include several dedicated pedestrian walkways and access points. All other stations do not have as convenient access and are not as attractive to potential riders. One way to attract new riders would be to provide additional dedicated pedestrian walkways and access points to every transit station. And, any new station constructed, such as for the North Shore Connector, should definitely include additional dedicated pedestrian walkways and access points.
My proposal provides an extremely inexpensive way to provide additional pedestrian access to the Wilkinsburg Station, which people will actually use! Let me also note that on Wednesday evening, by a unanimous vote, Wilkinsburg Borough Council passed a resolution supporting the construction of this sidewalk; you should receive a letter from Wilkinsburg Borough in the next few days.
So, I ask that the Board of Directors of the Port Authority of Allegheny County direct the staff to build this sidewalk.