Penn Avenue Bike Lane – May 2017 Summary

May 2017 numbers for the Penn Avenue bike lane are now available on the PDP public website. Spring weather was out in full force this May, heavy showers intermingled with sunshine led to swings in ridership. A week of unseasonably warm weather in the middle of the month catalyzed commuters to getting on their bikes and we expect these numbers to continue to rise as we pass into the sunny summer months.

Daily Weather Impact on Ridership May 2017 (1200 Block Penn Avenue)

Daily Weather Impact on Ridership May 2017 (1200 Block Penn Avenue)

Data for the 1200 block is getting more and more consistent year over year. The monthly total for the 1200 block of Penn was 19,842, a -0.5% change from May 2016. The average daily weekday total was 664, a 1% decrease from the same period last year. Commuter behavior remains strong with peaks in am and pm rushes on weekdays. We saw an average of 58 inbound trips at 8am and 68 outbound trips at 5pm.

Average trips per hour for weekdays in May 2017 (1200 Block Penn Ave)

Average trips per hour for weekdays in May 2017 (1200 Block Penn Ave)

May 28th was the first Open Streets event of the season and despite a new route that took in the sites of Uptown and the South Side ridership peaked on that Sunday with almost 2000 trips recorded.  

Hourly Trips during Open Streets Event May 28th (1200 Block Penn Ave)

Hourly Trips during Open Streets Event May 28th (1200 Block Penn Ave)

The counters are thin, rubber tubes stretched across the width of the bike lane, located on the 600, 900, and 1200 blocks of Penn Avenue they were installed by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. They work by recording each time a bicyclist rides over and depresses the tubes.

If you would like to discover more about the bike lane data you can now visit the PDP's interactive website to view up to date trip counts.

PARK(ing) Day 2016 - Quantitative Recap

To celebrate PARK(ing) Day 2016, collaborators BikePGH, Western Pennsylvanian Conservancy, The Cultural Trust and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership turned Penn Avenue in Gateway Center into a temporary park with temporary demonstration bike lane. The pop-up park was open from 9am to 3pm Friday September 16th and provided Downtown office workers, residents and visitors a variety of urban amenities including tables and chairs in a pedestrian plaza, expanded green space and food trucks. From anecdotal observations, both the expanded people-first space and the temporarily expanded bike lane proved to be a big hit.

Envision Downtown staff was onsite throughout the day to measure pedestrian activity and bike traffic during the experiment. We sought to document, quantitatively, the success of PARK(ing) day in activating Gateway Center using our Public Space Public Life Survey findings as a baseline.

The Details

The goal of PARK(ing) Day Pittsburgh is to show that if we prioritize planning for humans walking and biking, the transformation it can have on a space and on the city. Envision Downtown took pedestrian, bicycle, and stationary activity counts throughout the afternoon to later compare to the PSPL (add link) data from the Fall, October 6th, 2016. By comparing these two data collections we can document how the use of the space was affected by the temporary park compared to the use of space during a “normal” weekday morning and afternoon. Envision is interested in this comparison to help predict the effects of future plans to make gateway center, part of the great route project (link), more pedestrian and bike friendly as well as a more effective public space.

One of the intentions of the great route project, is to increase pedestrian and bicycle safety as well as providing a better experience while moving through the space by adding sidewalk bump outs, greenery, and possibly public art to the space. Although the main purpose for adding sidewalk bump outs is decreasing the pedestrian walking distance, these bump outs will also make the parking along Penn –extension permanent rather than limited to off peak hours. Making these changes is intended to increase the comfort of bicyclist and pedestrians moving through the space, and ultimately increase the amount of people that use the space effectively.

The Results

Both pedestrian and bicycle traffic increased with the addition of the temporary park and defined bike lane. Highest increase in pedestrian traffic was seen at 11am, and 12pm for cycling traffic. Both of these increases display that most people are moving in and out of the space during their lunch break more than any other point in the day. 

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The stationary counts from PARK(ing) Day and PSPL provide information on how people were using the public spaces including bench seating, standing, waiting for transit, or interaction with a cultural or commercial activity. This data is represented in both a bar graph and doughnut graph portraying how many people were doing a select activity within the 4-hour period in which data counts were collected.  

While the majority of the stationary activities increased from PSPL to PARK(ing) Day, people waiting for transit and standing decreased when PARK(ing) Day took place. This reinforces the perception that people are not using the public spaces in Gateway Center for significant activity other than waiting for transit and standing. With permanent improvements to the space, this data indicates more people will be likely to utilize the space. 

Editors Note: This post was developed with the help of our new intern, Jeanne Batog. Jeanne is a Civil Engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh.

 

Penn Avenue Bike Lane - September Summary

August 2016 numbers for the Penn Avenue bike lane are now available on the PDP public website. Downtown bike traffic continued to stay strong with the summer weather. The monthly total for the 1200 block of Penn was 22,780 which was -0.3% from August and for the 600 block 13, 768 which saw a -16% drop from August. Data for the 900 block this month was incomplete due to damage caused when a construction parked in the bike lane on August 23rd*.

Despite the decrease in recreational biking that always comes at the end of the summer the 1200 block of Penn saw a steady continuation of trips in September. This likely reflects the continued good weather and large commuter use of this section of the bike lane. 

 

Weekday commuter traffic on the 1200 block peaked at 8am and 5pm with an average of 75 inbound trips at morning rush and 72 outbound trips at 5pm. There was an average of 798 trips per day during the week only a 0.25% decrease compared to August. The 600 block however, was more effected by the decrease in recreational riders that happens in the fall and saw a 12% decrease in average daily ridership.

 

 

The counters are thin, rubber tubes stretched across the width of the bike lane, located on the 600, 900, and 1200 blocks of Penn Avenue they were installed by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. They work by recording each time a bicyclist rides over and depresses the tubes.

*The 900 block counter was fixed in early September, so we will have complete data available for the summary repot we release for the month of October.

If you would like to discover more about the bike lane data you can now visit the PDP's interactive website to view up to date trip counts.

Penn Avenue Bike Lane - August Summary

August 2016 numbers for the Penn Avenue bike lane are now available on the PDP public website. Downtown bike traffic continued to stay strong with the summer weather. The monthly total for the 1200 block of Penn was 22,850 which was + 8.6% from July and for the 600 block 16, 358 which saw a -10% drop from July. Data for the 900 block this month was incomplete due to damage caused when a construction parked in the bike lane on August 23rd.

It was another successful year for PedalPGH, and with the route heading up the Penn bike lane through the 1200 block we recorded well over 2000 trips on August 28th.

 

Weekday commuter traffic on the 1200 block once again peaked at 8am and 5pm with an average of 71 inbound trips at morning rush and 68 outbound trips at 5pm. Trips per hour between 6am and 10pm averaged 45 and there was an average of 800 daily trips (724 if you control for PedalPGH). 

August was a very warm month with average daily temperatures consistently in the upper 70s. The warmest week August 8th – 12th, saw the lowest trip volume as average daily temperatures rose into the upper 80s.

 

The counters are thin, rubber tubes stretched across the width of the bike lane, located on the 600, 900, and 1200 blocks of Penn Avenue they were installed by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. They work by recording each time a bicyclist rides over and depresses the tubes.

If you would like to discover more about the bike lane data you can now visit the PDP's interactive website to view up to date trip counts.

Penn Avenue Bike Lane - July Summary

July 2016 numbers for the Penn Avenue bike lane are now available on the PDP public website. Downtown bike traffic is picking up as we head into the warm summer months. The monthly total for the 1200 block of Penn was 22,850 which was -10% from June, the 900 block saw 18,776 trips an increase of 16% and 600 block 18,172 which was equivalent to its June numbers.

In terms of commuter traffic 1200 block numbers peaked on weekdays at 8am and 5pm with an average of 64 trips at both the morning and evening rush. Trips per hour between 6am and 10pm averaged 46 which is the equivalent of a full Port Authority bus. There was an average of 737 daily trips over weekdays which was a decrease from June likely due to the warm temperatures and wet weather.

Impact of the weather can be seen clearly at the end of June where low trip counts for the last 10 days correlate with six days of heavy rain interspersed with high temperatures. A new route for Open Streets did directly not use the 1200 block reducing its monthly total but still giving its numbers a bump.

The counters are thin, rubber tubes stretched across the width of the bike lane, located on the 600, 900, and 1200 blocks of Penn Avenue they were installed by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. They work by recording each time a bicyclist rides over and depresses the tubes.

If you would like to discover more about the bike lane data you can now visit the PDP's interactive website to view up to date trip counts.

 

Transportation Choices for Downtown Commuters

Click Here to view this map in a new window

What is this?

The overall results of the Make My Trip Count survey show us an uncommonly high transit ridership for downtown workers: 45% of commuters choose public transit, while only 38% drive alone. But the geographic distribution of these responses can tell us a lot more about the effectiveness of public transportation than just the raw numbers can. We embarked on this project with the idea of mapping out exactly where transit riders, drivers, and walkers coming into the Golden Triangle (NOT Greater Downtown) were coming from, and found a striking split in the ways particular groups of neighbors commute into downtown. Above, we have put together a map of these results, showing the most popular ways people choose to get to work and back: the darker the color, the more dominant that mode is. Click on any zip code in the map viewer for more detailed information.

What can we learn?

Note: The term 'Fixed Guideways' refers to roads and tracks that are exclusively reserved for the use of public transit; this includes the "T" light rail lines that extend through Downtown and into the South Hills, and also the West, East, and South Busways that run bus rapid transit through the city.

Most noticeably in the map above there is a clear divide between the choices of northern and southern zip codes, with many areas in the South Hills and to the East having a higher proportion of transit riders than any other mode. After adding information for the locations of fixed guideway transit routes a clear pattern emerged, a correlation between the location of these guideways and transit ridership. The most popular East End neighborhoods for transit are all located on or near the East Busway, and Downtown workers who live in the South Hills neighborhoods along the "T" and South Busway overwhelmingly prefer transit. Our definition of transit ridership also includes Park & Ride commuters, the impact of which can be seen in the numbers for the zip code around Carnegie, which is situated at the terminus of the West Busway and includes two popular Park & Ride stations available free of charge.

These numbers speak to the success of the fixed guideway services as rapid transit systems, says Lucinda Beattie, Vice President of Transportation for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, "The high transit ridership following the light rail and busway routes shows the importance of reliable, predictable service for getting people to work."  Note in the chart below that only two of the top four most popular transit-riding neighborhoods are within the City of Pittsburgh. Of the other two zip codes, both Carnegie and Wilkinsburg are notable for having Park & Ride access to bus rapid transit via the West and East Busways, respectively.

As for biking and walking, it comes as not much of a surprise to see that those who live in adjacent Downtown neighborhoods are more likely to take people-powered modes to work, based on proximity to their jobs. 

these numbers reflect the percentage of respondents from that zip Code who choose that particular mode OVER OTHERS to commute on a typical weekday

these numbers reflect the percentage of respondents from that zip Code who choose that particular mode OVER OTHERS to commute on a typical weekday

So we know that a significant amount of the southern neighborhoods shown above choose transit to get to work Downtown, presumably because of better access. But what motivates the majority-blue zip codes to choose single-occupancy vehicles? According to Mrs Beattie, transit-- or the lack thereof-- plays a role here as well,  "[In the North Hills neighborhoods] we see the impact of the system-wide service cuts to the bus network that occurred in 2011 and earlier. These cuts were not just trimming excess fat, but cut into the vital parts of the bus system itself." It is not necessarily the advantage of driving, but the scarcity of other options that may guide a commuter to choose a car.

There are other variables that can influence varying choice of commute between zip codes, including a higher-capacity highway network that extends northward, differing land use types that encourage vehicular travel, and changes in demographics that may contribute to different lifestyle choices. Proximity is also a factor: of the 19 zip codes that almost fully lie within the City of Pittsburgh boundary, all of them except for the three CBD-adjacent neighborhoods prefer commuting Downtown using public transit over all other modes. This means that the majority of drivers live outside the city limits, with a few located further than Allegheny County.

According to our analysis, two factors predict this simplified mode choice for downtown commuters: the existence of good transit service and close physical proximity to work. Alternative commute patterns can be a more attractive and effective option for many, but only when made freely available.

Editors Note: With the conclusion of her fellowship, this is Sarah Kontos' final blog post. She has been a tremendous asset to Envision Downtown's data development efforts and we are very thankful for all her hard work. 

Downtown Parking Supply 2015-2018

Last August we wrote a post in which we analyzed Greater Downtown parking supply for the years 2014-2016. We explained how parking spaces were distributed by area and estimated changes for 2016. Now we are taking our research one step further, projecting expected changes in parking supply between 2015 and 2018. 

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Our first take away is that the total number of parking spaces remains almost constant from the end of 2015 to 2018. Although some changes will occur in the parking supply in the near future, when we add all the new spaces and subtract the ones we will lose, the number is practically the same. 

There are however, some changes in the distribution of the parking spaces. As we can see on the map below, in 2015, 5% of the parking spaces were located in the Lower Hill area, while 8% were in Station Square. In 2018, these percentages change to 2% and 6% respectively. In contrast, the proportion of spaces in the North Side changes from 21% in 2015 to 23% in 2018. The Golden Triangle area follows the same increasing trend, showing an increment of parking spaces from 43% to 47% of the total. The share of spaces in the Near Strip and Uptown remains unchanged through the years studied. 

By 2018 we see a shift in the distribution with more spaces located in the Golden Triangle and the North Side, and less in the Lower Hill and Station Square. 

Map by Sarah Kontos

Map by Sarah Kontos

The next map tells us the location of the parking spaces we are gaining or losing through 2016-2018, so we can understand better the shifts in distribution shown above. In the Golden Triangle, Tower 260 and the PNC Tower garages added a large amount of new spaces to the area. More new facilities will come on line soon, including new public and dedicated spaces at the 350 Oliver and Union Trust buildings. New developments such as the Distrikt Hotel, the Holiday Inn on First Avenue, the Drury Hotel, and the former Macy's building project will also include parking options for Downtown visitors and commuters. In the meantime only a few spaces are going offline due to projected developments in the Cultural District.

On the North Side, a new garage will be built on the site of Red Lot 6 (behind Heinz field). In addition, the SEA plans to construct a new garage on a piece of the Gold lot 1 area. The Lower Hill will experience the largest loss of spaces as a result of the new development on the former Civic Arena site, where currently there is a 2200 space parking lot. Likewise, the Station Square East Lot is going off line sometime soon, but some parking spaces will be included in the new project on that site.

Finally, the Homewood Suites hotel has added some spaces to the Near Strip, while the Flats on Fifth have increased parking spaces in Uptown. Nonetheless, the amount added is not much compared to the large number of spaces located in these two areas, which is why the share of total spaces will remain the same in both over the next 2 years.

Map by Sarah Kontos

Map by Sarah Kontos

Understanding the current and future picture of parking supply is crucial to supporting the Downtown growth strategy. According to Make My Trip Count survey results, 38% of daily commuters to Greater Downtown drive alone: that is more than 40,000 people parking their cars in the area everyday*. Calculating parking supply for the next 2 years helps us to foresee future mobility trends and plan accordingly. In this sense, parking supply projections combined with expected Downtown employment, residential and visitor growth estimations are a great source of information for stakeholders planning the future of the area and for everyone to understand the changes that are taking place. 

*According to the 2015 State of Downtown by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, 109,050 people work in Greater Downtown. 
Note: For the purposes of this study we have included private and public parking facilities located in the Golden Triangle, the near Strip, the North Side, Uptown, and Station Square. 

Penn Avenue Bike Lane - June Summary

June 2016 numbers for the Penn Avenue bike lane are now available on the PDP public website. Downtown bike traffic is picking up as we head into the warm summer months. The monthly total for the 1200 block of Penn was 25,276, 900* block 17,720 and 600 block 17,678.

Open Streets on the morning of June 26th once again attracted large volumes of cyclists

Open Streets on the morning of June 26th once again attracted large volumes of cyclists

There continues to be a strong bike commuter pattern shown on the 1200 block year over year. 1200 block numbers peaked on weekdays at 8am and 5pm with an average of 65 and 69 trips. With an average of 843 daily trips we are still someway away from the 1000 trip a day peak we saw last summer but there was 5% increase in average daily trips for the block compared to June 2015.  

The 1200 Block has shown a consistent commuter trip pattern since the bike Lane was first installed 

The 1200 Block has shown a consistent commuter trip pattern since the bike Lane was first installed 

The 600 block has seen an increase in ridership which appears to correlate with the extension of the bike lane down Penn to Stanwix Street late last fall. Last year this block consistently saw lower daily trips as people peeled off the bike lane to enter Downtown. However, this month we saw a 9% increase in average daily trips for this block in comparison to last June. With smaller increases at the 1200 and 900 blocks this number may suggest that the extension has encouraged riders to remain in the protected bike lane on Penn for longer.

The counters are thin, rubber tubes stretched across the width of the bike lane, located on the 600, 900, and 1200 blocks of Penn Avenue they were installed by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. They work by recording each time a bicyclist rides over and depresses the tubes.

If you would like to discover more about the bike lane data you can now visit the PDP's interactive website to view up to date trip counts.

*900 block was closed for the last weekend of June due to the Jazz festival. As such Open Streets participants were detoured from this block decreasing total trip count for the month relative to the other counters.

Commuting Downtown with Uber

In Pittsburgh, a combined 88% of Downtown commuters either take public transit, drive single-occupancy vehicles, or use people-powered modes like biking or walking to get to work; when we talk about daily commuter transportation options the focus is often on the split between these three popular modes. But in recent years, ride sharing through apps like Uber and Lyft has grown as a practical choice for those looking for alternative modes of transportation in urban areas. We took a cursory look at how this new technology is changing the way we think about getting around the city by comparing two key indices in a few focus areas: Uber fare estimates and the price of parking in the Golden Triangle.

We began with a list of a few areas inside and outside of the city that had high percentages of vehicular commuters and/or were physically far away from key public transit corridors (image below). 

Scroll through the slide show below (using the reference map above for label information) to see how different parts of Allegheny County compare when traveling to and from Downtown using Uber on a typical weekday.

 

 

What can we learn?

By isolating these areas, we found that communities located near high-volume roads often had shorter travel times despite large distances which lowered the fare, such as within Ross Township. Similarly, neighborhoods that are physically closer but located in more dense areas see higher fares, like Highland Park. In this way, Uber fares can measure the indirect costs of driving, putting a metric to both time and energy spent commuting on the road.

The biggest daily cost to a commuter driving a single-occupancy vehicle to and from the workplace is usually parking. Earlier this month we published a blog post detailing the various rates that garages and surface lots charge for those spending the workday downtown. By comparing this fixed cost to our estimates of ride-sharing fares we can realistically imitate the opportunity cost decision-making process of a Downtown commuter. If you are a driver who parks in one of the 77 lots and garages in Downtown, depending on where you come from and where you prefer to park one of these alternative options may appeal to you.

We also noticed a general pattern of distance distribution: if you live within 3 miles of the Central Business District, in many cases it is actually cheaper to take an Uber than the average person pays to park. The average cost of parking for an entire day in the Golden Triangle $17.50, and can run as high as $30. If you live in the northern or western part of Squirrel Hill and prefer to drive, chances are you are paying more than an Uber's round-trip cost. A switch to ride-sharing may not make sense if you live in Carnegie, but based on proximity to the West Busway you could take a different cost-cutting measure with a shift to Park-and-Ride. 

Of course there are other trade-off costs involved in using ride-share apps -- both personal and on a larger scale -- including air quality concerns, lack of influence on congestion, and places of work that subsidize parking spaces or transit. But by opening up our analysis outside of what we expect daily transportation to look like we are able to approach commuting as an innovative field, creating more choices for more people.


METHODOLOGY NOTES:

Uber estimates were determined using a combination of Google Maps online traffic prediction and the formula given for fares on Uber’s website. The geographic center of each neighborhood was used to calculate distance, as well as a range of time dependent on daily traffic levels; the maps above reflect a sliding scale of prices that are subject to change based on individual circumstances and the prices are not to be taken as steadfast fact. One-way morning and evening fares were combined to guess a typical round-trip.  Uber does not publish detailed information about surge pricing, which can change minute-to-minute based on market forces, so the above study assumes a flat rate without a surcharge.

Downtown Parking Rates

What are these maps?

Visual representations of parking rates in Downtown. We mapped the daily maximum rates and the 3-hour rates of all parking facilities that make up the Downtown parking ecosystem. For purposes of this project, we only considered “public facilities,” defined as those parking spaces available on a regular basis to Downtown commuters and visitors. We have included garages and parking lots operated by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority as well as by private individuals and companies. This map covers parking facilities in Downtown, the Strip District, the North Shore, Uptown, and Station Square. Many people that come to Downtown choose to park their cars in these neighborhoods, so we consider these areas a vital part of the Downtown parking ecosystem. 

What can we learn from these maps?

The map below shows daily maximum parking rates by parking facility.  It tell us that cheaper parking rates start as low as $3 - $7 on areas such as the Strip District, the North Shore, and Uptown, where the distance to commercial and employment centers is larger. At the same time, we can observe how prices go up as we get closer to the Downtown Core. The Convention Center, the Consol Center, and Market Square garages all offer medium to high parking rates. Some facilities located on the Cultural District and the First Side Corridor charge lower prices, despite their location close to the Downtown Core. 

Similarly, the heat map below shows the concentration of daily maximum parking rates across Downtown and its surrounding areas. Blue and yellow sections group cheaper parking facilities, while orange and red areas indicate more expensive parking options. Again, we can see how areas of high pricing are located close to key employment corridors, particularly around Market Square, Grant Street, the Cultural District, and the Gateway Center. In contrast, parking facilities located on the North Shore and the Strip District tend to charge lower rates. Station Square and the Consol Center Garage offer medium range rates.

small_ParkingRate Heat-01.png

In further analysis of distribution we classified parking facilities by operator. The highlighted points on the map below show structured parking facilities owned by public authorities (Public Parking Authority of Pittsburgh - PPA - and the Sports and Exhibition Authority - SEA - in this case), while all the other ones are operated by private individuals or companies. The map demonstrates the wide distribution of publicly owned garages throughout Downtown.  In comparing price, PPA and SEA garages generally offer lower rates than the private facilities; this difference can notably be seen in the Market Square and Cultural District areas.  

In an effort to better understand parking rates and find interesting trends, we also mapped the 3-hour parking rate for all public facilities. It is relevant to include the 3-hour rate in our analysis because it impacts visitors and commuters that spend just a few hours in Downtown. As we can see in the map, the 3-hour rate price distribution is consistent with the pattern observed on the daily maximum rates map. Once again, the most expensive areas are located close to key employment corridors or event areas. However, it is worth noticing that some of the parking facilities located in the Downtown Core that offer medium to high daily maximum rates also charge medium to low 3-hour rates, particularly those close to Mellon Square. 

Why is it important?

All this data allows us to explore, among other things, if parking prices are correlated to demand. If so, it is worth analyzing how we can use pricing to impact downtown commuters’ and visitors’ behavior. This data is also useful to better coordinate how garages operate as a system that supports the development and vitality of Downtown and its adjacent areas. In particular, an exploration of parking rates presents a key opportunity to leverage public ownership of key garages and to understand how public pricing decisions impact the entire parking ecosystem.

The information obtained from the Make My Trip Count Survey (MMTC) gave us an understanding of where people park and work. Further steps could involve layering the MMTC information on top of the pricing data, in an effort to better understand why people are choosing to park where they do. It would also be interesting to analyze how these prices change during sports or cultural events to accommodate the accompanying greater parking demand.

Editors Note: Martina Gesell is a masters candidate at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Martina has joined the Envision Downtown team for the summer as a research intern and will be focusing on expanding our understanding of parking supply/demand, future mobility trends related to parking and leveraging relevant Make My Trip Count data. Expect more great things from her over the next few months

Bicycle Parking in Downtown

What is this?

Recognizing Downtown as a destination for bicyclists, a large part of the coming infrastructure conversation will include how to best address bicycle parking. Once a cyclist has gotten down here safely, where do they store their bike while they work, play, or shop? We conducted a visual survey of all bicycle racks in the Golden Triangle to find where the natural concentrations of racks are located, with the eventual goal of producing a resource to be hosted online by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership in conjunction with their car parking guide.

What can we learn?

After collecting data based on multiple walking surveys, we were able to see the distribution of locations throughout the Golden Triangle (L). We then overlaid BikePGH's most recent route recommendations and Healthy Ride stations to see if any patterns appeared (R). For this project racks are categorized as being either an individual rack standing alone or a cluster of multiple racks next to each other in the same area.

The above map reveals that racks are reliably concentrated around recommended cycling routes downtown, and that Healthy Ride stations were well placed around existing safe routes. However, there are a few gaps that stand out, among them the Grant Street Corridor, along First Avenue, and in Point State Park. Once the proposed G.A.P. To The Point protected bike lane opens in the near future (seen on the map above running along Fort Pitt Boulevard), that area of First Ave and Point State Park will most likely see more traffic and more ancillary bike investment like parking. As for Grant Street, there are plenty of spaces for parked bikes but limited roadway infrastructure.

The heat maps combined with the capacity numbers up top also tells us that while the bicycle capacity of covered bike parking is usually much higher than exposed racks, their distribution is concentrated primarily in the lower area of the Golden Triangle, around First Avenue and up Grant Street. Many bike commuters need to store their bike for the full workday, and may prefer to park in more heavily trafficked, weather-protected areas, which are only found in a few parts of the downtown area. Especially during times of inclement weather when the number of bicyclists on the street drops, their need for covered bike parking near to their destination is greater. This distribution gap should be addressed to make cycling more friendly year-round.

In further analysis of distribution we separated the downtown area into informal districts based on clustered use type, and counted the spread of bicycle parking as seen below.

The Central Core area is by far the largest supplier of bike parking downtown, which is useful due to its proximity to all other parts of the neighborhood. The lowest number of spaces occurs in the Waterfront area, encompassing all of Point State Park and both shores. As this is mostly an area of recreational usage, there may not be a need for much long-term parking. But as the trails and bike paths converge at the Point, this area has a natural concentration of bikes and therefore more cycling storage may be necessary. Examining the rest of the Golden Triangle yields a better distribution of racks and rack clusters across Downtown. NOTE: Not included in this quick district map is the rack under the Greyhound Station, totaling 14 bike spaces.

According to this year's Make My Trip Count survey, 2.5% of all Downtown commuter trips happen by bike, and the Penn Avenue bike lane has seen steady growth in the number of users since its inception in 2014. For this project we counted 115 bike racks, totaling about 750* bicycle parking spaces. Compared to almost 20,000 public car parking spaces, there is still room for growth. When bicyclists are not only led safely downtown but also invited to stay, the entire neighborhood benefits.


Envision will continue to refine this map for better analysis, but in the meantime we hope to turn this into a public resource for all bicyclists venturing Downtown. Click the markers on the map below to see information about each rack, like bike capacity, rack style, and nearby landmarks.

Are you a Downtown cyclist?  Did we miss any of your favorite bike storage spots?  Let us know by emailing info@envisiondowntown.com

* This is an imperfect estimate based solely on our visual survey and is most likely smaller than the correct number, as there are many informal parking spots and the amount of bikes that fit on multi-racks (as in grid racks, bike corrals, wave racks, etc.) can vary depending on bike type and how creative a cyclist may be feeling that day.

Penn Avenue Bike Lane: 6 Month Summary Report

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership has redeployed the Penn Avenue bike lane counters ready to count commuters and recreational cyclists alike as we move into the warmer months. In honor of the start of this year's counting season we put together a summary overview of the some of the more interesting data points from last year. To view this years numbers in real time check out the bike counter webpage, and for more detailed info Envision Downtown will continue to publish a monthly review on the Data Blog.

Blue markers show the locations of the three counters and their names.

Blue markers show the locations of the three counters and their names.

Introduction & Background

Following the installation and opening of the Penn Avenue protected bike lane in September 2014, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership purchased three tubular bike lane counters to be installed at mid-block locations on the 1200, 900, and 600 blocks of Penn the following April. Full data was collected in 2015 each month from May to October, with the counters being removed in early November in preparation for the winter weather. (NOTE: due to a technical problem the 600 block counter was offline from mid-June until August, so it will not be the focus of extensive analysis in this post)

During the six-month period of study between May and October, a number of changes occurred along the Penn Avenue bike lane. In April 2015, the bike lane on Sixth Street across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to PNC Park opened. In May Pittsburgh's bike sharing program, Healthy Ride, opened with two stations along Penn at 12th Street and 10th Street. The extension of the lane to the full length of Penn Ave to Stanwix Street was not completed until late October and is not reflected in this data.

General Summary

Weekends vs. Weekdays

The percentage value of daily trips shows us whether certain days of the week are more popular than others for riders. Sunday is the most popular day for bike lane usage with close to 20% of all trips through the 600 and 900 blocks and 16.5% of all trips in the 1200 block occurring on that day. The numbers suggest strong recreational use of the lane and reflects special events that encourage weekend ridership, including the three Open Streets events that took place over the summer (Sunday, May 31st; Sunday, June 28th; and Sunday, July 26th) and Pedal Pittsburgh (Sunday, August 30th). Of all five weekdays, Monday has the lowest volume across all three counter locations while Friday is the highest performing.

It is worth noting that although the 900 and 600 block counters show stronger relative weekend patterns, the 1200 block shows a more equal spread over days of the week. With that in mind we can infer that there is a good mix between both recreational and commuter usage in the upper part of Penn Ave entering Downtown.

Differences Between Blocks

The 1200 block consistently saw the highest volume of traffic, recording 44.2% of all trips across all three counters between August and October. The 1200 block is where the bike lane first enters Downtown, funneling the Strip District, Lawrenceville, and East End neighborhoods to the city core. The lesser amount of riders between the 1200 and 900 block of Penn suggests that bikes enter Downtown via the designated lane before turning to alternative streets to reach their final destination, or use that stretch exclusively to exit the CBD.

Again, different counters reflect different usage patterns throughout the length of the bike lane. On the 1200 block about 9% of all trips were recorded between 8:00 and 9:00AM, and almost 10% were recorded between 5:00 and 6:00PM, which indicates a strong commuter pattern. In contrast, the 600 block saw a higher percentage share of its trips during lunch time (11:00AM – 2:00PM), with a slight peak occurring during the afternoon rush hour. This suggests that as it gets closer to the Point the bike lane is used more for getting around Downtown than to or from Downtown.

Weather Impact

Weather is one of the biggest factors affecting bike lane usage.  August 2015 (shown here in yellow) saw the most consistent traffic which corresponds with what was happening outside: an average high of 82°F, average low of 62°F, and only 2 inches of rain throughout the entire month. On the other hand, June 2015 (shown in purple) had over 7 inches of rain and a standard deviation of 220 trips* (compared with only 101* for August) throughout the month. As the temperature dropped, so did usage of the bike lane; October 2015 recorded the lowest gross trip count of all six recorded months with an average temperature of 52°F. *Note that in weather analysis we excluded the last Sunday of the summer months to control for Open Streets events.

 

Before & After

In April 2014, before the bike lanes were completed and opened to bicyclists the following September, traffic engineering firm Mackin Engineering was contracted to perform an analysis of Penn Avenue. This was done partially to identify latent demand for bicycling along that corridor, and to establish a baseline for patterns of mode use. We can put Mackin's bike counts alongside ours exactly one year apart and note the difference in bicycle traffic before and after installation of the lane.

The 600 block saw the most dramatic gain in ridership, with people crossing through that portion of Penn Ave. more on the comparison dates in April 2015 than 2014 by a factor of almost 7. The 1200 block, however, saw the biggest increase in individual riders, with 113 more individuals crossing the counter on April 24th 2015 than April 25th 2014 between 4 PM and 9 PM. The ridership was particularly affected in the evening hours, with an average increase of +376% across all three blocks. Most impressively, this information shows an increase in ridership on every block where counts were recorded and in every time slot (with the exception of the 900 block where ridership was unchanged) after the addition of the bike lane. Note the weather for each of these days was very similar, with temperatures between 40°F and 50°F, and 0.4in of rain on April 25, 2014 and 0.3in on April 24, 2015.

These numbers tell us that when adequate infrastructure is provided, both usage and demand will increase as people take advantage of the greater transit options available to them. And when it comes to access into and around Downtown Pittsburgh, the center of our regional economy, more options can only be a good thing.

Measuring Walkability in Downtown Pittsburgh

Starting from Market Square, how far can you walk in Downtown? On the left: by using the street grid, on the right: as the crow flies

What is this?

A map showing the walkability catchment area of one point in Downtown Pittsburgh, as defined by the street grid. This is a common tool used in transit planning and placemaking to determine the walkability of an area and demonstrate how far away the site is to any other destinations or amenities. The easy way to do this is to draw a quick ¼-mile or ½-mile radius around a site, and the output is a rough guide to how far a pedestrian can walk in the allotted time. But Pittsburgh’s unique topography, inconsistent street grid, and long bridges make it impossible to walk “as the crow flies”-- you can see the noticeable difference in the two approaches in the image above. We decided that we had to go further and find out precisely how well pedestrians move between locations downtown.

 

The Process:

The usefulness and accuracy of this analysis relies on two basic assumptions: one, a pedestrian must follow the available roadways when walking to their destination; and two, it takes a pedestrian about 5 minutes to walk ¼ mile (assuming an average speed of 3mph). With that in mind, we began building a pedestrian network that approximated pathways throughout the city, eventually using GIS to give us an idea of how far someone can get from our chosen locations by following the available pathways.

Image Explanation (L to R):

FIG 1. First, we identified a few places that we determined were hot spots for Downtown. A radius was added for each at the three specified steps of ¼, ½, and ¾ miles, which shows us the furthest extent the network can reach.

FIG 2. The next step was to begin building our pedestrian network in ArcGIS by modifying the publicly-available street grid provided by the City of Pittsburgh DCP, taking away highways and adding public stairs, trails, and cut-throughs. For the sake of time and simplicity we went ahead and drew the pedestrian paths down the middle of the street when the sidewalk was available on both sides. NOTE: The image in Fig. 2 was partially completed at the time it was taken.

FIG 3. Once the network was built we specified the creation of three radii from our original origin points: 5, 10, and 15 minutes away (¼, ½, & ¾ mi). The output is processed through GIS software, and the resulting information is combined to give a good sense of walkability in the area. Particularly in this image, the impact of the rivers on inter-neighborhood mobility is apparent.

Following this last step we were able to create our own "ped shed" of the total possible area a pedestrian could get to using our parameters, the final results of which are shared below.

Click here for an example of this process at work for Washington DC’s Metro system, and click here for a good look at the reasoning and methodology behind the impetus for this process.

The Results:

We specified different points of interest in the Golden Triangle in order to assess how well-connected they were to their surrounding areas. The outdoor plaza of Market Square boasts the largest average concentration of pedestrians in Downtown according to the Public Space-Public Life Survey conducted last year. Because so many people arrive and depart from the space throughout the day, it began as the basis of our walkability analysis.

Other locations we chose as hubs for pedestrians were: David Lawrence Convention Center, PNC Park, and Point State Park, and the City-County Building, all shown below:

What can we learn?

These maps show a Central Business District that is compact and easily traversable, but without many good connections to the rest of the city. Bounded by the rivers to the north and south and highways to the east, a pedestrian only has the option of passing through a limited number of transition points to reach other parts of the city. One of the most important connective pathways is the trail system, which extends along and across the rivers and allows easy passage between neighborhoods. Making stronger connections between the trails and the rest of the street grid should be a priority moving forward.

The Golden Triangle is dense, with two colliding linear street grids and non-uniform buildings of different heights and square footage—to the average visitor, it can feel larger than it actually is. These maps show that walking can, and should, be a practical way of navigating the downtown area. Market Square to PNC Park in 10 minutes, the Convention Center to the Strip in 15 minutes; these are just a few examples of the linkages that make up a valuable part of the Downtown network. When the pedestrian is prioritized as an equal player in the urban space, more people will be invited to make these short trips on foot, connecting economic assets and providing utility for residents and visitors alike.

Public Space Data: Sidewalk Conditions

SIDEWALK QUALITY IN pITTSBURGH'S cENTRAL BUSINESS dISTRICT. cOMPILED AS PART OF Envision DOWNTOWN'S pUBLIC sPACE pUBLIC lIFE SURVEY WITH gEHL sTUDIO IN October 2015

SIDEWALK QUALITY IN pITTSBURGH'S cENTRAL BUSINESS dISTRICT. cOMPILED AS PART OF Envision DOWNTOWN'S pUBLIC sPACE pUBLIC lIFE SURVEY WITH gEHL sTUDIO IN October 2015

Sidewalk Materials Map of Downtown Pittsburgh. Complied as part of Envision Downtown's Public Space Public Life Survey with Gehl STudio in October 2015.

Sidewalk Materials Map of Downtown Pittsburgh. Complied as part of Envision Downtown's Public Space Public Life Survey with Gehl STudio in October 2015.

What is this?

A graphical representation of current sidewalk conditions and sidewalk construction materials in the Central Business District. This data is one example of the analysis conducted as part of Gehl Studio’s “Public Space” survey in October 2015. Assessments of quality and documentation of materials were gather through field observations conducted by Envision Downtown staff and the Gehl Studio team.

What can we learn?

The Public Space survey provides an intensive x-ray of the public realm in Downtown Pittsburgh. Under Gehl Studio’s direction, the quality of the urban tree canopy was updated (leveraging existing efforts of the City of Pittsburgh and many non-profit urban tree allies), lighting assessments and façade activation surveys were completed and an inventory of café and public seating was undertaken.

In looking at the results of sidewalk quality and materials assessment, a number of patterns are readily observable.  In addition to the work of the City of Pittsburgh on Grant Street, the efforts of groups like the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership in investing in high quality, consistent sidewalks are apparent in the Cultural District (brick) and Market Square (brick exterior + terrazzo interior). These efforts are mirrored by more recent investments by Point Park University on Wood Street (exposed aggregate sidewalks used instead of terrazzo).

In general however, the sidewalk infrastructure in Downtown is inconsistent and in some place neglected. A number of important gateways and highly trafficked areas have not been maintained, nor has a standard design been applied. Smithfield Street in particular is a prime opportunity to invest in the public realm to meet its current demands as a key pedestrian connector and to catalyze future investments.

Moving Forward: Sidewalks in the Public Realm Action Plan

Prioritizing investments in Downtown’s sidewalk infrastructure is a critical framing element of the Public Realm Action Plan. The plan, which is based heavily on data like this sidewalk assessment and other information collected during the Public Space Public Life survey, will begin with three exciting pilot projects currently in final design. Stay tuned for more information on the Public Realm Action Plan in the next few weeks.

Nolli Map of Downtown Pittsburgh

Envision Downtown 2015 - Sarah Kontos 

Envision Downtown 2015 - Sarah Kontos 

What is this?

A Nolli Map shows the relationship between built and unbuilt space. It delineates voids or open space in white while representing occupied or publicly inaccessible spaces in black.  Above is the Nolli Map for Downtown Pittsburgh showing all of the Golden Triangle's public space including the street grid, parks and plazas (both public and privately owned). 

Combined the street grid and open space account for 44% of the total area of the Golden Triangle. The street grid alone makes up 26.5% of total square footage where open space accounts for 17.5%. If Point State Park is excluded from the open space number the value drops to 10%.

What can we learn?

The Nolli Map shows us not only how space Downtown is generally divided between the built and unbuilt environment but also the relationship and connections that exist between its open spaces. Visualization of this is key for future planning and lets us start to think about new projects that could add to and/or leverage the current context.

The map also highlights how City streets are one of our most underutilized public assets. They command 26.5% of space Downtown and are the key connective network that holds together our great public and private spaces. Future conversations must take into consideration how we want our streets to support and enhance public life in the Golden Triangle. 

Make My Trip Count

What is this?

In an effort led by Green Building Alliance, Envision Downtown and other Pittsburgh stakeholders partnered to deliver an extensive commuter survey asking over 20,000 people who work in Pittsburgh detailed questions about their commuting habits. We can use the final results from the Make My Trip Count Survey to unpack the nature of commuting trends affecting the Downtown area.

Source: Make My Trip Count

From the data we can see a higher percentage of respondents take public transit than any other mode to get Downtown each morning (44.8%). Driving alone is still a popular option, but an impressive 5% of respondents choose people-powered modes with biking and walking coming in at 2.5% each.

NOTE: for the graphic above, we combined bus, light rail, and park & ride into one Public Transit category but left the car-centric modes separate.

These maps show the five best performing zip codes for each mode of transit for people who just work within the Golden Triangle. By utilizing a geographic approach, we can form spatial connections that correlate to what we already know about the region. The data shows that the combined Downtown and Strip District zip code, 15222, is a top performer for walking and biking to work, while the East End of Pittsburgh (where the East Busway runs) outpaces all other zip codes in commuting by bus.

What can we learn?

Greater Downtown may have almost 50,000 off street parking spaces, but it also serves as the hub for our regional public transit. This information is impactful because it shows that a good number of Pittsburghers are already using the existing transit infrastructure daily, which reinforces the importance of making the commuter experience better for everyone.

The maps that show clusters of heavy use are especially helpful in the process of reverse engineering the reasons why certain neighborhoods outperform others. By narrowing down our focus in this way we can note trends, understand the areas where improvements can be made, and form educated guesses about the habits of people who work Downtown. As we continue to work with each part of this large and useful dataset, the better informed our decision making will become. The results will tell us a lot about the way people come in and out of the city and further analysis of these daily patterns will guide our future efforts to improve mobility networks in Dowtown Pittsburgh.

2016 Blog Update

Happy New Year, Pittsburgh data enthusiasts!

After a strong start to our Downtown data blogging efforts in 2015, our online efforts we were noticeably distracted throughout the fall due to our Public Space/Public Life collaboration with Gehl Studio.  Our resolution for 2016 is to get back in the saddle and get back to blogging.

Data development and data driven decision making are key to Envision Downtown's DNA.  As we churn through new data points, we want to share them with you can draw your own conclusions about the present and future of Downtown Pittsburgh and our central neighborhoods.  In the next few weeks, stay tuned for new posts about downtown commuter mode splits (based on Make My Trip Count data), public space calculations, Penn Avenue bike lane data and more.

AND, we will also be launching a separate "Project Blog" to provide background data, progress updates and lessons learned from our mobility improvement projects as they are launched.  The Project Blog will also work to establish a best-practices framework for complete streets and transportation projects as a way to explore potential replication in other neighborhoods around the city.

As always, we welcome your feedback: info@envisiondowntown.com

Happy New Year!
Sean Luther,
Executive Director

Penn Avenue Bike Lane: August Traffic Report

August numbers for the Penn Avenue bike lane are now available on the PDP public website. Trip totals have flattened out as we reach the end of the summer. The monthly total for the 1200 block of Penn rose 3.65% from July to 30,269 while the 900 block total fell just over 1% to 24,343

Mostly dry and warm weather have led to a consistent month of bike commuting activity.

Mostly dry and warm weather have led to a consistent month of bike commuting activity.

There was a marked increase in bike commuting this month as the weather stayed warm and dry. 1200 block numbers peaked on weekdays at 8am and 5pm with an average of 87 and 80 trips respectively for a 10% increase over July. The average number of trips for the block is moving closer and closer to a thousand a day (976) and the block averaged 57 trips per hour from 6:00 am to 10:00 PM.  

10% increase in average hourly trips on weekdays at 8am

10% increase in average hourly trips on weekdays at 8am

The last week of August saw Pittsburgh Bike Fest culminating in the annual Pedal PGH ride on August 30th. This led to an unprecedented and record setting count at the 1200 block counter of 2, 915.

Pedal PGH sets counter record of 2,915

Pedal PGH sets counter record of 2,915

The counters are thin, rubber tubes stretched across the width of the bike lane, located on the 600, 900, and 1200 blocks of Penn Avenue they were installed by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. They work by recording each time a bicyclist rides over and depresses the tubes.

If you would like to discover more about the bike lane data you can now visit the PDP's interactive website to view up to date trip counts.

The 600 block counter was repaired about one week into August so we do not have a complete data set to show for this month. Next month we will be sure to update you on what trends are occurring in that area of town.

Downtown Parking Supply

Source: aggregated from various contributors

Source: aggregated from various contributors

What is this?

A 3D representation of off-street parking supply in Downtown Pittsburgh.  For purposes of this map, parking facilities have been classified as “public parking” (available on a regular basis to downtown commuters and visitors), “dedicated parking” (parking restricted to a specific user; ex. UPMC Mercy visitor parking or resident parking at City View Apartments), “lease only” (public parking available only by monthly lease) and “event day only” (parking made available only during special events).

The height of the representative columns indicates size of the parking facility by number of spaces.  Lots and garages with fewer than 100 spaces have no height.

What can we learn?

Understanding existing parking ecosystem in Greater Downtown is critical to promoting the continued success of Downtown Pittsburgh as a major jobs center.  Downtown’s unique concentration of jobs (1 in 3 jobs in Western Pennsylvania is located in Downtown) combined with limited land area results in high demand for parking. Approximately 39% of the downtown workforce drives to their job each day (32.1% drive alone, 6.9% carpool)¹. To effectively serve this large volume in a such small geographic area this parking predominantly takes the form of structured garages that primarily serve daytime parkers.  

The five largest parking garages/lots in Greater Downtown Pittsburgh are:

  1. Allegheny Center Garage – 2,500 spaces
  2. Civic Arena Lots – 2,200 spaces
  3. Chatham Center Garage – 2,100 spaces
  4. Duquesne University Locust Garage – 1,645 spaces
  5. Station Square West Lots – 1,390 space

Capturing the current picture of parking supply provides a launching point to examine changes to the supply and demand equation over the next few years.  Changes to supply (eliminated spaces due to development in the Lower Hill District, Station Square, the Strip District, and the North shore and new spaces planned at various garages throughout Greater Downtown) are relatively easy to identify and project forward.  

 

The number of parking spaces dipped slightly in 2015 but will rebound next year as new facilities (including new public garages at the Gardens & 350 Oliver and dedicated parking at the Union Trust Building & Homewood Suites in the Strip) come on line to maintain the status quo. 

Changes to demand such as reduced demand due to technology and demographic shifts or growing demand from increased full-time residents and new hotel rooms are harder to quantify, but are critical to planning for the future of the parking system. A more comprehensive investigation into future demand changes will be undertaken this fall.

¹Employee Transportation Need Assessment, July 2010 - Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

Penn Avenue Bike Lane: July Traffic Report

July numbers for the Penn Avenue bike lane are now available. Trip totals have continued to climb as the summer weather improves with monthly totals of 29,202 in the 1200 block up 24.14% from June and 24,696 in the 900 block up an impressive 33.75% from last month. 

Better weather sees overall increase in bike traffic.             

Better weather sees overall increase in bike traffic.             

The 1200 block continues to pull the largest number of commuters with an average of 79 trips on weekdays at 8am and 74 during the 5pm bike home rush. The average number of trips for the block reached almost a thousand a day (942) and averaged 53 trips per hour from 6:00 am to 10:00 PM.  

The 1200 block sees large volumes of bike traffic during am and pm rush.

The 1200 block sees large volumes of bike traffic during am and pm rush.


For the third month running the data shows strong recreational use of the bike lanes with a weekend average that remained slightly higher than weekdays at 1162 trips per day for the 1200 block and 1198 for the 900 block.

The counters are thin, rubber tubes stretched across the width of the bike lane, located on the 600, 900, and 1200 blocks of Penn Avenue they were installed by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. They work by recording each time a bicyclist rides over and depresses the tubes.

If you would like to discover more about the bike lane data you can now visit the PDP's new interactive website to view up to date trip counts.

Unfortunately the 600 block counter is currently undergoing repairs and was not able to collect complete data for the month of July, but we're told it will be up and counting again soon.