Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part VII
Pittsburgh Quarterly invited readers and neighbors to offer up their best ideas for improving the region through the Spring 2019 Pittsburgh Tomorrow Contest. The 13 finalists chosen by the Pittsburgh Today advisory board were published online and in the Fall 2019 issue of the magazine. But the ideas of another nearly three dozen thinkers made the semifinal round out of the 115 who submitted proposals that ranged from grand to humble in scope. Here are the thoughts of a few of our semifinalists.
Read “Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part I” here.
Read “Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part II” here.
Read “Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part III” here.
Read “Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part IV” here.
Read “Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part V” here.
Read “Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part VI” here.
Redesign Bus Routes
“I have had the opportunity to live and work in a number of European and Asian Cities. Because of the lack of personal transportation their public transportation infrastructure had developed. In Genova, Italy, for example, their routes start in the north, go through downtown and continue to a terminus in the south; likewise, east/west, and vice versa. So, you wouldn’t have a Port Authority of Allegheny County 46D route only run from West Mifflin, through town to Curry, with the first trip running empty and the last trip running empty.
“My suggestion would eliminate half of the bus vehicles in Downtown Pittsburgh without changing the service to the ultimate destinations. Hey, sounds complicated to design the same coverage with through-city routes, but we have computers! Major European trips have digital route boards at each stop showing which bus will be next and the expected time of arrival. Something like that should be incorporated with the system.”
Landscape as Art
“Public art figured prominently in the list of ideas published by PQ. But let’s think big. Public land is the obvious site for such installations and a vast expanse is available at Pittsburgh International Airport. With most of its nearly 9,000 acres still rugged empty hillsides, the county-owned site could be a canvas for a giant landscape art installation along the lines of Spiral Jetty. Robert Smithson’s iconic design, coiling 1500 feet into the Great Salt Lake, takes full advantage of its setting. Other American examples: Walter De La Maria’s Lightning Field, a mile-by-kilometer grid set in a New Mexico desert, and James Turrell’s Roden Crater, a vast work set in a northern Arizona volcanic crater.
“Land art is best seen at a distance, and its most famous examples require travel and effort to view. That’s the biggest selling point for land art at PIT: landings and departures over the airport offer an ideal vantage point to thousands of visitors a day. Adjacent to the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, a land art installation at PIT could be managed in cooperation with that non-profit. Through the city’s Office of Public Art and many sophisticated local curators, PIT could request proposals from the world’s most innovative land artists.
“The result would not be a corny welcome-to-Pittsburgh-in-marigolds. It would be a startling, beautiful, unique interpretation of the western Pennsylvania landscape by an internationally-known artist. It might also preserve some open acreage to prevent uglier drilling rigs on airport land. And it is worth noting that even the most giant land art is affordable: Spiral Jetty, now owned by the Dia Foundation, cost a mere $9,000.”
—Christine H. O’Toole
Let’s Be a Service Hub
“Amazon was a frog, with no serious intent to pick HQ2 unless it got its choice for free. However, Pittsburgh’s courtship with Amazon did expose the lingering problem with Pittsburgh that has derailed our previous expansion attempts; we are afraid to grow. Geographically, Pittsburgh is centrally located to be the hub of service to the eastern half of the United States. Pittsburgh has quick access to the commerce centers of New York, Boston, and Washington DC, to the east; Canada to the north; Detroit, Chicago and Indianapolis to the west; Atlanta and the Research Triangle of North Carolina to the south. Each area is a powerhouse of robotics, pharmaceutical research, aerospace and communications that we can sell our proven strengths of manufacturing, engineering and banking. Pittsburgh can compete head to head with any city, anywhere, doing anything. All we need is to say, ‘We will.’
“A suggested broad outline to the Pittsburgh Tomorrow Initiative is: Develop a mission statement. Visit other areas to view their urban renewal plans. Develop a plan including priorities, timeline, funding and revenue schedule, and milestone list. Seed the plan into our social consciousness, so it will continue with future administrations. Work the plan, change the plan, but don’t give up the plan.”
Share a Ride
“Via [the on-demand, shared-ride service]: The inexpensive, accessible, comfortable, clean and fast way to get from anywhere and to anywhere in Pittsburgh. Fixes two of the biggest obstacle to attracting and retaining talent—the city’s mobility and carbon challenges. Via exists in smaller and larger cities around the globe It requires no tunnels or dedicated lanes or infrastructure. And it can be up and running in 90 days. What are we waiting for?”
—Steven D. Irwin