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Mayoral candidate Bill Peduto pledges efficient Downtown bus routes, safe areas

Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 15:10

Peduto

Photo by Matt Nemeth

Councilman Bill Peduto sits during an interview with the Globe on Thursday, October 24. The councilman discussed plans to improve the city’s downtown transportation as part of his mayoral platform.

Peduto 2

Photo by Matt Nemeth

Congressman and Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Bill Peduto reviews an upcoming PowerPoint presentation with a staff member in his office at the City County Building following an interview with The Globe on Wednesday, October 23.

Commuter students might feel like their voices are often not heard, but they will be part of the conversation Councilman and mayoral candidate Bill Peduto has as he plans to make changes to the outdated bus systems running Downtown.

“Having students involved in that discussion will help to basically gain support for whatever alternative is chosen,” said Peduto in the City County building last Wednesday. “You get a better product when you get more different view points and discussion coming in.”

If elected mayor in the Nov. 5 election, Peduto said discussion for his plan to create a more efficient bus route and safer area would start involving the community as early as the fall 2014 semester. Peduto is up against Republican Josh Wander and Lester Ludwig, an Independent.

Despite recent reports of the presumptive next mayor wanting to take buses out of Downtown, he said that is not the case. Peduto’s plan would increase the accessibility of all Downtown routes by creating a bus loop inside the triangle. One possible loop would have buses come down Grant Street, make a right onto Boulevard of the Allies, turn right onto Liberty Avenue and then back onto Grant St. This kind of system would provide access up to three or four blocks in Downtown instead of the eight to 12 blocks riders might currently have to walk. Riders could also ride the loop for free since payment is only necessary when leaving Downtown.

“None of the systems basically work together,” Peduto said. “Many of them were created and changed during construction projects and never changed back.”

Tackling the bus system would lead to the ability to build the “complete streets” model for Downtown, according to Peduto. This transportation system would eliminate some on street parking and create bus only lanes making the roads more efficient. The model could lead to creating bike lanes as well as safer pedestrian areas in Downtown.

Changing the bus system would also include looking at the placement of bus stops. Peduto said there is “no thought put into where bus stops are placed and the size of the sidewalks,” which leads to overcrowding when stops are placed on sidewalks that are not wide enough. The plan would include modern, transit stops with shelters over them where people can be “safe walking down the street without walking in the street.”

Peduto said Smithfield Street is an example of where the model could be used, because it is a core area that should have a bike lane. The bike lane could take riders from Station Square to the Strip District.

Current developers with projects on Smithfield Street would also be offered public assistance to “enhance the entire area.” The street currently has broken sidewalks, rusted street lights, and a bus lane that is a potential safety hazard.

“It’s called the importance of place making. It’s not just the building being built, but the place and the area around that building,” Peduto said. “I have a belief that we can make Smithfield a premiere address within Downtown.”

Point Park would be directly affected by the development, as the street is a major corridor connecting the campus to the rest of Downtown and the Strip District, according to Peduto.

Peduto said he hopes to work directly with University students by offering internships across all departments, something he depended on as an undergraduate to become successful in his field. Each summer, he had two jobs – one to earn enough money to return to college the next semester and the other to gain experience in politics.

“I never had any background in government from my family, so I had to make it myself,” Peduto said.

Peduto admits to not pushing himself hard enough in the classroom, but he excelled outside of it by becoming the first transfer student to hold an executive office in Pi Kappa Alpha after leaving Carnegie Mellon University to attend Pennsylvania State University. Peduto was president of the fraternity during its 75th anniversary.

One of Peduto’s fraternity brothers and Dean of the Conservatory of Performing Arts, Fredrick Johnson, said Peduto has always been able to find the common ground between groups with different views.

The two briefly discussed including Point Park film students to create videos promoting the city.

“He’s been a big supporter of Point Park in the conversations I’ve had with him,” Johnson said in a phone interview Monday. “I think he’ll be a good mayor for the city and a good mayor for the University.”

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