Saturday, September 29, 2012

After 10 Years, PAT FINALLY Builds Walkway to Wilkinsburg Station

In February of 1983, the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT), Pittsburgh's public transit agency, opened its second busway (of three, today): the Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway, running 6.6 miles from Penn Station in Downtown Pittsburgh, paralleling the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line, to a terminus near the former Pennsylvania Railroad Station in Wilkinsburg, at a cost of $115 million. More than 20 years later, on 2003 June 15, PAT opened a 2.3-mile extension of this busway to Swissvale, at a cost of $68.8 million.

Part of the East Busway extension project was to relocate and build a new Wilkinsburg Station, adjacent to a large park-and-ride lot. The new station was built at a site just north of the original station site, on the north side of an existing bus layover area. This allowed the large park-and-ride lot to be constructed on a former rail yard.

The original Wilkinsburg Busway Station was located on a bridge spanning Penn Avenue, as the street entered the Wilkinsburg business district. This site was close to Wilkinsburg's original Pennsylvania Railroad Station, which provided commuter rail service into Pittsburgh decades earlier.

As part of the construction of the original Wilkinsburg Busway Station was a large staircase, and a long wheelchair ramp stretching from near the railroad station to the new inbound platform of the busway station. Additionally, PAT rehabilitated the original railroad station pedestrian tunnel, from the railroad station to Pennwood Avenue, for use by pedestrians and busway users. This pedestrian tunnel has now been closed for several years.

With the relocation of the Wilkinsburg Busway Station in 2003, PAT decided NOT to provide pedestrian access from the original inbound station platform to the new inbound station platform, even though a simple sidewalk connecting the two sites was all that was needed. As this sidewalk would need to run along a bus layover area, PAT officials felt that pedestrians crossing two entrances to this bus layover area was too dangerous.

Long-time public transit advocate Glenn A. Walsh disagreed, arguing that requiring pedestrians to cross busy Penn Avenue at-grade (and, people would often cross away from a legal cross-walk, as there was no legal cross-walk close to the new station site) was much more dangerous. Further, the long wheelchair ramp, which existed at the original station site, could provide the disabled with easy, and much safer, access to the new station site; otherwise that long and costly wheelchair ramp would be practically useless.

Mr. Walsh argued his case before the PAT Board's Engineering and Construction Committee in 2002. PAT officials were not swayed to Mr. Walsh's point-of-view. Finally, Mr. Walsh addressed the entire Port Authority Board on this issue on 2003 January 24:

Copy of 2003 Public Statement >>> http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit/pat/statements/ST-2003-Wilkinsburgwalkway-web.html

Even after this second attempt to change Port Authority policy, nothing changed. This was despite the fact that Wilkinsburg Borough Council had approved a resolution, unanimously, supporting Mr. Walsh's position!

So, Mr. Walsh was quite surprised when he visited Wilkinsburg in August of 2012 and found that this walkway had finally been built!

Yesterday, at the 2012 September regular monthly meeting of the Port Authority Board of Directors, Mr. Walsh delivered the following statement:

Statement before                                           Glenn A. Walsh
Board of Directors,                                        P.O. Box 1041
Port Authority of                                             Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15230-1041 U.S.A.
Allegheny County:                                         Telephone: 412-561-7876
Wilkinsburg Station                                        Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Walkway                                                            Web Site: < http://www.planetarium.cc >
2012 September 28                                         Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com >

Good morning. I am Glenn A. Walsh, 633 Royce Avenue, Mt. Lebanon, a regular Light Rail and bus rider who has chosen not to drive a motor vehicle since 1985, to help save energy, protect the environment, and reduce city traffic congestion. I have been an active transit advocate for more than 30 years, including 3 terms on the Allegheny County Transit Council as a Charter Member. Today, the views expressed by me are my own and do not reflect those of any organization.

In 2003, I addressed the Port Authority Board asking that a walkway be built to the new Wilkinsburg Station from the original inbound station platform


This would provide a seamless walk for Wilkinsburg residents coming from the south side of Penn Avenue, and a wheelchair ramp from Wilkinsburg's Pennsylvania Railroad Station would allow the disabled to reach the new station without crossing busy Penn Avenue at-grade. And, my request was supported, unanimously, by Wilkinsburg Borough Council!

PAT officials refused to consider such a walkway, stating that pedestrians crossing the bus layover area would be in danger. Yet, they did not consider the danger of pedestrians crossing busy Penn Avenue at-grade, often away from a legal cross-walk, since any pedestrian accidents on Penn Avenue would not affect PAT's legal liability!

Well, I do not get to Wilkinsburg often, but I was there last month. And, to my surprise, the walkway I wanted to have built, which PAT refused to build, has now been built! I do not understand why it took the Port Authority nearly a decade to understand the value of this walkway to the residents of Wilkinsburg, but I guess better-late-than-never! So, I want to thank the Port Autority for finally building this needed walkway.

By the way, a large sign at the Hay Street Stop indicates that there is no pedestrian access to the Wilkinsburg Station. This sign needs to be replaced with a sign indicating that there now is pedestrian access to the Wilkinsburg Station!

Thank you.

gaw

Attachment: Public Statement Before Port Authority of Allegheny County Board of Directors: “Enhanced Pedestrian Access to New Wilkinsburg Busway Station.” 2003 January 24:

Large-Print Version of 2012 Public Statement:
>>> http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit/pat/statements/ST-2012-WilkinsburgwalkwayLP-web.html

Related Blog Post --

FINALLY New Walkway to Wilkinsburg Station - Statement Before Council of the Borough of Wikinsburg PA (2012 October 11):

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2012/10/finally-new-walkway-to-wilkinsburg.html 


gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://friendsofthezeiss.org >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
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