Pittsburgh Art Commission votes to cut two fast bus shelters in Oakland

Two Oakland bus shelters proposed for the new bus rapid transit system will be downsized after a vote last week by the Pittsburgh Art Commission.

Critics of the commission argued that the shelters, on Fifth Avenue in front of the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, and on Bigelow Boulevard along Schenley Plaza, were so large that they obscured the view of these two community monuments.

The shelter in front of Soldiers & Sailors, which Pittsburgh Regional Transit proposed at 60 feet, will now be 30 feet long. Two shelters of 60 feet each have been proposed for Schenley Plaza, near The Porch restaurant; only one of them will now be built.

“Hundred and twenty-foot-long shelters are basically a ground-level bouldering activity,” Commissioner Vivian Loftness, a professor of architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, said of the latter location.

Commissioners Sarika Goulatia and Richard Parsakian voted with Loftness to shorten the shelters.

Commissioner Peter Quintanilla dissented. He said the shelters should be of normal size for the benefit of cyclists.

“Let’s not shoot our residents who don’t have a car in their foot simply because we think it’s going to block the view,” Quintanilla said.

The $291 million rapid transit system is designed to make travel between downtown Oakland and a host of other communities easier by creating bus-only lanes.

At the Art Commission’s monthly meeting, held Aug. 24 via videoconference, Denise Ott, manager of the Pittsburgh Regional Transportation Project, and Steve Auterman, of the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure at the city, presented plans for 23 bus stops on the route from downtown to Uptown and Oakland. .

Commissioners approved 21 of the sites, but Loftness and others initially questioned the placement and size of three, including the two it ultimately voted to shorten. The shelters will be 10 feet high and set back from the sidewalks. Ott said PRT determined the location and scale of the shelters after consultation with landowners and other stakeholders.

The commissioners dropped their opposition to the placement of the shelters after Ott told them that obtaining agreements and engineering plans for new locations could delay the BRT project by a year or more.

EPR spokeswoman Melissa Rubin said the size of the shelters “are all based on the number of users”. However, she added, “While we believe the ridership supports the larger stations, we are comfortable with the smaller size and are pleased with the approval and moving the project.”

The BRT has been in the works for years. At the August 24 meeting, Loftness expressed frustration that the art commission was not consulted until after the plans for the shelters were finalized. “I wish we weren’t at the end of this process,” she said.

Transit officials are awaiting final approval of federal funds for the project, which could come as early as this fall. Construction of the downtown portions of the BRT could begin next spring.

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