Pittsburgh is now experiencing its third renaissance since overcoming the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s, according to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl (inset photo). After decades of decline, the city's population is now rebounding, according to the latest Census figures, with young people staying and working in Pittsburgh rather than leaving after graduating from area colleges and universities, Ravenstahl said. Growth has put a coordinated traffic plan on the top of the city's agenda, and in March it won a Smarter Cities Challenge grant to study rail, bus, auto, bicycle and walking path options. IBM's Challenge Grant team recently wrapped up its report.
"They walked our streets, rode our buses, visited our economic development zones and saw our pilot projects and, as a result, they developed valuable recommendations that we'll use to plan our future transportation system," Ravenstahl told attendees of the November 15 Smarter Cities Challenge Summit in Palisades, N.Y.
In one example, IBM recommended better sharing of information and expanded use of sensor-based systems. A "Park PGH" program, for example, gives drivers access to real-time information on parking availability, but it's currently limited to a few sensor-equipped lots. In another example, the city this year reduced traffic congestion in an economic development zone by 20% by using smart, computer-coordinated traffic signals. That project was spearheaded by Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University, and the mayor said he wants the technology installed citywide.
"The technology changes the light from red to green when it needs to be changed, and it eliminates one of my pet peeves, which is paying police officers to change traffic signals when they're better suited to the more important work of keeping us safe," Ravenstahl said.