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Release Date: Wednesday, September 23rd 2015

A new survey explores reducing congestion in Pittsburgh

Make My Trip Count asks what it would take to get people out of their cars

If we’re headed in the wrong direction environmentally, one big reason is how we travel: mostly in cars and trucks, alone, through heavy traffic. Transportation accounts for 28 percent of total U.S. energy use, and a similar percentage of the emissions that cause climate change — not to mention its share of pollutants that make air unhealthy to breathe. Roadways and vast parking lots gobble valuable downtown real estate, pave countryside and let stormwater wash pollutants into our waters, even as the ease of travel they’re designed for dwindles, and congestion keeps rising.

For instance, while Pittsburgh isn’t unusually congested for a big city, according to Texas A&M University’s annual “Urban Mobility Scorecard,” commuters here spend an average of 39 hours a year stuck in traffic, costing each of them $889 in fuel and time. Nationally, we average 42 hours of staring at brake lights. That’s more than doubled since 1982, when the figure was just 18 hours.

“Congestion,” the report notes, “is also a type of tax.”

A new initiative here addresses the problem. The online survey Make My Trip Count focuses on commuters, particularly those in the employment centers of Downtown and Oakland. The joint effort of Mayor Peduto’s office and groups, including the Green Building Alliance, the Pittsburgh 2030 District and Envision Downtown, launched last week. One goal is to help Downtown and Oakland employers and building owners participating in the 2030 District cut energy and water use by half by the year 2030. A complementary goal, says Envision Pittsburgh’s Sean Luther, is to improve mobility and livability Downtown, with its growing residential population. Longer-term, says Green Building Alliance’s Aurora Sharrard, survey results could help policy-makers answer the question “How can we serve most people better?” More.

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