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Pittsburgh officials anxiously await transportation study results |
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Pittsburgh officials anxiously await transportation study results

Traffic flows down Penn Avenue in East Liberty on Tuesday, Dec. A CMU-created robotic traffic signal system is used at nine intersections in the neighborhood, with the signals sending one another information about traffic flow. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Traffic flows down Penn Avenue in East Liberty, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. A CMU-created robotic traffic signal system is used in the neighborhood. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh officials expect good things at minimal cost from a transportation study by technology giant IBM.

Six IBM experts from across the globe spent three weeks in Pittsburgh last year, scrutinizing transportation systems, and will provide the city a detailed report of their findings and recommendations early this year.

IBM provided the expertise, valued at $400,000, for free as part of its Smarter Cities Challenge grant program.

No one is sure what IBM might recommend.

The company offered a hint in October with preliminary findings that suggested expanding things such as robotic traffic lights in East Liberty and the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s smart-card system for paying fares on buses and light-rail transit.

“What they’re saying is, ‘You guys are actually advanced, because you’ve got a smart-card program, but here’s a lot of things you can do to improve that smart-card system,’ ” said Stan Caldwell, deputy executive director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Traffic 21 program and T-Set University Transportation Centers.

He said IBM might suggest that city officials work more closely with universities to develop high-tech transportation ideas, such as the traffic signal system that Carnegie Mellon developed for East Liberty.

Traffic signals at nine intersections give information on vehicle flow. The systems automatically change to red or green lights, to better manage the flow.

Caldwell said the system reduced wait times 40 percent at lights and cut vehicle emissions by 21 percent.

Todd Reidbord, president of Shadyside development company Walnut Capital, which developed the former Nabisco plant in Larimer into a high-tech center called Bakery Square, said his tenants are looking for alternative transportation programs. He said it would be easy and inexpensive to start a bike-share program, placing bicycles around the city for commuters to use.

“Their recommendations will help guide us to smarter decisions in the future,” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said of the IBM study. “What excites me the most is (that) they’re not going to come back with recommendations for things that need significant amounts of funding.”

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or [email protected].

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