Guest Blog on “Let’s talk about more stations in the Hill District!”

By Ricardo Solis, Community Initiatives Manager
Pittsburgh has a lot of hills. Shocking, right? When we launched back in 2015 people thought bikeshare would never work in Pittsburgh: “There’s too many hills!”, they told us. Thankfully, people did ride; a lot. But of course it’s no surprise that stations in our hillier neighborhoods don’t always perform as well as those in our flat-ish neighborhoods. Turns out, moving around hilltop communities by bike is not always easy, especially when your bike is 50+ lbs. Since we started bikeshare, serving Pittsburgh’s many hilltop communities has presented a serious challenge for us. Even if people are willing to ride down the hill, not many folks want to ride back up it, creating a one-way travel problem for our riders and a whole lot of work for our bike rebalancers.
Thus, not too many hilltop neighborhoods received stations. We launched with a single station in the Hill District, which is currently located on Centre Ave right outside the Thelma Lovette YMCA entrance. Not only were the hills surrounding the community a challenge, but the station also remained quite isolated from other stations in the network. We struggled to connect more Hill District residents to bikes with the current Healthy Ride system. But we remained dedicated to one day building more bikeshare connections in the Hill District for both in-neighborhood trips and also trips outside of the neighborhood.
And then came the availability of e-assist bikes! As we upgrade our system in 2022, we’ll include e-assist bikes; we hope to better serve the Hill District and other hilltop communities that face Pittsburgh’s hilly challenges with this relatively new technology to bikeshare programs. E-assist bikes give the rider the boost they need to roll up any Pittsburgh hill without breaking a sweat, and break down barriers for more riders to consider biking as a recreational activity or transportation option. And so, we’re excited to talk about adding 2 more stations in the Hill District in 2022!
And so we begin our community outreach. We had the opportunity to join the Department of Mobility and infrastructure (DOMI) in their latest meeting regarding transportation and mobility in the Hill District. They are working hard to make your community a safe place for people of all ages and abilities when it comes to mobility. As part of this meeting, they welcomed Oboi Reed, President & CEO, The Equiticity Racial Equity Movement as a Guest Speaker to talk about racial equity, transportation, and micro mobility. While we are already HUGE fans of Oboi’s, in case you’re unfamiliar: Equiticity advocates for racial equity throughout all forms of government and mainstream organizations operating at the local or national level. They work to increase access to effective, efficient, sustainable, shared and active forms of mobility for people of color across the U.S.. And greater operational levels of racial justice and accountability for the local and national institutions committing acts of structural violence against people of color. In Oboi’s presentation, he talked about how mobility and racial justice can make lives better for Black, Brown and Indigenous people of color across the United States. He mentions that increasing equitable mobility and the right infrastructure can help reduce barriers, disrupt the status quo and can have an Impact in the communities, and the possibility to improve health, create jobs, reduce violence, and make neighborhoods and cities more liveable.
Oboi was a hard act to follow given his knowledge and passion for this work, but I was joined by our Executive Director, David White, to talk with residents and stakeholders in detail about why we are replacing stations in preparation for our system upgrade, and what this means for the Hill District. In 2022, we are proposing new options for additional stations in the Hill District to make biking in the Hill easier and more convenient.

These station locations under consideration in the Hill District come from evaluating a variety of factors:

1. Physical characteristics at the location – Is there enough open space for a station to fit in the location? Is it visible and useful? Is it in a safe location that doesn’t restrict pedestrians or other traffic? Does it have access to a power source? 2. Community Engagement Input – What locations do residents ask for most often/support? What locations can increase access to local businesses? Is the adjacent property an organization we’ve partnered with in the past. 3. Access and usability – Could this station location improve riders’ access to bus service? Jitney service? Is it located near a destination that serves the local community? 4. E-Assist Bikes – Could this station location help folks travel up steeper inclines via e-assist bicycles – particularly sites that would be difficult for bus service or pedestrians to walk up. Thankfully, the station at the entrance of the Thelma Lovette YMCA will remain. While we do need to move this station slightly to accommodate a larger station, the plan is to move the YMCA station from its current location, and install it at the opposite side of the main entrance.

As we expand throughout 2022, we will evaluate adding 2 additional stations in the Hill District. Potential station locations for consideration in the Hill include:

  • Supermarket Parking Lot near the future Salem’s Grocery Store – This station has potential access to power. This location provides convenient access to the Hill House, supermarket, and the Elsie Hillman Auditorium.
  • Centre & Heldman just outside of Communitea – This location has access to power, is located at a popular intersection, and requires minimum site prep work. This location also provides convenient access to other key businesses. However, this location does remove some metered, on-street parking spots.
  • Bedford & Memory Ln adjacent to the community pool – Near Bedford Dwelling Apartments, Ammon Community Recreation Center. Neighborhood station. Enough space to locate on the sidewalk – no parking removed.
  • Kennard Playground – Recreational? Can park and bike? City plans to add bike lanes on Kirkpatrick St, making this a safe connection between the South Side & Hill District.
  • Chauncy St steps – Connection Chauncy St. stairs. City wants to improve this intersection by adding curb extensions and introducing a mobility hub.

The map below shows the YMCA location in green, and other potential locations in yellow:

Now, we would like to hear from all Hill District residents on their thoughts about our proposed stations. That’s why we created a survey that shows the current stations being proposed, and that will allow residents to provide feedback and even suggest new locations. You can access the survey here. Feel free to share it with your neighbors! Have a great day and stay cool… I mean, warm!