Pittsburgh’s Future in Transit: Assessing Mayoral Candidates’ Transit Promises

#VoteTransit: Public Transit is a Mayoral Issue

Local transit initiatives have the power to map Pittsburgh’s future cityscape, and along with it, improve housing equity and economic growth for all residents.

While federal transit funding makes headlines as a hot-button issue in national politics, the power of local governments to bring big improvements for transit riders should not be underestimated. According to the TransitCenter, a nonprofit that works with transit agencies and advocates across the country, local government has substantial power over public transit:

“[Local government] controls how the street is used and how new development connects with transportation systems,”

All Transportation is Local, by TransitCenter, published 2017

Our #VoteTransit campaign will work to educate elected officials on these powers and organize with residents to push for our four priorities; we support public transit instead of venture-backed mobility companies, we want safe and accessible connections to public transit, we want faster and more effective transit, and we want zoning and legislation to support transit use.

Strong public transit needs to be at the center of any Mayoral plans to improve housing affordability, economic prosperity, public health, and quality of life. We reviewed the transit promises and policies of candidates Ed Gainey (D) and Tony Moreno (R) so voters can make informed decisions about the future of transit and pressure the future mayor to keep their promises. See what they’re saying below.

If public transit access is important to you, sign up here and pledge to #VoteTransit.

How can you #VoteTransit & bring improvements to PGH’s public transit?

First things first, if we want to get a transit advocate into the Mayor’s office we must register to vote. The registration deadline to vote in the General Election is October 18th. Submit your easy online voter registration here. Continue to read up on the candidates and make your plan for how you’ll get to the polls on November 2nd. Polls are open between 7am & 8pm. Find your polling place here. Voting from home? You can request a mail-in ballot until October 26th at 5:00pm and return it to the county board of elections by 8:00pm on Election Day.

Next, sign the #VoteTransit pledge to show that transit will be on your mind when you go to the ballot box on election day. Stand with riders to say that we want elected officials who will do all they can in office to build better public transit systems for all.

Our organizing can’t stop at the ballot box. Pittsburghers for Public Transit is building out our platform of specific policies that we want our mayor to implement in their first 100-days, and we need your ideas. From sidewalk investment to affordable housing, to new bus shelters; there is a lot that the Mayor’s office can do to improve transit for city residents. Take this quick survey to add your ideas for how the Mayor can improve transit and join us for our next campaign meeting every other Tuesday. 

And finally, before you go, PPT members put together a presentation on what the City can do to improve Public Transit. We’re bringing it around to different community groups, churches, and neighborhood organizations to host discussions about how we can organize together for better transit. If you want PPT to come talk with your members about public transit organizing, fill out this form and we’ll be in touch!

Let’s look at how mayoral candidates’ promises to transit riders stack up to PPT’s #VoteTransit priorities:

Pittsburghers for Public Transit is a non-partisan 501c3 non-profit organization. We are not endorsing or supporting either candidate. We work to make public transit work for all Pittsburghers.

Even though our transit system is operated by the county, there’s actually a lot that the City of Pittsburgh can do to improve (or harm) Pittsburghers’ access to public transit. Pittsburghers for Public Transit has identified these 4 areas where the Mayor of Pittsburgh has significant ability to improve transit and stand up for our #VoteTransit priorities:

1. We want Mayoral support for public transit over venture-backed private mobility companies.

2. We want comfortable, accessible and safe pedestrian and bicycle connections to public transit.

3. We want infrastructure to ensure effective and faster public transit.

4. We want legislation and zoning that supports transit use.

PPT analyzed comments that both candidates made through the spring primary and fall general election seasons to see how both candidates view public transit, affordable housing, walking, and biking, (The bottom of this blog has a full list of the sources we reviewed. As a note: Tony Moreno switched his party to run again in the General Election, but his platform and talking points remained the same, so we are including them both in this overview).

Compared to Moreno, Gainey seems to have a better grasp of the scope of issues related to transit and has made some significant promises like bus stop improvements, bus bump-outs, and sidewalk improvements. Moreno sees car infrastructure as better for business than pedestrian or bike infrastructure, stating “bike lanes save lives, but not at the cost of ruining commerce.” 

Both candidates have room for improvement and could be more specific about the policies they would promote and enact in office.

Ed Gainey (D):

1. Rep. Gainey has consistently supported funding public transit over venture backed private mobility companies:

  • Opposes privatized transportation systems, including the Mon-Oakland connector. (VEEEM Q&A; Gainey’s website)
  • Wants to partner with community stakeholders on transit issues, including Allegheny County and Port Authority. (City Paper; BikePGH; Just Harvest)
  • Believes the city lacks transit funding, and wants to make funding more available (City Paper); also wants to ensure Port Authority funding. (Just Harvest)
  • Would fight for fair funding by joining allies in Harrisburg. (BikePGH; Gainey’s website)
  • He is against private transportation, and said that “transportation [should be] free.” (Pittsburgh United)
  • Wants to educate the community about environmental racism. (City Paper)
  • Will pursue continued investment in electric fleets for buses and city vehicles. (Pittsburgh United; BikePGH)

2. Rep. Gainey has committed to making pedestrian and bike connections to transit comfortable, accessible, and safe:

  • “I’ll work to create safe pedestrian corridors for kids that connect schools and childcare providers to parks and school bus/transit stops.” (BikePGH)
  • Plans to make bus stop improvements, bus bump outs, sidewalk improvements. (BikePGH)
  • States that his top priorities for infrastructure investments are to make things easier for people with mobility impairments, or people that use wheelchairs and strollers. (BikePGH)
  • “I believe that everyone […] should have one or more safe, affordable, and enjoyable ways of getting to work, school, parks, grocery stores, doctors offices, and other basic necessities without needing to rely on a car.” (BikePGH)
  • Promised bus stop improvements, bus bump outs and sidewalk improvements. (BikePGH)
  • Wants to “maintain the City’s commitment to Vision Zero to eliminate transportation fatalities and serious injuries” which includes reducing police presence. (Gainey’s website; BikePGH)
  • Will create pedestrian corridors at schools/childcare facilities. (Gainey’s website)

3. Rep. Gainey appears to support effective and faster transit, but has not made substantial commitments:

  • Wants “neighborhoods with the greatest need [to] receive mobility improvements that better connect residents to opportunities.” (BikePGH)
  • Wants to be on top of transportation disruptions due to utility improvements or new development. (BikePGH)
  • Supports high-speed transit, statewide, i.e. Harrisburg to Philly. (City Paper)
  • Will collect resident feedback through the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure. (Gainey’s website)
  • Will work to ensure that city services are effective. For example, ensuring that the City of Pittsburgh Public Works Department has proper equipment for snow plowing. (WESA)

4. Rep. Gainey’s position on legislation and zoning that supports transit use emphasizes connections between housing, jobs, and transit:

  • Identifies “Transit accessibility, food access, and proximity to educational, recreational, and employment opportunities” as “critically important” to developing affordable housing (Design for Pittsburgh)
  • Wants to create better transit to job centers. (City Paper)
  • Wants to set up transportation infrastructure from “urban areas” to where job markets are, specifically commercial centers with service jobs like Robinson. (City Paper, PGH United Forum)
  • Wants to demand community benefit agreements with developers. (Gainey’s website)
  • Wants to expand affordable housing, particularly into transit-rich neighborhoods, and protect neighborhoods from predatory development. (Gainey’s website)
  • Will increase affordable housing where there is existing transit. (BikePGH)
  • Wants to center equity in transit investments (Gainey’s website) and promises to work with community development in the neighborhood to make sure development is working with the fabric of the neighborhood, and not just gentrifying it. (WESA)

Tony Moreno

1. Moreno is against the Mon-Oakland Connector, but whether he generally supports public transit over venture-back private mobility companies is unclear.

  • Against the Mon-Oakland Connector because it would worsen class divides and drive gentrification in Hazelwood and Greenwood. (The Homepage)
  • At the same time, Moreno consistently prioritizes infrastructure for cars in the city over bike and public transit infrastructure; also supports fossil fuels and fracking.  (PublicSource)

2. Moreno has commented that he wants to increase pedestrian connections to transit, and amenities at bus stops. However, he has been a staunch opponent of expanding bike connections to transit stops & jobs:

  • To improve food access, “Target stops for improvement of, or construction of, bus shelters” and “Repair city steps closest to bus stops first, then follow-up with all others city-wide.” (Just Harvest)
  • Discussions of transportation do not include transit: “The need for transportation options must include all venues from private vehicles to walking must be taken into account.” (Design for Pittsburgh)
  • Sees bike lanes as competing with commerce: “I’ll say it as many times as I can: bike lanes save lives, but not at the cost of ruining commerce. There’s some areas where you don’t need bike lanes…There’s no reason to lay a bike lane down Penn Avenue, when there’s nobody that’s riding their bike to any of those restaurants there.” (City Paper)
  • Believes bike lanes are not about safety, and are about removing the motor vehicle from inside the city. (Casa San Jose)
  • Did not respond to BikePGH’s Mayoral questionnaire

3. Moreno seems to have a limited understanding of current transit infrastructure difficulties. When asked directly about how he would address transit infrastructure, he commented on lessening downtown traffic. He proposes making bus-only lanes by bringing in more police to patrol the streets:

  • Seems to view transit optimizaiton more about reducing traffic for drivers. Part of his proposal: “you put those bus routes on a circular pattern around those same four streets that I said (Grand Street, Stanwix, Boulevard of the Allies, and Fort Duquesne) and make those run on a steady basis with the police officers they’re allowing those buses to go through and creating a bus lane that is a true bus lane only.” (City Paper)
  • Believes traffic police officers are also key to reducing traffic. (City Paper)
  • To improve food access, wants to “Utilize the community leaders and target underserved neighborhoods for improved bus access.” (Just Harvest)

4. Moreno identifies gentrification as an issue, but he does not bring forward many zoning policies or propose legislation to address affordability & increase transit use.

  • Concerned about making the city convenient for private cars to get into and out of the city than improving infrastructure for bikes and transit: “You can’t get rid of vehicles. We know that for sure. They’re not going anywhere.” (City Paper)
  • Does not mention anything about public transit or affordable housing in his “Plan for Pittsburgh” published on his campaign’s website. (Tony Moreno’s campaign website)

Pledge to #VoteTransit on November 2nd!

Sources that reviewed to compile candidate’s statements on public transit.