Mobility Optimization Along Smart Spines

Building a Backbone for the Future

The “Smart Spine” corridors connect Pittsburgh’s densest population centers to Downtown and Oakland, the second and third largest employment hubs in the state where 50% of our region’s residents work. Deploying advanced technology like real-time adaptive traffic signals and vehicle-to-vehicle communication at key intersections in Pittsburgh is an important part of SmartPGH. It provides the foundation for connectivity and automation that will improve mobility and make streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.

Casey Buta, cyclist

“This is the most bike friendly city I’ve ever lived in.”
— Casey Buta

Much of the flow of Pittsburgh happens not on freeways, but on boulevards and avenues laid out before people drove cars. Controlling traffic that flows through so many neighborhoods and business districts is a challenge. In response to this challenge, technology was developed at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) specifically to manage rights-of-way for dense urban environments. The Scalable Urban Traffic Control program (Surtrac) aims to control traffic and reduce vehicle emissions by decreasing the amount of time cars idle at intersections. It was implemented in 2012 with a handful of intersections in East Liberty, but it now encompasses 50 intersections. Future plans include integrating Surtrac with Port Authority of Allegheny County bus fleets’ onboard Clever Device system.

Aggregate idle time at Surtrac intersections decreased by 40% while emissions decreased by 21%.

In addition to outfitting “Smart Spines” with adaptive signal technology and sensors, the City is also making physical upgrades to intersections within these areas.

  • Bigelow Boulevard is one of the primary connection points between Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland, the education and healthcare center of the City, home to both the University of Pittsburgh and CMU, and the third largest job center in Pennsylvania.
  • Second Avenue (Irvine Street) extends from Downtown Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River valley. Within city limits, Second Avenue connects Downtown to the Hazelwood neighborhood and the ALMONO development site.
  • Forbes and Fifth Avenues are two major thoroughfares in the city. They travel through the Uptown neighborhood, one of the lowest-income neighborhoods of the City. A Bus Rapid Transit system and Surtrac technology deployment are planned for these intersections.
  • Liberty Avenue is one of the primary thoroughfares connecting Downtown with the East End. Liberty Avenue serves as a major transit and biking corridor and is the site of a large number of the crashes that occur in the East End.
  • Centre Avenue connects Downtown Pittsburgh to the Hill District and extends to the existing Surtrac deployment area in East Liberty. As one of Pittsburgh’s oldest neighborhoods, the Hill has long been one of the centers of African American culture in the City.
  • Saw Mill Run Boulevard/Route 51 is a major artery connecting the City of Pittsburgh to suburban neighbors in the South and West, for a distance of nearly 90 miles.