Utility Siloes Part 2

 

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Dismantling in progress (6/24/2018)

 

After continued observations, I need to modify some of my assumptions in the post Utility Siloes.  It turns out that the existence of the other utility wires attached to the poles does not prevent the old poles from being removed.  Instead, weeks after a new utility pole is installed, the remainder of the deteriorated pole is removed except for the chunk where the other wires are attached.

 

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Close-up of the dismantling (6/24/2018)

Perhaps the crew that removes poles is different than the crew that installs them.  Although, the installation team is able to lob off the top of the old pole after they transfer the wires to the new one.  Why then can’t they dismantle the rest of the pole at the same time?  And in the case of constricted locations, such as the feature of these posts, why can’t they located the new pole in the same location as the old one?

 

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Dismantling Complete (6/30/2018)

 

 

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View of another dismantled pole, the remaining chunk is secured to the new pole by a rope.

 

 

 

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Out of Sight…

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Trash Train Passing through Pittsburgh

Once a week, I put a bag of trash out at the curb before going to bed.  When I leave for work in the morning, it’s gone.  Poof!

Yesterday, while enjoying the beautiful summer day, the stench of garbage made me look up.  Crossing the railroad bridge, chugged a train full of trash.  I couldn’t see either engine or caboose, only car upon car upon car full of trash.  As I passed under it, smelling the breadth of the aura of stink surrounding the train, my mind imagined all the homes, parks, farms, mountains, forests, and prairies that would be polluted by this rotting mass before it reached its final destination.  A destination that is forever polluted.

I don’t litter.  I recycle when possible (or easy).  I don’t have a newspaper delivered as most of it ends up going straight to my recycle bin, wasting energy and resources.  I try to buy yogurt by the quart instead of single serve to reduce the amount of plastic used.  I plan to compost, one day.  Yet, I had no qualms setting out a bag of garbage every week.

In a corner of my mind, I knew that a truck comes and takes the garbage away to something called a landfill.  And that the garbage will sit there…forever.

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A Storm Drain Treated as a Trash Can

Today, that image of the trash train is causing me to question my behavior.  Is my habit of collecting all my “garbage” in a plastic bag and setting it at my curb for it to find its way to this train and then to a landfill really any better than the person whose habit is to drop their trash on the ground or down a storm drain?  Is a landfill really any better than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Social media is filled with indignation over the trash vortex floating in our ocean, but maybe there should be more discussion and awareness about the rest of our trash: where it goes and what alternatives we have.

Utility Silos

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The obstruction from utility silos

This spring, the electric company went around my neighborhood installing replacement utility poles where the existing ones were on their last leg.  Watching them do this for a pole just down the street from me, I drew some conclusions about the interaction between the various companies that supply the different technologies available at our fingertips.  The electrical company owns the poles and the electric wire, but other companies own the other fiber optics and cables that use the poles.  The electric company installs new poles when the existing ones are deteriorated.  Once installed, they transfer the electric lines to the new pole.  The old pole is left with all the other lines in place, until the companies that own the rest of the lines transfer them to the new pole.

This arrangement seemed relatively harmless as I watched it in action near my house, but then I found the example above.  In this case, the rigidity of the silos and jurisdictions of the various companies created a physical barrier in the neighborhood that will likely be in place for the next 35 years or so, until the pole is ready to be replaced.  This is in direct contradiction to the City’s initiatives for greater accessibility illustrated by the sidewalk curb ramps installed within the last year at the intersections on either side of this pole.

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Close-up showing the curb, the old pole, the new pole, the foot of sidewalk left, and the combined driveways

The choices were limited for siting this new utility pole.  There are driveway curb cuts immediately adjacent on either side.  Therefore, to place the new pole in line with the existing poles would have partially blocked someone’s driveway.  Apparently, the silos are so entrenched that even under unusual circumstances such as these the various companies cannot work together so that a new pole can be placed in the exact same spot as the old pole.  The sidewalk that was already narrow and could not accommodate the recommended 5-foot clearance around obstructions is now nearly impassible and requires pedestrians to cross partially on the driveways.

I do not know if anyone paused before installing this new utility pole to ask if there was a different or better way to approach the situation.  From my experiences at my office in trying to work with others to design an approach that looks at the organization as a whole while still respecting and acknowledging each area of expertise and specialization, it is difficult to get all parties at the table to apply creative thinking and openness to how we can approach our work.  No doubt, even if someone was able to get all relevant parties involved in this utility pole to the table, they would have encountered similar challenges.

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Evidence that the old poles eventually get removed and an example of where a new pole was placed next to the old along side the curb

Dogs in the City

Dogs Chilling in Istanbul

Not being a dog person, I have been fascinated by different dog behaviors and treatment that I have seen in traveling.  In New York City, I was surprised to see people bring their pet dogs onto public transit, both on the metro and on the bus.  I wasn’t sure if this behavior was like eating on the buses in Pittsburgh–it’s not permitted, yet people do it anyway–or if pets are allowed on public transportation in NYC.  It also seemed unusual to me that most of the dogs I saw were small.  But then, thinking it through, I decided it made sense as if you live in a stereotypical tiny New York apartment, you wouldn’t have the space to keep a big dog.

In Pittsburgh, dogs seem to be more like what you would find in suburban areas.  They are often big and they tend to bark a lot and strain toward people they pass on the street.  After coming back from New York City, I realized that you don’t see dogs in downtown Pittsburgh.  However, as more people have moved downtown, dogs on the streets downtown have become much more common.  Including ones that are pushed around in what look like baby strollers, but given how some people feel about pets, they might have been strollers designed for dogs.

Istanbul dogs were quite different from the average dog in America.  I believe most of them were strays, but they appeared to be quite self-sufficient (such as the ones in the photo above).  They minded their own business and let everyone around go about their business.  It was quite refreshing to me to see numerous dogs that did not feel the need to bark their heads off just because someone was walking by.  I regret that I did not get a picture of the most notable dog I passed.  He had a human companion, but no leash, instead he was decked out in sunglasses and other bling like mardi gras beads.

Heth’s Run Bridge: Redux

Heth’s Run Bridge, the first bridge I posted about in my Pittsburgh bridges project, is scheduled to be replaced by the end of next year.  The notice to proceed was expected to be issued last week with construction beginning on Sept. 24 with the installation of a temporary road around the bridge, through the zoo’s parking lot.  According to the schedule that was passed out at a community meeting at the end of August, the bridge is expected to close with all car traffic being diverted to the temporary road on Nov. 1st.  Due to the turning radius constraints with the temporary road, trucks will not be permitted and will instead be by way of the Highland Park Bridge, Route 28 and the 62nd Street Bridge.  If all goes according to schedule the bridge should reopen to all traffic on October 1, 2014.  Additional road work will continue through October.  After final inspections, the project is expected to be officially completed by December 8, 2014.

Heth's Run Bridge's hazardous sidewalk

This is a PennDOT project expected to cost over $18.5 million and is definitely needed.  As I discuss in my Heth’s Run Bridge Part II and Highland Park Bridge posts, the sidewalks here are in desperate need of repair and the proportion of sidewalk to road across the bridge is at least 50 years out of date.  All this is going to be addressed in the reconstruction.  The new bridge is going to have two lanes in each direction to match the roadway on either end.  Additional features of the new bridge will be decorative railing, period lighting, entrance pylons, and “architectural features on the abutments with form liners” (which I believe refers to new urns).  At the community meeting, it was mentioned that the current urns will be saved and kept in a warehouse until a new home is found for them.

In addition to the bridge, about 870 feet of Butler Street are going to be reconstructed including sidewalks.  My understanding is that this is the part of Butler from the Heth’s Run Bridge to the ramps of the Highland Park Bridge, which should take care of my complaints about the condition of the sidewalk for those of us trying to cross the Highland Park Bridge without a car.  This should also clear up the confusion for the outbound traffic of whether this part of the road is one lane or two as the plans include removing the “kink” from the existing alignment.

New signals and ADA ramps will be installed at the intersections of Butler with One Wild Place and with Baker Streets.

Another major part of the project is the excavation under the bridge to an elevation of 762.  According to GoogleEarth, the bridge is at an elevation of 800 ft. I’m not sure if this will restore the bridge to its exact historic height, but it will be close (see the photo of the previous bridge from 1912).  This will also pave the way for connecting this area to the proposed Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard project.

This project will no doubt cause some inconveniences during the construction process, but the construction of the temporary road will significantly cut down on this even though it adds over a month to the process.  Imagine instead, everyone having to go on the truck detour or all the Zoo traffic coming down Morningside Ave and Baker Street instead of One Wild Place and Butler Street.  That would be a true nightmare.  Thank you, PennDOT and the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium for the temporary road.  Thank you, PennDOT and any other funders, Sen. Jim Ferlo, Rep. Dom Costa, and anyone else who had a hand in helping bring about this long overdue project.

I can’t wait to walk over the new bridge when it’s finished!

More information about the project including the design of the temporary road can be found here: http://morningside-pa.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/hethsrunbridge.pdf

A Picture for Posterity

Meter Row

As I was walking down Penn Avenue this week, I stopped to take this picture before it was gone forever.  Pittsburgh is joining the ranks of cities that use multispace meter systems.  The city’s individual parking meters are slowly disappearing as they are replaced by the multispace system.  Yet even before the transition began, Pittsburgh’s parking meters were suffering.  A complete row of intact meters marching off into the distance, such as those pictured, has been a rare sight in the city for years.  Usually there are at least a few with their heads chopped off or their stalks bent.  On close inspection, this row did have graffiti on many of the heads and at least one meter was out of order.  However, in the spring sunshine, these meters looked almost pristine with their gold heads gleaming.

Manhattan Bridge: A Multimodal Link

The Manhattan Bridge

When I was planning my walk across the Brooklyn Bridge while in New York City last December, I noticed there was a bridge nearby called the Manhattan Bridge.  I decided to cross to Brooklyn by the Manhattan Bridge and return to Manhattan by the Brooklyn Bridge.  The Manhattan Bridge ended up being the more interesting of the two bridges.

Gateway to the Manhattan Bridge

I found my way from the subway stop to the Manhattan Bridge by following the way-finding signs for the bike lanes in the Lower East End.   This brought me to the left side of the bridge, where I was temporarily upset to see that pedestrians were not permitted to use the sidewalk on that side of the bridge–it was dedicated to two-way bicycle traffic.  I was concerned that I was not going to be able to walk across this bridge and instead would have to cross the Brooklyn Bridge twice (I try to avoid walking across a bridge just to walk back across it; doing so gives me a sense of pointlessness).  Luckily, there are sidewalks on both sides of this bridge (from walking Pittsburgh bridges I know not to assume that bridges have sidewalks on two sides) and the sidewalk on the right side is dedicated to pedestrians.

I suggest that NYC puts up a sign on the bicycle side to direct pedestrians to the other side, which might help encourage pedestrians to follow the traffic directions set up on this bridge–I watched a pedestrian ignore the bicycle-only signs to cross the bridge on the bike lanes.

The Pedestrian Side

This bridge is the most multimodal bridge I have walked with the bike lanes on one side, pedestrian way on the other, and the subway and roadway in between.  While I approve of this welcoming of alternative transportation methods, I am not sure about placing the pedestrians next to the subway tracks.  This does give a barrier between the pedestrians and the noise of the cars, but instead, the pedestrians have to deal with the noise of the subway, which while it is less constant than the cars, it is a little more startling/disturbing.

The Manhattan Side The Brooklyn Bridge

The neighborhoods the Manhattan Bridge links had some similar physical elements, but are clearly used by different populations.  The populations on both the Manhattan and Brooklyn sides use their rooftops, but for different purposes.  On the Manhattan side, the rooftops were covered in graffiti, while the Brooklyn rooftops had new additions and places to sit.  There were also parks on both sides of the East River.  However, the Manhattan side only had a baseball diamond while the Brooklyn side had a carousel and a pirate-ship playground.

Manhattan side park

Carosel Pirate Ship Playground

What intrigues me most about the Manhattan Bridge is that I had never seen or heard of it before and yet it is the bridge shown in the background (multiple times) in the Doctor Who episode “The Angels Take Manhattan.”  Based on my walk on the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, it looks like these shots were taken on the Brooklyn side of the river, in which case it seems like it possible to get the Brooklyn Bridge in the background instead as these two are close together on that side.  To me the images of the Brooklyn Bridge say New York, while (at least before I walked it) images of the Manhattan Bridge just say a place with a bridge and hence water.  I wonder if the Manhattan Bridge is better known in the UK than in my circle?

View like that used in Doctor Who