NEXT Up: Kristin Saunders

Kristin Saunders

Kristin Saunders heading through the Strip to catch the 28x. Photo: Anna Muessig.

Kristin Saunders manages the City of Pittsburgh’s bicycle and pedestrian program (talk about a cool and important job!), which includes long-range planning, design, project selection, public outreach, stakeholder coordination, and financing. With a background in architecture, Kristin is passionate about designing public spaces that support an ever-changing urban environment. Kristin previously worked in San Francisco as a project manager and designer for Gehl Studio and Rebar Art and Design Studio, both global leaders in people-centered design.

We encourage our readers to take Kristin’s lead and get out there and enjoy Pittsburgh’s numerous biking and pedestrian options—for both commuting and recreation.

Monday, December 12

On Monday at 8 a.m. I will be navigating a new commute to work! After living in West Allegheny for two years, I recently purchased a house in Upper Lawrenceville and moved in over the weekend. Although I have spent time in the area, I have rarely had the need to bike all the way from Upper Lawrenceville to downtown Pittsburgh in one swoop! I love riding through the Strip at any time of the day, but especially during the commuting hours when I share the street with so many other cyclists on their way to work—it really feels like I am part of a community. Also, I like to see the shops opening for the day.

Kristin Saunders

Kristin Saunders. Photo: Audrey Nieh.

Once through the Strip, I will take the Penn Avenue Bike Lane to get into the heart of downtown with many other Pittsburgh commuters.

Today I am getting a lesson in Cartegraph, the city’s asset mapping software. There has been a huge effort over the last two years to coordinate all of the city’s assets into one system. This entails citywide data collection on everything from the condition of our streets, to planning projects such as the Pittsburgh Steps and the Pittsburgh Bike Plan. In transportation, we use this system to coordinate the city’s street projects. With the adoption of Pittsburgh’s Complete Streets Policy, the city is looking for overlapping projects. For example, when the city is repaving a street, we look for ways to implement improvements for pedestrians, transit riders and bicyclists during repaving. Technology and mapping allow us to catch these overlaps and use the city’s funds more efficiently.

Once a week, I have a meeting with the city’s transportation team. This includes representation from the Department of Public Works, Mayor’s Office, Office of Management and Budget, and City Planning. This week is our “Planning and Financing” meeting. This is my kind of fun.

My parents are in town from St. Louis to help me with home renovation projects. As an architect, I am excited to change my home environment after living in so many rentals. However, I don’t have a lot of actual construction experience and will spend the week picking my dad’s brain!

Beyond working on the house, we will check out my new neighborhood’s food options such as Pusadee’s Garden.

Tuesday, December 13

Pittsburgh’s downtown streets are going through many changes. Our partners at Envision Downtown, Port Authority and Riverlife are working hard to make Pittsburgh’s public spaces more inviting and accessible for all residents. One of the city’s major projects is the GAP to the Point, which will connect the Great Allegheny Passage to Point State Park through downtown with protected bike lanes.

Kristin Saunders

City Planning’s marathon relay team, Searching for Complete Streets.

In Pittsburgh, we have a design goal of installing the types of bicycle facilities that families would feel comfortable riding with their children and we see protected bike lanes as a major part of that mix. Projects such as this propose major changes to how people have historically used Pittsburgh’s streets, and so we try to mitigate and communicate these changes the best we can. To that end, I am meeting with many stakeholders and property owners along the route one-on-one to understand any concerns or coordination issues. Today I am meeting with the Allegheny Conference, Point Park University and one of the apartment buildings on Fort Pitt Boulevard.

This evening I will meet my parents at Butterjoint for the Donations and Libations fundraising event. All cash tips this month go to Pittsburgh’s hardworking bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group, Bike Pittsburgh. There is a good chance I’ll take the bus there because the transit connection between Downtown and Oakland makes it so convenient, and who doesn’t want to be on a cozy bus when it is cold outside?

Wednesday, December 14

After mastering my third day of a new commute, I have a wee bit of needed office time to prepare for this evening’s public meeting. I am also meeting with Councilman Daniel Lavelle’s office to go over the design details of the GAP to the Point project.

At 3 p.m., City Planning is having our holiday social! I can only stay for a bit because I have to get to Point Park University to set up for tonight’s meeting.

6 p.m.: Meeting time! Join us at Point Park to hear all about the project.

Thursday, December 15

9 a.m.: I am starting my day in Lawrenceville at Bike Pittsburgh’s offices to talk about improvements to the way we collaborate on bicycle education and outreach. Over the last few months I have been working on the Pittsburgh Bike Plan. Often, residents don’t hear about bike projects until they are happening in front of their homes or businesses, and we are working hard to publish a bike plan to ensure that we are sharing the big picture of increased mobility options for all Pittsburgh residents.

2 p.m.: The city received a $10.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to install a variety of intelligent transportation systems. This technology will improve connections between the city’s neighborhoods and major centers of employment, education and healthcare through the installation of real-time adaptive signals. Today, city staff are meeting with the manufacturers of the smart signals, Traffic 21, to coordinate the project and discuss how the new signals will help pedestrians, people with disabilities, transit riders, and bicyclists.

Playing in public space. Photo: Jason Dorsey.

Kristin Saunders and Nenha Martin playing in public space. Photo: Jason Dorsey.

7 p.m.: This evening, I am having a dinner party to thank some very generous and super strong friends who helped me move into my house. Thanks!

Friday, December 16

11 a.m.: We are kicking off another federally funded grant project, the Southside Neighborhood Street, with an in-the-field meeting with PennDOT. This project will improve the public space along a connected route through the South Side flats with traffic calming, plantings, changes to the street’s geometry, new pedestrian-scale lighting, and the most exciting: A new public path UNDER the Birmingham Bridge near Ormsby Park. This type of project is called a “Neighborhood Street,” and will transform the street into an inviting public space for all users. We are working closely with Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority‘s stormwater team to identify locations where new plantings can improve the water system. After a short presentation, the city’s team will bundle up and walk PennDOT engineers through the project.

Tonight is Chuck’s holiday party: no one loves Pittsburgh more than my friend Chuck. In addition to a cozy atmosphere, last year there was a game with prizes to name Pittsburgh bridges from photographs—only the bridge’s official name counts, of course.

Saturday, December 17

This is quite boring news for the purpose of this publication . . . but I am quite excited to work on construction projects all day!

I love Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and going to the Winter Flower Show and Light Garden is always really beautiful and a positive way to make the most out of winter’s dark evenings!

Sunday, December 18

In addition to housework, I want to show my parents my new neighborhood. We will have brunch at B52 and then check out my friend Sarah’s café, Café D’Amore. Then, back to work!

See who else is NEXT Up here.

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