Will the Golden Triangle be off limits to cars, buses and trolleys? Will T riders have to walk to their Downtown businesses from Station Square? Will anyone who has to transfer buses Downtown to get to work in other parts of the city have to call off? How will students and faculty get to Point Park University, City High, CAPA or the Pittsburgh Culinary Institute?
With the G-20 summit, and its security restrictions of a three-block restricted area around the David L. Lawrence Convention Center just a month away, the answer is—nobody knows.
Port Authority Transit spokesman Jim Ritchie said the agency could only make the most general plans until it hears from the Secret Service.
“We understand this is a sensitive situation. They will probably tell us at the last minute where we can and cannot go. We’ll probably be limited to a small area of Downtown, but it’s possible we may not be allowed in the Golden Triangle at all.”
“We understand this is a sensitive situation. They will probably tell us at the last minute where we can and cannot go,” he said. “We’ll probably be limited to a small area of Downtown, but it’s possible we may not be allowed in the Golden Triangle at all.”
Ritchie said the authority is in the process of contacting major employers and schools with a large number of employees and students, to try to establish a central point of contact. But without any word from federal authorities, very little can be done. He said he’s not even sure how much notice of route changes he’ll be able to give customers.
“Obviously the Secret Service is playing it close to the vest, but we’re anticipating having at least a week’s notice,” said Ritchie. “Then again, we could get word a week ahead of time saying where we can go, and then get a call the day before saying you’re not allowed here anymore.”
Some businesses, educational and government agencies have already decided that the G-20 will be so disruptive that they will shut down during the two-day event. Among these are the Allegheny County courts and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
“I’m told a lot of places are scaling back, some by as much as 80 percent during those two days,” said Ritchie. “Multiply that out and we’re going to see a drop in ridership. We just don’t know how much.”
Ritchie said to his knowledge there have been no discussions about compensating the authority or any other business for revenue lost during the summit.
Eric Montarti, senior policy analyst for the Allegheny Institute on Public Policy, said even though there have been 11 G-20 meetings, three of them “Leadership Summits” like the one coming to Pittsburgh, no one has done an economic impact analysis of these meetings, so determining whether revenues lost to work shut-downs or even vandalism are outweighed by future business development from the summit highlighting the city is impossible.
“It’s all speculation, because we don’t know what the restrictions are,” he said. A lot of people are erring on the side of caution and telling people to work from home. But how well can you show off the city if there’s nowhere to go and no way to get there?”
Urban League of Pittsburgh spokesperson Mary Kay Dietrich said the agency’s Downtown offices, two blocks for the convention center, would close at noon on Sept. 23.
“If we can’t get clients into the office, it doesn’t make sense,” she said. “As for our Downtown employees, we’re still working through all our options on a program-by-program basis.”
Pierce Miller, president of the Pittsburgh Culinary Institute said his business—also two blocks from the convention center—students, and graduates working in local restaurants are all being blindsided by G-20 transportation uncertainties.
“We’re canceling classes from (Sept. 23-25) because most of our students use public transportation,” he said. “But we also have a dorm at Fifth Avenue Place that may be affected, so I’m telling those students to go home. Plus, we have a whole new class scheduled to come in the following Monday—when do they have time to move in?”
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