Rendering courtesy of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.

Do you have strong opinions about the future of commuting? Our leaders want to hear them.

Starting today, the SmartMoves for a Changing Region draft plan is available for public comment.

What is SmartMoves for a Changing Region?

It’s the report where the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission lays out our most critical transit and infrastructure needs over the next 25 years, something the organization is required to update every four years.

The draft plan is based on interviews with civic leaders and community groups carried out over the past several months.

Got it. But what’s the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission?

They’re a federally funded organization tasked with overseeing the disbursement of state and federal transit development funds in the 10 counties that make up Southwestern PA. The organization also coordinates between the dozens of municipalities that make up our proud section of the state.

Rendering courtesy of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.

OK. What’s in this year’s report?

The plan takes a holistic approach to public transit, with specific construction projects listed along with broader goals like building resilience to climate change and including more rural and underserved communities in decisions pertaining to public works.

Many of the projects are already funded and underway. Others are currently “beyond fiscal capacity” — meaning there’s no funding for them right now — but they’re considered critical to the region’s success and appear on the report “to illustrate additional priority projects in need of funding.”

A few notable projects highlighted in the report include the following:

— The Downtown to Oakland Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, which has the full support of the city and county but is still awaiting funds from Washington, D.C.

Safety improvements along East Carson Street, which PennDOT and the City of Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure began earlier this year.

— The long-running improvement of State Route 228 in Butler County, which received a federal grant of $20 million in January.

So they want my opinion. How can I comment?

Once you’ve read through the report, you can submit comments online until June 7 or you can comment in person at one of the 11 public forums that the commission is organizing during May and June. Check out the full list of public events here.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.