Who owns the future?

Supervising Professor: Christine Mondor


Alternating speculations of our autonomous future question the transformation that is set to consume our society in the coming decades. Whether Autonomous Vehicle (AV) technology will transform our urban landscapes as nothing since the introduction of the Automobile itself has or will merely resolve current logistical issues via intelligent and networked infrastructure is unknown, change is assured. Attempting to develop informed solutions that directly tackle the potential effects of AV - both potentially good and bad - this speculative exploration in AV Urbanism works under a vision of the future focused on equity, connectivity, and pedestrian-prioritized access in Transit Oriented Development, creating lively streetscapes that keep people engaged to one another and the world they inhabit.


Restructured streetscapes

One of the potential dangers this project sought to challenge in an autonomous future is that of an 'airport' effect in which developments function as arcology-styled islands that attempt to consume as many facets of life as possible independently, and through AV technology link development to development in such a way as to offer a ubiquitous experience that isolates classes of people from one another and effectively removes persons from the urban experience.

To avoid this danger, the project concerned itself with integrating AV technology into existing street-grids and strengthening inter-neighborhood connections across scales. Combined with pedestrian-prioritized development at the scale of the street-edge it creates urban experiences that take the multi-modal and mixed-use potentials of AV-enabled TOD and links it into a strengthened urban realm.

Working through sample site

In order to explore these ideas at scale a sample site was selected from contextual research at the parking lot and surrounding lots of the existing Shakespeare Giant Eagle at the intersection of Pittsburgh's East Liberty, Larimer, and Shadyside neighborhoods. The site has the potential to build off the existing MLK Busway stop adjacent to the site, link into the E. Bond TOD development across the Busway and take advantage of the edge-effect its location offers. With good multi-modal access at the pedestrian and automobile scales with strong neighboring railroads and public transit the site is ideal to create a development strategy that enhances the opportunities of the site in urban connectivity while strengthening its connections to the underserved populations the grocery store currently serves*.


*Demographic Analysis for the Shakespeare Giant Eagle and neighboring Trader Joes and Whole Foods were based upon research conducted under the guidance of Professor Kristen Hughes' survey Designing With Community.


Urban Analysis

The selection of the Shakespeare Giant Eagle site was the result of an extended urban analysis process in which Pittsburgh's contemporary transit conditions were analyzed for target sites along the city's Baum-Centre Corridor that had potential to activate in an AV society.


Regional Analysis

The first step of urban analysis examined the greater regional transit network of Pittsburgh at the scale of railroads, inclines, light rail, and busways. From this analysis, major roads were selected as part of city AV-enabled road network connected to the city's regional connections. These routes, highlighted in red, focus on maximizing the catchment area of the network across neighborhoods to maximize equity and mobility in AV development.


Corridor Analysis

Zooming in to Pittsburgh's Baum-Centre corridor, a typology analysis of the building was used to determine 'districts' of attraction within the transit network. Institutions (black), mixed-use developments (red), retail (grey), cultural buildings (blue), grocery stores and restaurants (green), and automotive related buildings (yellow) were determine to attempt to gain an understanding of the sites of the potential within this network as they relate to their contemporary surroundings.


Neville Ramp - Lateral Transfer

The MLK Busway is a main public transit connector from Pittsburgh's downtown towards its East End, at the west end of the Baum-Centre corridor via an extended bus-only ramp that connects of the end of Neville st.. The top of this ramp is currently occupied by contextually under-developed buildings, however with the advent of increased public ridership and the upgrade of the Busway to an AV HOV highway, the top of the rap opens to develop at a point of lateral transfer between the busway and the N-S connection offered by Neville.


Ford Motors Bldg - Mode Tranfer

At the point the MLK Busway crosses under Baum and Centre, the historic Ford Motors Building (Formerly an active automobile factory and warehouse) vertically connects from the Busway to street level. Considered with the building's institutional adjacency to UPMC Shadyside, the building is ideal as a new stop on the Busway to fuel increased public ridership to the hospital and surrounding businesses, and mark a point of mode transfer from buses and HOV AV to smaller and more local transit options.


Ellsworth-centre connection - pedestrian access

At the point where Negley meets the Baum-Centre corridor, there is at-once intense traffic congestion and a significant destination in the Giant Eagle Market District. Working around these conditions, pedestrian connections are made to bridge the Busway and link the Ellsworth developments to the Baum-Centre corridor in order to create more longitudinally connective development strategies and create strengthened pedestrian connections between the Shadyside and Friendship neighborhoods respectively South and North of the corridor.


Shakespeare giant eagle - all of the above

The Shakespeare Giant Eagle site therefore made the ideal test site for the conditions this project aimed to tackle in an AV society as it contains the conditions of Lateral Transfer, Mode Transfer, and the opportunity for increased Pedestrian Connectivity to the surrounding areas. This manifests in pedestrian connections aimed towards Larimer across the Busway, a neighborhood which demographically overlaps heavily to the population the Giant Eagle currently serves. In addition, developing the northern terminus of Shady Ave. into a densified retail corridor, similar to the nearby Highland Ave. and by strengthening the pedestrian bridge connections across the Busway from the E. Bond development, the site has tremendous potential as a connector. Considered along with the adjacent Busway stop and the cross-Penn Ave. overtures required in pedestrian connections to Larimer, the site contends with many transit-related conditions.

Thus the resultant TOD strategy was developed which focuses on creating an internal pedestrian 'plaza' with pedestrian-prioritzed slow-streets and significant street-edge amenities. This creates a maximized amount of frontage within the site and allows for mixed-use additions to be made to the existing Giant Eagle building. Capitalizing on the lack of open space in the surrounding area then, a cross-Busway pedestrian park is made that links to the surrounding developments and reflects a prediction of increasingly blurred distinction of public and private investment in an AV society, as it links numerous private developments but provides an equitable and open public amenity for all.