For more than 20 years with the Federal Transit Administration, Vincent Valdes worked with local communities across the country, overseeing their transportation projects from afar but only getting what he called “visceral satisfaction.”

Now, as the new executive director of the 10-county Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, Mr. Valdes said he looks forward to seizing the opportunity “to come here and bake the cake myself.”

“I wanted to be able to see the fruits of my work,” Mr. Valdes, 61, said in an interview Friday. “Why not actually come out and do it myself?”

Mr. Valdes was selected in April as the replacement for Jim Hassinger and began his new job on June 15. Mr. Hassinger retired after 19 years as executive director.

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Most of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been negative: high unemployment, business closures, transportation agencies reeling from revenue losses due to low traffic.

But a seven-page study released Thursday claims there’s one area where Americans have benefited dramatically: Working from home instead of driving to work has saved more than $90 billion in time and actual costs since the pandemic began in March.

Upwork — a Mountain View, Calif., agency that specializes in matching freelance professionals with temporary jobs — concluded that working remotely has become so popular during the pandemic that many people won’t return to driving and the national economy will go through a major shift in the next couple of years. Adam Ozimek, the agency’s chief economist, said he expects Americans to spend the money saved on commuting in other areas such as eating out more often, home improvements or more lavish vacations.

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The coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt life in the region; overall, residents of Allegheny County are still traveling less compared to 2019. However, bike miles have gone up.

“We pretty much had our best May ever,” said David White, executive director of Healthy Ride, Pittsburgh’s bikeshare system.

The nonprofit’s ridership increased 43 percent from 2019 to 2020. Much of the growth stemmed from Healthy Ride’s partnership with Port Authority: anyone with a Connect Card can take unlimited 15-minute trips. However, beginning May 1 of this year, average trip length increased by 60 percent.

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After more than eight months of research, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission wants to hear from residents in the 10-county region about where they want to go and how public transit could help them get there.

The agency is conducting an online survey through September as part of a study that will recommend a series of intermodal hubs or corridors to help transit agencies work together better. Dave Totten, a transportation planner for the commission, said it wants to hear from residents regardless of whether they currently use public transit.

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Distribution of a Public Survey Tool to Inform a Vision for Multimodal Transportation in Southwestern Pennsylvania 

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) has launched an online survey to collect opinions about public transit in the region. This survey is part of the project SmartMoves Connections: A Regional Vision for Public Transit, which is planning for future Multimodal Hubs and Multimodal Corridors.

The survey is primarily map-based and includes a process that will guide the survey taker through a series of questions that correspond with choices and locations shown on the map. SPC worked with the Pittsburgh-based firm, CivicMapper, to create the brief survey, which includes questions about mobility choices and priorities.

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Through a multiple-stop tour Friday, Butler County officials welcomed Vincent Valdes, the new executive director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.

According to a county news release Friday, Butler County officials, including the county commissioners, ushered Valdes and U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th, through stops including construction work improving the Route 228 corridor and the UPMC Sports Complex, the Pittsburgh Penguins practice site, in Cranberry Township.

“We’re in such an expansion mode,” said Kelly about the growth of the county.

Mark Gordon, Butler County chief of economic development and planning, said the tour was to welcome Valdes to the region and showcase the county’s economic development.

“We wanted to show the diversity of the county,” Gordon said.

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Greensburg is planning a $389,000 project to improve the Five Star Trail, making the popular running and biking destination more accessible to city residents.

“We’re basically trying to improve the connections between the neighborhoods that are adjacent to the Five Star Trail,” said Jeff Richards, Westmoreland County parks planning coordinator and vice president of the Five Star Trail chapter of the Regional Trail Corporation.

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NEXTransit is a community-driven long-range plan for a transit-oriented Pittsburgh area that values equity, accessibility, economic and social mobility, safety, resiliency, and accountability.

Through this planning process, there is the opportunity and the responsibility to engage with communities in an equitable and meaningful way, lead the region on sustainability, and improve on the metrics transit riders value most.

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Uniontown, PA – William L. Kovach, P.E., has been appointed the District Executive for District 12, which covers Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

William (Bill) Kovach’s career began with the Department of Transportation in 1986 as a Civil Engineer 2 in District 12-0. He was promoted to Senior Civil Engineer in 1988. Bill became the acting Structure Control Engineer in 1997 and an Assistant Construction Engineer in 1998. In 2005, he became the Construction Support Services Engineer and then the Maintenance Support Services Engineer the same year. In addition to his years at PennDOT, Bill worked in private industry giving him over 38 years of experience in transportation.

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We’ve updated the SPC Regional Data Center “Visualize: SPC Tableau” with the recently-released Annual County Population Estimates. Our interactive Tableau dashboard now includes Demographic Characteristics in the SPC Region by Age, Sex, and Race. The dashboard can display a variety of indicators and data comparisons by municipality, county, and region, based on user selections.

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