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Joncaire Street steps slated to be rebuilt

2014-11-20 10:57:44
I've never done more than glance at the joincare street steps climbing along that sidewalk. But it's clear from google maps that it'll be a very nice shortcut to have a runnel on. It's easy here to see the pieces starting to come together. So... dear leaders, what plans for Boundary/Neville and when?
2014-11-20 11:50:26
$480,000 for steps? I hope that this project contains more aspects that aren't listed because that seems over the top expensive.
2014-11-20 13:19:49
I agree that figure seems absurd, even for concrete work, which is already absurd (I really don't understand this... it doesn't seem that hard, frankly). Don't know if there's something exceptionally challenging about this hillside and/or longer runs of stairs in general? Or once there's grant money, bid it high so there's plenty to skim? (Sorry, too cynical?)
2014-11-20 13:32:32
I'm sure the budget was vetted by the people giving the money... My own concern is that it would have been useful to have the sidewalk up Joncaire (on that side) widened sufficiently to allow bikes and peds to coexist. Even an extra ~1m would do wonders, and there plenty of space for it.
2014-11-20 13:54:20
A family friend had two sidewalks replaced (maybe like 125' in length) and I think it was on the order of $14k to $20k. It's hard, laborious work. First you have to demo what's there, then haul it out of there, then setup the new stuff. I'd imagine they're doing some kind of soil testing and stuff too to make sure the steps aren't going to move around next year.
2014-11-20 16:27:52
When you accept federal money for a project, you understand that there will be (sometimes substantial) additional costs over what you could do it for privately. Project administration, consultant and contractor selection all take time (and money). Hiring contractors at "prevailing wage rates" makes it more expensive than you might be able to do it for at home, using personal funds. And, this is a substantial staircase, that will be stabilized, widened, made more safe, and to which runnels will be attached. Some improvements will also be made to the Joncaire Street sidewalk, which is part of this project. So, it is a big project, but not so big that it can't be completed in a single construction season.
2014-11-21 09:02:04
^Thanks for the info. I looked at the staircase last night and it is longer & steeper than I remembered it, and if they are doing the sidewalk too it probably gets expensive fast especially if they add lighting, etc. I'm glad they are improving the sidewalk too because I'd rather ride than use stairs even with a runnel. And this is one of the few sidewalks I ride on regularly. But as a pedestrian I would definitely prefer the stairs as that would be more direct. So hopefully the stairs makes for less walkers on the sidewalk, which makes it safer to bike... It's definitely a WIN.
2014-11-21 09:24:02
I would probably prefer to just take the sidewalk here as opposed to pushing a bike up a large flight of stairs, especially if there are improvements to the condition of the existing sidewalk. It's not that far out of the way if you're trying to get to the frick fine arts building from the top of joncaire when you can just hop on the bike and ride on over. It makes a lot more sense for a direct connection for pedestrians. But hey, if they are putting in new stairs anyway, it's probably a negligible cost to add bike rails, so I'm all for it, even if I probably wouldn't use them. I'm sure someone who is not me would prefer this way, everyone has a different approach.
2014-11-21 09:38:15
We're a bit unrepresentative among cyclists, and not at all like the potential cyclists out there in that we're totally accustomed to cranking out the hills and often find a bit of perverse joy in it. I think a lot of folks would either be walking, or seriously huffing and puffing by the top of Joncaire. Taking the steps and stopping at the landings as desired would certainly be easier and in many cases might be faster for them, too... certainly if they're cutting east next.
2014-11-21 11:48:31
Oh, I was vague in my description, implying that I'd walk up the sidewalk because it's easier than pushing a bike up a staircase and then ride from the top of joncaire. However, I do tend to ride up the cobblestones on occasion, but that's not an option for most folks. Though, if this was smooth pavement, that hill wouldn't be that terrible.
2014-11-21 12:38:09
I would prefer to carry the bike up 144 steps and be done in a minute or two, than ride the sidewalk up that same vertical climb over several minutes. I do hope they make that staircase a little wider, in addition to adding a runnel. It's just wide enough for two people to pass uncomfortably. Less comfortably if one is carrying a bike. Widening a staircase through the woods is going to be a heckuvalot easier than widening a sidewalk or a street.
2014-11-21 12:39:28
I remember hearing about this project at one of the meetings about the runnel on Louisa St. They were definitely planning to make the stairs wider then.
2014-11-21 12:47:40
I like runnels though not so much for climbing (but I guess they do let you stop and catch your breath). I just wish they were wider and away far enough from the rail so that you could just ride down... wheee! But seriously. I'm not so sure that the stairs will necessarily help with the ped traffic. The lots at the bottom are Pitt's. Their only building nearby is Frick; I expect workers from that building are using the stairs already. Meaning that Joncaire is used by people in buildings along Clemente and across Bouquet. I'm pretty sure that there's a shuttle and likely anyone from further away would use it (and wouldn't be a ped; I mean, they're car people). I would much prefer for the sidewalk on the N side of the street to be widened. The peds aren't going away. Another thought: let's be empirical. What's the ped/biker ratio on the Joncaire sidewalk?
2014-11-21 19:38:36
Construction is always "scheduled to take place next year", isn't it?  Well, at least we're finally closer--come to this week's meeting of the Oakland Green Team, the bike/ped/etc committee of Oakland Planning & Development, to hear how close:
Pat Hassett, assistant director of Public Works, will present the finalized scope of work and timeline for replacing the Joncaire Street steps. The team will also discuss the currently proposed infrastructure projects happening in Oakland.
Thursday 9/15, 6:00-7:15 pm, at the Oakland Career Center, 294 Semple Street at Louisa.
2016-09-14 16:56:54
Earlier this summer I was riding up to Schenley Park from the Jail Trail with a friend and as I passed Joncaire Street I apparently had a subconscious memory of reading this thread back in '14, because I told my friend that I believed there was a newly-rebuilt staircase with a bike ramp runnel thing on it nearby.  We found the stairs... they were obviously not renovated... crumbling concrete, rusty metal railings, and no runnel. This staircase is a brutal climb, and would be even if we had a runnel, even if we had no bikes.  136 steps is like climbing a 10- or 12-story building, maybe?  It is still a nice shortcut to not have to go up Joncaire or Boundary, but it required a few catch-our-breath breaks to get to the top.
2016-09-15 15:26:29
Needs more than a runnel. That mechanical lift device from Norway or Finland or wherever that pops up in my feed every once in a while would be a real game changer. Something that gets people up the hill without having to be an athlete beforehand. Something to get people out of their cars. I was in conversation with a lady just this morning that I don't know all that well, but she's willing to try biking her Oakland to South Side trip, provided she doesn't have to deal with cars in traffic, crossing streets, or climbing hills. (She is not the athletic type. At all.) She might be able to make the climb from Hot Metal to the base of Joncaire, but there's no way in hell she's either biking up Neville or climbing those steps, bike or not. But right now, her car is one of the thousands you're dealing with on Bates Street twice a day.
2016-09-15 16:25:56
It would be nice to eliminate these steps  and  replace it with a series of switchback ramps going up the hillside instead.  I don't know if the city owns all of that property, but if they do, this would be the way to do it. And they could landscape the hillside as a nice additional touch.
2016-09-15 16:33:37
The city apparently does own that entire hillside. Other notes from last night's meeting:
  • The design is done and out to bid.
  • The new steps will be 6'3" wide -- 2' wider than current.  It'll also get a new handrail design with many more vertical bars, since the existing one isn't up to code (someone could fall through the sides and off the steps).
  • There will be a side exit about halfway up to an existing "goat-path" (Hassett's words) to the parking lot on Neville.
  • The lower end of the steps will be pulled back a bit from J. St so they don't interfere with the sidewalk any longer.  (see also below)
  • The steps will get a poured in place runnel, rather than the tacked-on channel the current Louisa and Alexis St steps have.  It will be on the right as you ascend, as the intended primary use is for people going up the steps, and about six inches inside the edge of the staircase, as that distance is believed enough to keep your pedals from banging on the side.  (I mentioned that in my experience, the bigger issue is keeping your handlebars from hitting, but they do only have so much width to work with... Even on a wider stair, they would need to make sure someone not pushing a bike could still reach the handrail.)
  • There will be four light fixtures along the stairs as well.  It was also suggested that keeping the trees better trimmed would also help.
  • Emergency call boxes along the steps are not in the plan currently, but Hassett was open to the possibility of adding them in.  It was suggested to ask Pitt about installing them...
  • Bids are due end of September 2016.
  • Hassett anticipates choosing a contractor and working out issues in the fall and issuing a Notice to Proceed at the end of December.
  • Work is expected to begin at the end of February, 2017 -- the intent being to get in while ground is frozen in order to help minimize disturbance to the hillside.
  • Work is expected to be complete by the end of August, 2017
Before work begins, the City expects to check on and make all necessary repairs to the sidewalks along Joncaire St and Clemente and Schenley Drives, including installing new wheelchair curb ramps on Joncaire at Isis Way (the alley which intersects a couple dozen yards up the hill from the steps). There's probably more I'm forgetting, but that's all i got for now.
2016-09-16 12:43:29
I was riding up Panther Hollow the other day and decided to march my bike up these stairs rather than riding up Joncaire or Boundary, and I can report that they have definitely not been rebuilt, and there is no runnel. It is a tough climb with a bike on your shoulder, but of course so is pedaling out of the valley. If you do this stair climb, you can then check out the new bike lanes by the Cathedral. I searched the internet for some kind of update to see if this will ever happen, and it is still an idea floating around, but the dollar amount has gone up just a bit:
2017-09-01 16:59:24
On Friday around 3:00 PM I was surprised at the amount of traffic on Joncaire St. Where was all of that traffic comeing from?
2017-09-02 23:27:49
With the new department of mobility and infrastructure they may have rebooted their plans for pittsburgh steps. There is currently a survey the city will be using for input on how to prioritize repair for public steps as they develop a Steps plan. So the project might have been delayed while they build a more comprehensive plan for all steps. The linked article does reference some oakland steps, which are likely these ones.   Survey: Source:
2017-09-03 11:22:08
Today, I carried my bike up the Joncaire St. steps. It is very difficult and I got winded after the second landing as I was carrying some other supplies along with the bike. There was also a fair bit of traffic on Boundary St. and Joncaire St. Why is there all this traffic descending into the valley just to come bakc up via Joncaire St.
2017-09-09 19:16:25
There's a big parking lot down there and a shuttle van, IIRC. Congrats on hauling the bike up. I, too, have to rest a few times some days. I'd much rather do that than tiring out my pedaling muscles biking up the hill. Plus I avoid the traffic. The rebuild will help, so will the runnel. What I really want to see there is a motorized lift. That would be a game changer for cycling in the city.
2017-09-09 20:40:46
Would runnels on the Eleanor St. and Sterling St. steps on the South Side be a good Idea?
2017-09-10 00:59:14
I don't know if there is the traffic need to support it. (Maybe there is, I just don't know.) There is probably some formula for estimating need, first for a runnel, and some small subset of them for installing a lift. Both are progressive ideas, not likely to get much support, so don't get your hopes up. We've tossed around lists of likely locations for years with very little to show for it.
2017-09-10 05:55:26
I'm a transplanted flatlander, so I don't know any of the politics & history WRT runnels, but... If the primary justification for runnels is to assist riders who lack the strength or desire to climb steeper grades, doesn't the dramatic rise in availability and practicality of e-bikes weaken -- if not completely obviate -- that need? Sure, there might be exceptional instances where you want to route up a staircase rather than the road network. But in the majority of cases, wouldn't e-bikes be viewed as a far more cost-effective solution than building and maintaining bike-specific infrastructure that will presumably be increasingly less-frequently used?
2017-09-10 08:03:13
But what percentage of bicycles in Pittsburgh are e-bikes? Maybe 1%?
2017-09-10 09:15:11
Joncaire is a problem not only because of the steepness, but also because of the surface. E-bikes would not work well there without a smooth path. I don't think runnels are much of solution, personally. Don't like pushing my bike up; I'd rather just ride. But not up Joncaire.
2017-09-10 09:26:45
People at pitt tend to use joncaire/boundry street as a 'shortcut' to avoid rush hour traffic on fifth / forbes. It avoids having to wiggle from forbes outbound to bellfield to fifth to craig as well. Does it actuall save much time? it's probably negligible. But it means less sketchy lane switching and stopping on 3 lane roads and deaing with left turners at bigelow (and other less busy intersections) waiting on pedestrians crossing and busses in the right hand lane.
2017-09-10 10:37:49
Joncaire steps also benefit by connecting the bike thoroughfare of Jail Trail/PHT and the Schenley Drive bike lane.
2017-09-10 14:31:20
Personally I prefer to ride a bike rather than pushing it. I ride Joncaire up and down on a regular basis -- at least to get to 412Flock Rides. But Yarrow/Joncaire is my preferrable way. Especially going up.
2017-09-10 14:43:42
I think you should ride up the runnel
2017-09-10 21:06:26
FWIW, I meant my last post to describe drivers using joncaire / boundry as a shortcut. Mostly commuters to/from oakland is my assumption heading towards eastern suburbs. This was in response to zzwergel's post about "On Friday around 3:00 PM I was surprised at the amount of traffic on Joncaire St. Where was all of that traffic comeing from?"
2017-09-11 09:48:34
@ornoth You say there may be exceptional cases where it makes sense, and I think that is what Joncaire is. The stairs are a good shortcut to get up the hill there, and they are right at the end of one of Pittsburgh's most-used bike trails. Other cases might seem rare, but with the terrain here I can think of several spots where it would be nice to have one. Some bridge sidewalks, such as the Sharpsburg end of the 62nd St. Bridge, end with stairs as the only option.
2017-09-11 12:10:21
West end bridge, too, on the north shore side ends in stairs.   Since ebikes were brought up, do they provide enough power to get you up a huge Pittsburgh hill with some modest pedaling?. Like going from panther hollow to Oakland, or up negley hill etc.?
2017-09-11 14:22:14
We need a thread on e-bikes. We likely already do, but I haven't the brainpower left this time of night to find it.
2017-09-11 22:48:19
The Joncaire St. steps appear to be under construction as of today!
2017-10-13 17:21:19
Does anyone know when the steps will re-open? Will they have runnels?
2017-10-21 17:53:48
This is the thread we should have resuscitated. It's only been dormant a year. This thread about steps dates from 2012. Might be others, too.
2018-12-02 00:06:58