Archive for February, 2014

PATransit Tuesday: The future of PAT

We’re looking at the future, and actually, it’s looking good!

Port Authority is working with the massive amount of data that they have to create a system to let riders know in real-time, if their buses will be late.  CMU’s app Tiramisu  aimed to do that, but was based on rider input.  If no one was on the bus ahead of you to record the data, it reverts to the timetables.  It’s still a really cool app and I love using it, but this is the obvious next step.

And in even better news: no rate increases or service reductions are on the horizon!  For the first time in recent history, PAT has an influx of cash, thanks to Act 89 from Harrisburg.  And thankfully, the board of PAT is taking it’s time: while they want to restore service, they are committed to seeing what is most needed and working with the low-hanging fruit first.

While there was no mention of Bus Rapid Transit, and that would mostly come from capital money anyway, I’m still wary, especially since the latest plans have it running between Oakland and Downtown, an area already adequately served, but we’ll hold off that discussion for another day.

For the love of Joe DeNardo, help improve the Parkway East

PennDOT is looking to improve the Parkway East.  Now, before you get too excited, they want to make sure we temper our expectations.

Their first phase is to gather information.  They want to know how people use the Parkway, approximate destinations, use of public transit, alternate routes, etc.  The format is easy to use, and only takes about ten minutes.  In addition, they’re combining that data with traffic studies, community comments and outreach to publics directly impacted by the corridor, so all in all, it looks to be pretty comprehensive.

And while we may not be getting an added lane to the Squirrel Hill Tunnel, at least we’re on the road to improvements, and I can think of three interchanges right off the back that need scrapped and rebuilt from scratch to give us a good start.  Check out the information here and participate in the survey by clicking the large orange button.

Malkin’s Mom is adorable

Even Puck Daddy agrees, Malkin’s Mom is freaking adorable.

She was one of the Olympic torch-bearers, and she was in training over the summer for her jog:

When I came back from Pittsburgh in the summer I started going to the gym, getting fit.

Check out the entire story here.

Quantum Theatre’s “Madagascar”

"Madagascar"

Photo courtesy Quantum Theatre

At its best, art makes us take a step back from our lives and examine ourselves, giving us the space to confront ourselves and grow in meaningful ways.  “Madagascar,” in an hour and a half, does just that, in a way that snuck up on me, but left me more than satisfied, if not a bit introspective.

What I’ve always loved about Quantum Theatre is the spaces they occupy temporarily.  I’m continually impressed not only with the diversity of the locations they choose, but how they use those spaces to enhance the show.  Quantum invited me down to The Carlyle, on fourth street downtown, a new space, and part of town, to me.

When I worked in town, I was closer to the other end of Grant Street, so often the blocks closer to The Point are new to me, but I always look forward to an adventure.  I write this not as a deterrent, but as encouragement for anyone looking for something exciting off the beaten path.  And besides, you’ll be taken care of, the entrance to the performance space was marked, as always, with a very visible “Q.”

I’ve always been impressed with how Quantum integrates itself with the local community.  This time, they have partnered with Tavern 245 to offer patrons a discount.  I actually ended up heading to Market Square afterwards, which is a short walk away, so you won’t be at a loss for food or drink before or after the show, or entertainment if you stop to watch the ice skaters at PPG Place.

The lobby of The Carlyle is regal, with three large columns filling your view of the stage.  The space itself reminded me of a hotel I stayed at in Cleveland which occupied an old bank (considering it used to be a bank, this should not surprise anyone): tall ceilings with fancy, tiled ceilings and marble everywhere you looked.  Most of the walls have been covered in cloth, but only about three quarters of the way up, evoking the headless statues mentioned in the show itself, what I thought was an ingenious touch.

Often I tend to judge things based on their soundtracks, the music added to the environment of the show, at the beginning and end, easing transitions between the characters, and at least in my mind, perfectly blending into the story and the scene.  I wish we could have heard more, but the fleeting bits of that haunting piano only added to the air of mystery and helped to set the tone of the play.  At night, that part of downtown is not overly busy, but you can easily imagine the cars and buses that you do hear as coming from the streets of Rome instead of Pittsburgh.

"Madagascar"

Photo courtesy Quantum Theatre

The story weaves between three characters, all telling one story that slowly assembles over the course of the evening.  Watching the three characters, each in a different time, imposed over one another was a treat, and engaging as they spoke directly to the audience, posing questions not only to their own morality, but ours as well.

Once the plot clicked into place, previous comments by the characters stood out in sharp relief, highlighting some of the themes of the show in unexpected ways.  Each of the actors gave a wonderful performance, and seemed to really enjoy being in this show, which always equates to more engaging and powerful performances.

Quantum is also heading to a new space on the Internet, specifically starting discussions with patrons after the show to talk about “Madagascar.”  So far, a few guests have responded and rudimentarily interacted with each other.  It’s a good start, but I had wished to see interaction with the cast and crew, but I hope that this is something they continue to develop for future productions, something unseen from other groups.

Many thanks to Quantum for inviting me down, and if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you see “Madagascar,” which has just been extended for another week.  More information on this intimate show can be found here and be sure to make note of several special performances coming up:

  • February 7 – Wine Tasting and light hors d’oeuvres
  • February 8 – Post-show discussion with Psychoanalyst and Director
  • February 12 – Pre-show happy hour for young professionals

Heinz returns to the Superbowl

*tap tap tap.  This thing on?

Heinz returns to the Superbowl this weekend, after a 16 year absence and for the second time ever.  The commercial, in my opinion, is very well done, with one exception: you should hit the bottle where the neck joins the body, where the ’57’s are in the glass.  But if you want to check it out early, here it is:

Coming up next this week, my review of Quantum Theatre’s “Madagascar.”

I’ve been away for a bit, mostly due to the fact that I’m not downtown on a daily basis anymore, but sometimes, I’m reminded how much I love this city, and I get sucked right back in, so expect more regular postings!

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