Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Once there was a transit vision

DNJ asks an interesting question in the PG today: Will our "T" ever grow up?   The specific question is why does light rail only go to the South Hills?  Because the trolley once went that way? Begs the bigger question since there was not long ago trolley service throughout the region.  The South Hills' trolleys survived just a little bit longer.

So what is the answer?  Why does the T only service the South Hills? Take this as the Chris Briem answer you are free to disagree with, but it all is pretty clear to me.  There is a question that has to come first.  Where was rapid transit supposed to go? See below for the vision of the 92-mile rapid transit system envisioned by the 1967 Allegheny County Rapid Transit Study. Even the East Busway as we know it was built with a foundation to hold Light Rail until even that limited vision was abandoned just a few months ago.  Why was the vision curtailed? The short answer is the imbroglio called Skybus.  Like so many things in this region we fight, we confuse, and the 2nd best solution devolves to no solution before all is said and done.  By the time Skybus was officially declared kaput the energy for transit in the region was drained completely and the powers that be Downtown basically gave up on rapid transit.  There would be handwaving along the way, but it has never been anything more than that for decades.  What we see in the T is merely what inertia wrought from literally decades of effort for something grander.  Even the obvious extension of rapid transit to Oakland in the form of the Spine Line would be twisted into the runners up prize now known as the North Shore connector. If there was not for a momentary vision of Riverboat gambling in the city (remember?), not coincidentially right at the site where the Rivers Casino sits today, I personally doubt the North Shore Connector would have made it much further than the Spine Line ever did.  I do not joke on that; such is the logic of reactionary planning lacking any strategic vision.  The region's motif is how we so convolute paths that when all is said and done, nobody can understand how we arrived where we did so disconnected it all becomes from where anything begins.

and to think I typed that all up in a five minute fit and did not once mention...  no.. I can't do it.  We will leave the unmentionable unmentioned.

5 Comments:

Anonymous DBR96A said...

Apparently there's growing interest in extending light rail up the Allegheny Valley. That'd be a good start. The person proposing the plan actually wants to do it right too. I won't hold my breath, but I will hope against hope that it gets built eventually.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 9:09:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

I think it is worth noting the feds were mostly hostile to light rail investment for several decades--it actually took an unusual alignment of Republicans to bypass those obstacles and get the NSC funded.

I also think it is worth noting that our local topography makes decent light rail (meaning with its own ROW) a very expensive proposition. You can't draw a straight line between desirable locations without running into all sorts of hills, ravines, rivers, and so forth, and most of the twisty paths are already full of stuff. Of course that doesn't mean a decent light rail system would have been an unwise investment, but couple that with the federal hostility to light rail and you get an explanation for the observed result.

Personally, I think we would be better off exploring technologies more suited to our topography, but admittedly even that plan implicitly assumes the feds can be brought on board.

Thursday, December 01, 2011 12:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the idea of the Manor Building as a transit hub. Everybody seems to meet there already when they leave the parking garage.

In other matters, I attended an ALMONO/LTV Hazelwood presentation last night. Any thoughts on the current state and future of that site? Bill Peduto has talked about running transit out there, it has tracks already, and it's on the Technology Center corridor.

Thursday, December 01, 2011 9:04:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

I think it was ADB who described that as a train to CMU's basement.

Thursday, December 01, 2011 9:17:00 AM  
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