|A street in Shadyside|
There are also considerable patches of empty or disinvested space. Part of this is due to geography, with the three rivers and many steep hills, it has always posed a challenge. But everyone knows Pittsburgh as the former prototypical "steel town" which collapsed, people and money fleeing outward to the sprawling suburbs and beyond. That combined with "urban renewal", bringing in civic arenas and massive elevated highways that cut off neighborhoods and blighted large areas, sent the city into a downward spiral from which it is still climbing out. It has largely reinvented itself as a financial and scientific center, with many banking headquarters as well as world class universities.
An even more disturbing crisis is brewing, one that will be familiar to Bostonians: the Port Authority (PAT) which runs the public transportation system, is facing a $64 million deficit and is proposing a plan that incorporates incredibly drastic service cuts as well as fare hikes. It eliminates nearly half of all routes, cuts service on the others, raises Zone 1 fares to $2.50, Zone 2 to $3.75, and hurts paratransit as well. As one of my friends put it, this plan will likely lead to economic devastation in Pittsburgh, as the roads and parking lots become even more clogged with additional commuters.
|First Avenue Station, facing the portal|
Historically, Pittsburgh has had a relatively good bus system. It is based on the very extensive trolley network that employed nearly 700 streetcars, and it was largely abandoned in the 1960s, with the exception of a few South Hills routes. The modern subway system under the streets of Downtown was mostly constructed in the 1980s, though it did re-use a couple of old tunnel sections and a railroad bridge. Curiously, it is also named the "T" and uses a very similar logo to Boston. The South Hills light rail trains access several downtown stations using this subway, and all travel within the downtown area is free of charge due to the fare collection system used by PAT. Essentially, all buses and trains collect fare on boarding when headed inbound, and on alighting when headed outbound, at least during peak. I always found the rule to be somewhat confusing, especially when taking a "crosstown" bus, but it does keep things moving in the most congested areas.
|Detached single family homes, across from a major "T" station|
On March 25th, the Port Authority opened the North Shore Connector for the "T" subway. I made sure to check it out while I was visiting. It connects the subway to a new Gateway Center station downtown, and then burrows in two single-track tubes under the Allegheny river to two new stations on the North Shore. A curious thing I noticed about the new tunnels is that they have a continuous platform throughout their length, probably to enhance rescue operations. The two new stations are near the baseball stadium (PNC Park) and the football stadium (Heinz Field), as well as the science museum and the casino.
|The first thing you see upon exiting the North Side T station|
It's unfortunate that the Federal government decided to play games with transportation funding in Pennsylvania, especially when they forbade the tolling of I-80. It would be especially shameful if this led to the self-destruction of PAT and the consequent economic devastation to the city of Pittsburgh. I hope, for the city's sake, that it does not come to that.