Tuesday, February 5, 2013

April 15 : Our Next Transit Ribbon Cutting

B-list post by Vannevar Bush while Bram is on special assignment.

It may be true that all of western civilization is but a footnote to Plato, but it is certainly true that all of the BurghoBlogoSphere is but a hyperlink to Chris Briem, who points out that Pittsburgh is about to lose one of our two Amtrak runs at a most unfortunate time. Back to that shortly.

Sic Semper Transit...

This seems to be Transit Week in Cometville. Some might talk of Busways and Light Rail and Connectors and Mon Valley Expressways, while others might talk of the folly of drilling for flammables at the mainstay of our nascent Aerotropolis - because if that blows up, all we've got left is a tropolis.

As for me, I would prefer to talk about the Positive, the Short-Term, and the Happy, because I am an immediate gratification kind of guy, so I would like to discuss our impending happy news: our next transit ribbon cutting on April 15, only 9 (nine) weeks away.

On April 15, barring the unforeseen, Linda Boxx and a host of worthies will cut a ribbon and open the last remaining trail segment connecting Pittsburgh with Washington DC, establishing a 350 mile uninterrupted bike route. The new route begins in Homestead, runs through Sandcastle and Keystone Metals, and joins the Baldwin Borough Trail.

Lest you think this is a trifling event, a plaything not worthy of mention in the same page as trains and planes and the Holy Automobile, let me tell you: this is a big thing. This trail runs from Point State Park down to McKeesport, thence to DC. At McKeesport you can turn west on the Montour Trail and ride through the South Hills and around to the PIT Airport and Neville Island. From the Point you can ride to Brighton Heights, Millvale, or the Cork Factory. You can connect to Grant Street or Oakland. We're talking major infrastructure.

Those trail connections then connect to the ever-increasing on-street bicycle routes that the City and Bike-Pgh have been adding - they've added 17 miles in 2012 alone. Here's an animation of the growth of the on-street bike lanes, and when I look at that I think maybe the only new infrastructure in Pittsburgh besides the T-Tunnel is the bike lanes.

There's going to be tourists coming in on that trail, people who for the last few years have been stopping in Boston PA or Homestead because that's where the trail ended. Now they can ride into Pittsburgh, take their picture at Point State Park or the Hot Metal Bridge, spend their money at a hotel and a restaurant and a bar.

When you look at the demographics of who's taking these multi-day bike trips, it skews affluent. There are certainly minimalist touring cyclists that get by on very little, but in general these are folks who can afford to take a week off and have discretionary income. This is a road that brings money in to town; how many roads can say that?

Which takes us, full circle, back to the news of Pittsburgh possibly losing one of the two Amtrak runs. When you ride from DC to Pittsburgh, or Pittsburgh to DC, most people don't want to ride their bikes back the other way — their tushies have had enough. People like to take the train back to the other end. It's a great deal; you put your bike in a box, they charge you an extra $20 or so, and they give you your boxed bike on the other end.

Kind of a shame that they're threatening to cut off the Amtrak service on the west half of Pennsylvania over a question of state subsidies, while there's 14 trips a day between Philly and Harrisburg, just as the bike trail is finally opened.

At any rate, comes April 15, maybe May 1, expect to see more itinerant bicyclists riding from the SouthSide to the Point and remember: every one of those people on a bicycle is a visitor spending money, a parking spot you didn't have to build, and a car that's not congesting traffic.

Bikes are transit, too.


  1. Absolutely agree. And given the relatively low cost of the trail, it very likely has a very high benefit to cost ratio as transportation projects go. And on top of that, lots of it was funded by donations.

  2. Dr. Bush & BrianTH --

    That settles it.

    The next post will be dedicated to the history of the Montour Trail...

    Let transit week continue...

  3. Van, you write: "When I look at that I think maybe the only new infrastructure in Pittsburgh besides the T-Tunnel is the bike lanes." Ugh... um... the concrete walk on the North Shore? The 4-lane bike ped bridge in Shadyside with hazard shoulders?

    If we could only generate an estimate of *how many* more bicycle visitors we'll see per year, and *how many dollars* of economic impact..

  4. I'm pretty sure you can do (and people have done) REMI-style studies of biking. But I think it remains very difficult to quantify the travel/tourism component of the economic impact.

  5. I've wanted to do DC to PGH bike ride/atmtrak combo for a while. On an related note, there needs to be more train service between DC and Pittsburgh. With a short flight, a pain in the butt drive, and many often used greyhound buses, it is ripe for service expansion especially if investments were made to cut the trip down by an hour or two. Someday.

  6. What would be nice, is to design a new neighborhood or retcon an existing neighborhood for bikers situated along a nexus of bike trails, and market it far and wide as bike town. Then you get some real militants coming in.

  7. You mean something like... the Trail Towns program?

    Militants? (scoff, scoff)

  8. Okay, but instead of "Trail Towns" a gambit more greedy and contextualized in Pittsburgh, City Of. And when I say "militant", I mean those passionately interested in the planning of cities.

  9. That's right. And also PEDUTO AND LAMB SUING EACH OTHER OVER CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM. And FITZGERALD DEMANDING UNDATED SIGNED RESIGNATION LETTERS FROM BOARD APPOINTEES. And bikes and trail towns and municipal planning. Didn't this place used to be the Comet, man? The most politically inside blog around? There goes the neighborhood...

  10. dear Anon0734,

    Yes, you're quite right. Bram is temporarily unavailable, and he's got some buddies filling in. We regret the change in context and quality, and can only suggest that "don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone". He'll be back soon.

  11. Vannevar - You couldn't be expected to know this, but one of the very oldest rules at the Comet is "Apologize for nothing." Clarifications and retractions should be issued as necessary, and regrets may be disclosed as appropriate. But there's a huge difference.

    Anon 7:34 - Not only do we often cover vital policy issues and stuff... but the Bill/Michael campaign finance tete-a-tete is a boring, boring story, at least until a judge comes along and tells us what's what. I must admit I will be amused to see just how far the I'm An Attorney needs to wind back his legal positions. Didn't he originally say he didn't really need separate campaign accounts for different citywide offices, but then made that "loan" between them after all?