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.