Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Highest and Best Use of Public Assets"

Dr. Vannevar Bush added the Great Allegheny Passage to Transit Week at the Pittsburgh Comet.

So before Helen Gerhardt breaks down another critical aspect of transit/transportation, I'll add this.

Speaking of the Great Allegheny Passage...

Figure 1.  Montour Trail from Montour Junction in Coraopolis, PA (Mile 0) to Library, PA.
Great Allegheny Passage
I hope to bike it all the way from Point State Park to D.C. with my son before he goes off to college.

But there are about 5.5 miles of it I wish Pittsburgh and Allegheny County could have back.

Those 5.5 miles don't interrupt the continuous connection from Point State Park to Washington, D.C.

Figure 2.  Montour Trail from Montour Junction in Coraopolis, PA. to the Airport Parkway
(Mile 0 of the Montour Trail)
Great Allegheny Passage
Click to Enlarge
Then there are about 15 miles of rail line(s) I wish Allegheny County would have either fought at all for, or fought harder for over the past 40 years:

Figure 3. CSX rail line from Montour Junction in Coraopolis, PA to Station Square in Pittsburgh, PA.
Click to enlarge
And this stretch of interstate highway in Moon and Findlay Townships:

Figure 4.  Airport Parkway from Montour Run to the Landside Terminal at Pittsburgh International Airport
Click to Enlarge
So we have 4 miles of interstate highway built for rail transit, 5.5 miles of rails-turned-trail and 15.3 miles of freight rail.

Put it all together and you get this:

Click to Enlarge
"T" Service from Station Square to Pittsburgh International Airport.  And we would still have a very cool, very  uninterrupted rail-trail from Point State Park to Washington, D.C. (nine weeks from now, of course...)

For anyone in Pittsburgh who wonders why this transit facility does not exist, over the days and weeks to come, I'll unpack that very long story.

It's all yours, Helen...


  1. I wonder how long such a fairly circuitous T trip would take. Definitely not as fast as driving to the airport from Downtown, save for a major jam on the Parkway, but I'll bet the 28X would still be faster.

  2. I also have always been skeptical about using the T for service from the airport, because it seems like the T's technology is just too slow. You could probably lay out the same route for faster rail, but then you would get into issues about transfers and such.

    In general, I feel like the idea of rail to the airport is more of a city pride/vanity thing than an attempt to seriously evaluate the region's most pressing transit infrastructure needs. Sure it would be nice in the abstract, but I find it hard to care too much when so many core links (including any sort of rapid transit service to Oakland) are still missing.

  3. BrianTH--

    I'd rather have the Spine Line(s) as well. But the truth is, I'm an EastEnder... Of course I would.

    But part of my goal here in the time I have this space is to push issues out there and ask questions in the hope that others may ask as well.

    You're probably right about needing a commuter rail link to the airport, not a light rail link. Perhaps the problem is that our airport is so far away? But that is the point.

    So many of us see the crisis in front of us. Not enough people are asking "how the hell did we get here?" And "how the hell do we avoid these same mistakes present and future."

  4. A lot of people from outside the East End regularly travel to and from Oakland--way more, I dare say, than use the airport in any given period.

    That said, I get the idea of trying to understand the institutions, processes, political dynamics, and so on that led us here--in short, the whole history of it all. But as appears to be my habit, I am leaping ahead to actually applying those lessons. And I know enough about the history of talking about possible airport rail to know such talk tends to be counterproductive.

    Just one example: I will assert as a premise that the re-routing of the NSC from something that would go into the actual North Side (when it was a segment of the Spine Line) to trailing along the North Shore (to the planned stadiums) was an unfortunate change. A large part of how that change was sold to the public was the claim that with the new route it could serve as a start on a future T extension to the airport. That, in a word, was BS, but my sense is the idea has sufficient intuitive appeal that floating it helped pave the way for the change.

    Anyway, though, I do get I am refusing to follow the lesson plan.

  5. BrianTH--

    Apparently you don't need to follow the lesson plan.

    You need to come forth and help lead this discussion.

    The Downtown-Oakland-Wilkinsburg-Homestead Spine Lines would better facilitate transport in and out of the 2nd- and 3rd-largest job centers in Pennsylvania.

    That's a fact!

    But almost as if we started a conversation whose time has come, our Region (according to Governor Corbett) will begin discussing regional transit consolidations.

    I agree we can only do these to scale in ways that are feasible and sustainable.

    But as we have now both touched upon, this issue has tremendous impact and import to regional land-use and development patterns.

    The history lesson is important precisely because it will show, in many cases, scores of missed opportunities throughout the decades.

    It is critical that as we begin these conversations that we understand as much of this as can be comprehended and as much of the history as can be knowledge based so that we don't leave our kids with even less than we have despite even greater indebtedness.

    I hope you'll truly engage this regional discussion as we go forth.

  6. At this point, BrianTH, if we're to ever get rail transit to the airport, provided it is even viable, I see, based on the history, that it will have to go up the right bank of the Ohio River and then cross back over somewhere.

    We squandered our chance to acquire more direct rights-of-way.

    Which is the seminal point of the question that titles the post, that being what is the highest and best use of these various assets?

  7. Reluctant to bring it up, but if you're going to have an Aerotropolis then by definition you're supposed to have a rail link and a highway between the city center and the aerodrome. Just saying.

  8. Folks, Maglev is going to get us to the airport from Dahntahn in 10 minutes flat.

  9. Can I hop directly from my Skybus to the Airport Maglev at the GSTC?

  10. Gawd, don't even get me started on that Aerotropolis nonsense.

    Good idea: developing office parks and such in or near your airport for those businesses that require very frequent airport use. Airport hotels are also a good idea, as are airport rental car lots, and so on.

    Bad idea: paying some snake oil salesman to tell you that the entire future of your city should be planned around your airport.

    To tie this whole thread together, I can't read about the modern history of this Aerotropolis nonsense without thinking of the Monorail episode of the Simpsons.

  11. The most direct way, by the way, is underground, as a subway. Eminent domain is less of a factor at 200 feet below.