Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Putting all our eggs in one basket Part Duex.

I originally posted this back in November, but have decided that there are things I don't like about it, so I've highlighted changes in bold vs. the original post. A map of the updated post is on my Google Maps Page (check the links)

This phrase usually has negative connotations; a colloquialism used to caution people about concentrating too much on one option, or putting too much emphasis on one way of solving a problem.
What we've had in Pittsburgh is the opposite, we spread ourselves to thin. We need to put all our eggs (or most of them) in one basket.

Why am I talking in all these wonderful generalities you may ask? Well that's because I am talking about our Rapid transit "system" in Pittsburgh. I've gone into reasons why we don't have an integrated system before so I'm not going to beat that dead horse anymore. Instead, I want to offer constructive ideas on how to reach an integrated separated grade transit system.

I was inspired by some posts on another Pittsburgh transit blog (sorry, don't remember which one) where readers were giving their best shot at designing a light rail system that would tie in with the current T. (Honestly, this post was the reason I started blogging in June. I never actually got around to this post until now however.)

So...instead of actually doing work while at work, I decided to give mass transit design a try.
First, a few "ground rules"


-It is currently designed as an LRT (Light Rail Transit) system, but could be implemented as a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit). Integration dahntahn would be a potential issue, but at least it would be a single mode expansion.

-The old route designators would be replaced by simple color codes. (I like history as much as the next guy, but I am a big fan of the K.I.S.S. principle, Keep It Simple Stupid)

-The goal is an integrated system, i.e. you can get on a train in Mt. Lebanon, and take it, without getting off, to ohhh, say RIDC Park.

-The system should use existing ROW's (Rights of Way) as much as possible. This includes current railroad ROW's and as much existing Busway as possible.
-This is not a full "fantasy" system, but a compromise between the bounds of reality and a complete "fantasy" system

Black Line:

-This line comprises what is currently the MLK Busway. It would start at Library, use the Overbrook Line, come through downtown and then continue East on the current Busway. No major changes would be made to stops in the East End. The goal, however, would be to reach Monroeville at some future time.

Gold Line:

-This line would start at the North Shore Casino (hopefully someday the Airport or West End), travel through dahntahn, hang a left at Steel Plaza, and continue east on what is currently the MLK Busway.
-At the Neville St. ramp, the Gold Line would parallel the current CSX track, tunnel under N. Oakland, and have a station stop serving Oakland somewhere in the area of Panther Hollow. It would be ideal to share the railroad tunnel, but unfortunately, Amtrak trains, freight trains and trolleys don't mix well. A separate tunnel would have to be bored, an expensive proposition I know. However, it's a relatively short distance, and at least there's no river above it.

-The line would continue to parallel CSX tracks into Hazelwood. Again, Hazelwood would be a GREAT spot for some T.O.D. An excellent way to use the brownfield that used to be J&L steel

-Ideally, the line would extend to Homestead, but that would involve building a bridge, and that costs $$$$$. There is an existing railroad bridge by the Glenwood Bridge, but it is in active use by freight trains. Again, freight trains and trolleys don't mix.
-"Hanging a left at Steel Plaza" would require the operator to change ends in a "pocket track" between Steel Plaza and 1st Avenue, a slow and costly move, especially during peak hours. Instead of this, the Gold line take over the route of the 47S and would go from the new Casino through Downtown to Steel Plaza and terminate at South Hills Village via the Overbrook line.
Blue Line

-This line would start at South Hills village, travel through Mt. Lebanon, and Dahntahn, sharing what is now the MLK Busway with the Black and Gold (get it?) lines. It would continue to share with the black line to Homewood, and would then take up the ROW of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Brilliant Branch. Portions of this line are in use, the wye in Homewood is used to turn the daily Amtrak train, and the western end is used by the Allegheny Valley Railroad to service the scrap yard in Sharpsburg. However, it looks as though the ROW is generally wide enough to support both the heavy rail and light rail.

-Once again, ideally the route would then cross the Allegheny and continue to RIDC park. The issue with this is, once again, a separate bridge would have to be built next to the Allegheny Valley Railroad Brilliant Bridge. This would be a perfect bridge to use if it wasn't in use by the AVR, and yet again, freight trains and trolleys don't mix. The bridge would work easily as #1 It is a former double track bridge with only one track in use and #2, the scrapyard only receives sporadic service, which could be separated because it operates at night.

-If a bridge wouldn't work out, a park and ride in the area of Washington ave. could be build to attract riders in lieu of taking it all the way to RIDC park. Getting to the other side of the river should be easy, however RIDC would be rough because of the land acquisition that would be involved and the sprawl of RIDC park itself, another option is to have service end at Aspinwall or even the Waterworks mall.

Green and Red Lines - I won't go into too much details on these because they are existing routes, but this will suffice to address the issues of covering existing service.

-Green Line would be the current 52A, and no changes would be made to its route.-This route would take on the route to Hazelwood and Homestead. It would begin at South Hills Junction, go through Allentown, downtown, and continue east on the current MLK Busway. At Neville Street it would either begin to parallel the AVR/CSX tracks and continue through a seperate tunnel under Neville, or would continue at grade on Neville to Panther Hollow for an Oakland stop. (I don't like at grade, but a tunnel would be very expensive. Neville is not that heavily traveled and is relatively short, and again would be a huge cost savings.) The line would then continue to parallel the AVR/CSX to Hazelwood where an excellent opportunity for T.O.D. exists at the old J & L site.
-The route would ideally continue to Homestead but either a new bridge would have to be built or the tracks could potentially use the Glennwood bridge at grade(it was originally built with trolley tracks). I generally try to avoid at grade operations but it would be for a short period and would save a huge expense.

-Red Line would be the current 47S, that travels from South Hills Village, via the Overbrook Line to the new Casino. -This route would run as the "Gold Line" between South Hills Village and the new Casino via the Overbrook line
Guess where I got this map!!!

I think this would be a huge gain for a (relatively) small investment. It would give you a much greater increase in areas serviced and make travel across the county easier. More importantly than that, it gives the same results that the Spine Line Study advocated 15 years ago. Offer Oakland and its 20,000+ employees and students an alternative to driving or street buses that don't do enough to take traffic off the streets. Throw in some T.O.D sites at underutilized stations, and you have an even bigger gain. By digging as infrequently as possible, and using primarily existing ROW's, the greatest costs associated with building a seperated grade transit system are minimized.

It doesn't hurt to dream...

1 comment:

Schultz said...

No, it doesn't hurt to dream, and it is nice to find other dreamers of a better transit future for Pittsburgh out here in the blogosphere! Please take a look at the Pittsburgh Wiki's Regional Integrated Transportation Plan - we are getting close to wrapping it up but there is still time for you to input your ideas!

"Green is Good"