Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Transportation Center, No, a Bus Station, Yes

In the finest traditions of wordsmithing, the Recently re-built Greyhound Bus Station was re-christened as the "Grant Street Transportation Center".

Really???? Balderdash!!!! I think the Grant Street "We have a bunch of forms of transportation kinda close" Center would be more accurate. I'm not knocking the fact that they re-built the Greyhound station, it was old, dirty, and kind of smelled. But let's call it what it is, a bus station. This is Pittsburgh politics at its worst, we call something different than what it is, and then cite it as an example of how we're "moving in the right direction", when in reality little has changed aside from some hollow words.

It's just another opportunity lost, or is it? There are several forms of transportation in close proximity; you've got the bus station, Amtrak, The T, and the busway. In fact Amtrak was originally supposed to be included, but for some unknown reason, was not. In my mind, you've already spent $40 million to re-build the thing, why not spend the extra few million (a small amount in comparison to the overall cost) to bring those things together, and actually MAKE it a transportation center. You're a few enclosed walkways from that being the case.

First things first, un-abandon the Penn Park branch of the T. The Port Authority said it was too expensive to operate. I agree, only because the manner in which they operated it was foolish. Have certain trains from the Overbrook line and certain trains from the Beechview line run to Penn Park instead of Gateway Center. Bring back that easy transfer to the busway, Greyhound, Amtrak, or to a potential commuter line. Additionally connect the busway and T stop to the Transportation Center and Convention Center via an elevated walkway, which was supposed to be included in the NSC project but was not.

Step Two, connect the railroad to the Transportation center. Again, one covered walkway could bring passengers from the station platforms to the transportation center. Right now, the Amtrak station feels more like a remodeled basement than a gateway to a city. Imagine if Pittsburgh sees increased Amtrak service under Obama's plans for expanded passenger and HSR service. Which would you rather people to first see when they enter Pittsburgh? This, or This?

Additionally, if any form of commuter rail becomes reality, again this is a perfect opportunity to integrate it into a real bona fide transportation center. Current plans call for the operation to either terminate in the strip district or at Penn Station. Either way it could be made to work (if the Strip option was chosen, the tracks could run right up to the Convention Center and an elevated walkway could be used to connect the the platforms to the transportation center).

As it stands now, there is no reason for most people to enter this $40 million "transportation center" unless you're parking there or taking a Greyhound bus. Give people a reason. For once, make a whole hearted attempt at integrating transportation modes. Don't make this new building a bus station with a fancy name.


erok said...

i thought the same thing. the first thing i noticed (as a cyclist) is that there isn't even a bike rack at the "transportation center." gimme a break. when other cities make actual transportation centers, you better believe there is bike parking at it. some even have long term parking lockers that you can store a bike in for a day or two. it's pretty common that people ride to greyhound, lock their bike up, go visit their folks in philly or whathaveyou, the return, get their bike and ride home. welcome to pittsburgh: the lowest common denominator

Paz said...

To be fair, it's a gorgeous Greyhound station. Makes most of them look like a dump. Baltimore's is much uglier, and built way out of the way from the CBD.

Still, you make a very good point. Connecting both the train station and the abandoned T stop just makes sense (I've always been upset about the lack of a line connecting Steel Plaza to the train station, even if they just put two somewhat dilapidated trains there to ferry people back and forth, like the spur that connects Penn station in Baltimore to the main light rail line).

I'm on a bit of a Wire fix at the moment, so Baltimore's been on my mind.

East Busway Blogger said...

I totally agree it's a MUCH better station than the old one, having made many trips through there during my college career in Pittsburgh.

As you noted, my beef is with the misrepresentation of what it really is, and also what it really could be.

As for the Penn Park line, I always felt the lack of ridership was through poor operation/decision making rather than lack of a market. There are many cases in transit systems where a single "line" will have two branches. I.E. the Green and Red Lines in Boston, or the Green Line in Chicago. Why not run a certain number of trains per hour to Penn Park as opposed to Gateway Center? One or two via the Overbrook line, and one via Mt. Lebanon?

There's also the layover yard by the train station that was never used because supposedly it was "too cumbersome". This of course was after they spent $2 million (1980's money) building the infrastructure for it.

Foolish spending like that is a big part of the reason people don't trust the Port Authority and transit in general.