Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Another Downtown-Oakland transit link proposed


It seems like Dan Onorato wants to revitalize the Downtown to Oakland link up (among other things). The keys to this plan which makes it different from the Spine Line is that it goes above the ground (like the monorail system as Disney World or Las Vegas) and that it goes along the 2nd Avenue corridor instead of going along Fifth and Forbes.

What do I think about this? I actually think it might have a chance. One of the biggest problems that I had about the previous Spine Line plan is that they wanted to extend the T system out to Oakland using an underground tunnel. Tunnels are not cheap to build, especially one which would be several miles long. In this proposal, no tunnel is required.

The second avenue corridor currently is a busy one, but one with plenty of room for such a project. It has a bunch of transportation facilities on several different layers: Second Avenue on the bottom, I-376 (known locally as the Parkway East) in the middle) and the Boulevard of the Allies on top. Additionally, the Eliza Furnace Trail runs through the area. However, the big advantage is that there are no buildings in the way! No houses to acquire through emminant domain. Thus, again, the project would be cheaper.

The proposed project runs from the First Avenue T station (thus linking up with the entire T network) passing by the Pittsburgh Technology Center in South Oakland (on second avenue) and going into Oakland. How would it enter Oakland? Although the article didn't specify, it could easily make its way into Oakland using the virtually unused Panther Hollow/Junction Hollow area, a former slag area which has been quasi-restored and now features the small Panther Hollow Trail and a few sports fields. The advantage here is that Panther Hollow ends up on the underside of Oakland near Joncaire and Boundary Streets underneath the Schenley Bridge. Incidentely, this area was made popular by local author Michael Chabon. This area, generally used as parking lots and access for the B&O railroad to tunnel under Oakland, would make a perfect area for a transit station. You can connect the link directly to the Carnegie Library and Museum providing convenient access to the south campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Additionally, a link to the Carnegie Museum provides access to Forbes Avenue at this point. Finally, the stop could be right at the ground floor of the new Collaborative Innovation Center that is being built by CMU. One station could provide access to three different destinations!

Onorato also envisions that such an overland route could eventually link up with the old LTV mill site in Hazelwood and Carrie Furnace in Rankin. I'm not as enthusiastic about these destinations except that it could be build along the northern bank of the Monogahela River following the path of the Duck Hollow Trail. From there, its a short jaunt over the river to the Waterfront area in Homestead, a rather popular destination for students. Access to the Waterfront would allow people to be able to easily take mass transit from Oakland and Downtown to a large commercial district including a movie theatre, grocery store, lots of restaurants and other shopping.

In fact there's been talk of (re)establishing a river shuttle service from Homestead to the downtown area. This proposed service would take 30 minutes to travel from one to the other. If an elevated train system were used, you could probably get from Homestead to Oakland in 10 minutes or less and to downtown in 20 minutes or less.

Yes, this is similar to the previous Spine-Line project. However, it has a few things in its favor. First, its not underground which makes it a lot cheaper to implement. Second, by going along Second Avenue and Junction/Panther Hollow you don't have to acquire houses through emminant domain. Third, its destination in Oakland is easily accessible by a large majority of those in Oakland (with connecting access to Forbes Avenue to Squirrel Hill). Fourth, it provides easy transportation from both downtown and Oakland to the very popular Waterfront area. Additionally, a large park and ride lot could be built near the Waterfront and the Rankin bridge providing access for hundreds of commuters. This lot could be espcially useful if the Mon-Fayette Expressway is built as it should go through the area.

So, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment!

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