Thursday, April 21, 2005

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Another Downtown-Oakland transit link proposed

See http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05110/491030.stm

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!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Pittsburgh Talks Forum

After watching all of the endless bickering and debate on the usenet groups pgh.general and pgh.opinion, I decided to set up a bulletin board to discuss issues which confront Pittsburgh.

The board is called "Pittsburgh Talks" and can be found online at http://pittsburgh.coconia.net. The website is temporary; I'll move it if there is sufficient interest. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

New name for blog

Incidentely, if you haven't already noticed, I've renamed the blog from "ClarkBHM's Blog" to "From Birmingham to Pittsburgh". Why the change? Well, I wanted to try to find something distinctive. Something that would tell my blog apart from the rest of the world. I looked through some stuff and found that a great many blogs out there are titled things like "Jim's blog" or whatever. Unless you know Jim personally, there's really no reason to read his blog.

I tried to take a different approach. I wanted to convey both a sense of who I am and a sense of what I'd like to talk about. After considering several choices, I settled on "From Birmingham to Pittsburgh" because it meets both descriptions. I am a Birmingham, Alabama native who moved to Pittsburgh in 2000. Even as this tells literally who I am, it also gives an idea of what I wanted to focus on in the future: Pittsburgh as the city in which I live. I wanted to be able to include the name "Pittsburgh" in the title as well so that if people will searching for Blogs on Pittsburgh it would come up. I, of course, must now endeavor to write more about Pittsburgh.

Thus, my new sense of purpose for this blog is to write about Pittsburgh and my thoughts and experiences surrounding it. This will give me a chance to analyze some of the things going on in the Pittsburgh area while at the same time sharing some of my life as a "Pittsburgher". Any thoughts? Leave a comment!

Americans may need passports to re-enter U.S. from Canada, Mexico

Check out Americans may need passports to re-enter U.S. from Canada, Mexico

It looks like the days of travelling out of the US without a passport are over. Passports will be required to go anywhere outside of the US. Go ahead and read the article and I'll make some comments...

However, I think that the article is really overstating matters. Once you get a passport, it's good for ten years. All of these people suddenly won't be able to take last minute trips? They'll only need to get a passport once! Renewal is incredibly easy as long as you plan for it in advance. I renewed my passport last year with no difficulty.

On top of this, it might actually speed things up a bit. Passports are designed to be quickly processed with all sorts of bar codes and stuff built into them. If EVERYONE crossing the border is presenting a passport instead of drivers license/birth certificates as they do now, the system can be standardized and streamlined. You won't get border guards in Buffalo trying to figure out whether or not the New Mexico driver's license in front of them is legit. Either the passport is valid or its not.

The border between the US and Mexico is a mess nowadays anyways with so called "Minutemen" so fed up with the situation that they've decided to patrol the border with Mexico themselves. The border with Canada is wide open for most of its length as it is. Anyone with false identification papers such as a drivers license, etc. can make it through US customs coming in from Canada. If Canada cannot stop terrorists from entering Canada on false documentation, the US must take action. If Mexico cannot stop people from illegally crossing the border, the US must take action.

One other person has strong points of view on this: Bill O'Reilly. Now you may or may not like him, but on this I think he has the right idea. The federal government should allow our military to patrol the border with Mexico. If that's what it takes to stop the flow of illegal immigration into the country, then I'm all for it...