Father Pitt

“Exit to Street”

Posted in Architecture, Downtown, Transit by Dr. Boli on June 15, 2014


A geometric composition in the Gateway subway station.

Pittsburgh Rapid Transit (again)

Posted in Transit by Dr. Boli on July 3, 2012

Click on the image for a PDF copy.

By far the most popular features on this site are the Pittsburgh rapid-transit maps Father Pitt created himself, probably because the Port Authority hasn’t had a decent overall rapid-transit map since about 1990. But old Pa Pitt’s most recent map is badly out of date, and it’s time for a revision. Here it is.

Three kinds of transit are used on Pittsburgh’s rapid-transit lines, or “fixed-guideway systems” as the bureaucrats call them:

Trolleys or streetcars run on the Red Line and the two Blue Lines. All the lines go into a subway downtown and under the Allegheny to the North Side.

Busways are metro lines for buses; they are designed like subways, with stations relatively far apart.

Inclines go from the bottom of Mount Washington to the top. Although they move slowly, they are still by far the fastest way to make the trip without a helicopter.

Father Pitt’s map uses the mnemonic device of colored lines for the busways. The official Port Authority map uses the same colored lines, obviously the remnant of some scheme, very much like Father Pitt’s “Pittsburgh Metro” idea, that was quashed by senior executives; but the lines are never named, and the reason for the letters in the routes that travel the busways is never officially explained.

The Port Authority also uses orange-colored lines, and bus routes beginning with “O,” for the carpool lanes in the Parkway North. Father Pitt has not included those lines on this map.

Much of the controversy over “bus rapid transit” comes from the corner-cutting implementation in other cities. Boston, for example, has its “Silver Line,” popularly called the “Silver Lie,” which crosses at-grade intersections and has to deal with city traffic, yet is promoted as equivalent to a subway line. Pittsburgh did it right. Our busways really are metro lines for buses: no at-grade intersections, no mixing with traffic. The trip from downtown to Shadyside by busway is literally twice as fast as the quickest automobile route. Father Pitt still thinks rail transit is superior, but he cannot withhold his admiration, however grudging, for the excellent bus rapid transit we do have.

Gateway Station, Above the Ground

Posted in Architecture, Downtown, Transit by Dr. Boli on April 11, 2012

The part of the new Gateway subway station that projects above the ground is a weirdly surrealistic pile of glass that will probably look “futuristic” far into the future, in that wonderfully hokey way that old Flash Gordon serials still look “futuristic” today. This is meant as a compliment. Most trends in architecture look terribly dated a few years later, but the most outrageous Art Deco or Space-Age creations never look stale, even when we can hardly believe that they ever actually got built. The multiple angles of the glass reflect the surrounding buildings in a wild cacophony of fractured images. The architects have succeeded in creating a station that Pittsburghers will want to show off to visitors, and that we will enjoy using ourselves.

New Subway: Allegheny

Posted in North Side, Transit by Dr. Boli on March 27, 2012

Between North Side and Allegheny the subway comes up out of the ground and rises to a viaduct past Heinz Field, until it ends (for now) at Allegheny between the casino and the Science Center. Allegheny is thus one of our two fully elevated stations (Fallowfield, which juts out over the edge of a cliff, is mostly elevated), the other being First Avenue. It’s an attractive station whose best feature is its entrance, which actually looks as pure and sharp as an architect’s conceptual drawing.

New Subway: North Side

Posted in North Side, Transit by Dr. Boli on March 27, 2012

The North Side station is our deepest underground station, and the only fully underground station outside downtown. It’s at the north end of the pair of tunnels that carry the subway under the Allegheny.

Compared to the older underground stations—Wood Street, Steel Plaza, and the old Gateway Center—this one is built on a grand scale, more reminiscent of the Metro in Washington than the rest of the subway in Pittsburgh. The decor is minimal, emphasizing the openness of the space.


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