The Pittsburgh Metro

Can you imagine Pittsburgh with a comprehensive metro system to rival Montreal’s or Washington’s? How much do you think it would cost? How much do you think the contract would be worth to the lucky bidder?

Father Pitt expects to win that bid, because he will undercut any competitors’ bids so severely that they will be forced to admit defeat.

Father Pitt will give you a complete metro system for nothing. Free, gratis, without charge.

How can he afford to do that? Is he wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice?

Well, of course he is, but that is not strictly relevant. Old Pa Pitt can give you a metro system for nothing because only he knows the secret. You can have a metro that would be the envy of any comparable city if you will but open your eyes and see that you already have it.

Old Pa Pitt is a busy man these days, what with dusting two and a half centuries’ worth of accumulated detritus just in case Chancellor Merkel should decide to take a white glove to his shelves. This is his excuse for not yet having released his plan for rapid-transit development in Pittsburgh, which he had nearly finished months ago. This was the map he had prepared:

Click on the image for a PDF map.
Click on the image for a PDF map.

One of the main planks in his rapid-transit platform was to make the rail system easier for novice riders by replacing the arcane route numbers with colored lines, as most rail-transit systems in this country have done. He had prepared a map that showed Routes 42S and 42C as the Red Line, Routes 47L and 47S as the Blue Line, and Route 52 as the Yellow Line.

You may imagine his considerable amusement, then, when the Port Authority released a Transit Development Plan a little while ago, in which—among other changes—the rail routes are now designated by colors rather than by numbers. Routes 42S and 42C will be known as the Red Line, Routes 47L and 47S as the Blue Line, and Route 52 as the Brown Line.

The coincidence in color choices is less extraordinary than you might think. Until a few years ago, although the lines had been designated by route numbers, the system maps had always shown Routes 42 as red lines and Routes 47 as blue lines. Why brown, of all colors, should represent the Allentown Trolley is a question Father Pitt prefers not to waste too much time pondering. President Zuma is reputed to be unusually fastidious, and there is scrubbing to be done.

But the Port Authority’s plan only goes halfway. Pittsburgh’s busways are the other half of the system.

Other cities like Boston and Cleveland have integrated “bus rapid transit” lines into their rapid-transit system maps. Yet those are halfhearted affairs, mixing with street traffic and subject to many of the inconveniences of ordinary buses.

Pittsburgh, almost alone in North America, has built real metro lines for buses. There are no at-grade intersections at all; the buses have their own track from one end of the busway to the other. These high-speed transit lines deserve to be recognized as part of the Pittsburgh Metro. And marketing them that way would make them both easier to use and more attractive.

In a few days, Father Pitt will release two more maps. One will be an updated map of the rapid-transit system as the Port Authority sees it (update: now posted here). The other will be an updated version of the ideal Pittsburgh Metro. Watch this space carefully.

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