Pennsylvania Trolley Museum

From Father Pitt’s archives, a picture taken before his Web site existed. This is a Philadelphia PCC car, decorated for a birthday party, waiting for passengers at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.

The museum has a large collection of trolleys from all over North America, but the most of the ones from outside Pennsylvania must be modified to run on the museum’s track, which is Pennsylvania Broad Gauge. Both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia still use a non-standard gauge, because in the nineteenth century the Pennsylvania legislature, fearing that streetcar companies might do back-door deals with the railroads that would end with huge locomotives running down the middle of the street, made it illegal for streetcar companies to use standard-gauge track. (It seems that Philadelphia trolleys actually use a gauge a quarter-inch narrower than the Pittsburgh gauge, and Father Pitt has no idea how much modification they require to run on the ever-so-slightly broader gauge.)

Camera: Fujifilm FinePix 2650.

Allegheny Station

Another view of the Allegheny station, this time from the Carnegie Science Center. A rush-hour two-car train is waiting on the platform.

The subway is free all the way from here under the Allegheny and through to First Avenue on the other side of downtown Pittsburgh. The extension of the free zone to the North Side is sponsored by the Stadium Authority and the Rivers Casino, so old Pa Pitt cannot in good conscience say that gambling never did anything for him. He still has never set foot in the casino, but he is grateful for the free ride.

Camera: Kodak EasyShare Z1485 IS.

Pittsburgh Rapid Transit (again)

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 But old Pa Pitt’s most recent map is badly out of date, and it’s time for a revision.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

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.