Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Expanding the T would cut down on car-centric commotion

Photo by Carson Folio
A sticker in a bus shelter calling for expanding the T.

As construction underground in Downtown “T” stations continues due to necessary structural upgrades, does getting the T “back on track” warrant thoughts about its expansion?

If you take the T often, then the closures that started after the Pirates’ home opener are likely easy to get used to, as Gateway through Steel Plaza has already been closed to outbound traffic during weekends since December. This was because of tunnel work throughout the stations, as well as an escalator replacement project in the Wood Street Station. The closure now spans throughout the week.

These small improvements and fixes are likely to continue for years – they are all part of a $150 million dollar plan to get the system more up to date and safer to ride, without the worry of aging structural elements.

While the high-level maintenance work and upgrades are worth celebrating, how could upgrades in the future help us?

For one, consider how close our campus is to the T. Yes, it is expected that we’d be able to access the light rail system without much trouble, but we are a short walk away from three stations: Gateway, Wood Street, and Station Square – First Avenue could count as a fourth station, but it takes less time to walk across the Smithfield bridge than to walk there. When all these stations are up and running, we are almost at the epicenter of T service in Downtown.

Having these stations readily available to us brings great opportunities to get around on rail fast, whether that is taking a trip to the North Shore to watch a Steelers game, going all the way to South Hills Village mall, or even picking up someone from the Library Station in South Park Township. Simply put, the T is a landmark of public transit here, and we should be thankful that such a system exists here.

One problem, though, where is the rest of the city in the picture? After all, the T’s service past Downtown and the North Shore extends through much of the South Hills and a bit past that. Besides for Beechview, it seems like neighborhoods that could benefit from quick rail transit the most do not have it.

This is not a radical idea either; a March 19th article in the Pittsburgh City Paper by Colin Williams covers the feasibility of creating a line for the T to travel into the East End through the Strip District via unused tracks on Railroad Street. With a name like that, a line there is almost too fitting, at that rate. Instead of having to worry about buses getting stuck in busy traffic through narrow streets, the T could bypass it all. Much of that side of town has plenty of amenities for students, especially in terms of eating and entertainment. Yes, bus routes exist in the area, but the speed does not compare. Driving to South Hills Village from Downtown versus taking the T has a commute difference of almost a half hour when traffic is added into the equation.

Has the T ever been expanded? Yes, as the North Shore side of the system was not added on until 2012. Does PRT want to be part of this dream? Once again, yes. As part of their 25 year “NexTransit” plan, a North Side expansion project as well as an Ohio River expansion are part of their proposed projects, as well as rapid transit through the Allegheny Valley – having the potential to cover the areas just mentioned. This could be another bus system or could utilize the T as well.

The biggest barrier to expanding the T is cost. Even though light rail transit has the potential to be greener than gasoline-burning buses – depending on the source of electricity – it costs much more to build and maintain tracks while also creating stations for each stop. But if these planned and proposed expansions materialized, we would have a much easier time getting around the city. Imagine being able to go to the same T station whether you’re trying to go to the east, south, or north side.

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