Allegheny County Transit Council

From a meeting of the Technology and Long Range Planning Committees

August 24, 2005

 

On the Need for an Elevated Walkway Near the Convention Center

 

Executive Summary

The ACTC recommends that an elevated walkway connecting the Convention Center to the Greyhound, Amtrak, East Busway and the existing and functional Penn Park T stations be constructed, deferring the light rail spur to the Convention Center.  This would provide a transportation solution superior to a new rail line alone at a fraction of the cost, thus keeping the North Shore Connector project within its original budget plan.

 

 

Detailed explanation

When all bids on the North Shore Connector came in well over the budget plan, the Long Range Planning, and Technology, Committees of ACTC met to devise alternatives that would bring the project within budget while preserving as much of it as feasible.

            As you know, the North Shore Connector is comprised of two distinctly separate pieces, the leg from Gateway through the river tunnel, then west to Allegheny Avenue, and the spur from Steel Plaza to the Convention Center.  Of these, the latter is much smaller.  Deferring the spur would save enough money to bring the project as a whole within guidelines, but seriously alters its composition.

            To avoid this concern, any change would have to fulfill the plan’s original purpose.  In the Final Environmental Impact Statement, Table S-1, “Study Area Goals and Objectives”, of particular interest are the eight accessibility objectives listed for the project.  We believe the same goals can be achieved by pursuing a different approach, one that should cost far less to construct, and just as importantly, far less to operate and maintain.

            In short, we propose that an elevated walkway be constructed, connecting the Convention Center to several major transportation facilities in the immediate area which already exist.  Consider the following:

 

1)      Four major land-based transportation hubs lie in a line running only 200 yards east-southeast from the Convention Center.

a.       The Greyhound bus terminal

b.      The Amtrak station

c.       The East Busway

d.      The Penn Park Station of the T

2)      The largest obstacle separating these from the Convention Center is Liberty Avenue, an extremely busy four-lane street.  Crossing this street on foot is dangerous at best, and often virtually impossible.

3)      Conventioneers traveling from Amtrak, Greyhound, Busway or the T, even if they could cross Liberty Avenue, must also cross both Penn Avenue and potentially also Eleventh Street, further isolating the Convention Center.

4)      Anytime pedestrians cross a street, traffic must stop.  Any significant number of conventioneers on foot would bring three critical streets to a standstill, just when the same flood of people would also be filling these streets with automotive traffic.  Elevating the pedestrian flow would greatly ease automobile congestion.

5)      The parking garage of the Convention Center itself lies along this same line. 

6)      Since a large parking garage will be built above the new Greyhound Terminal, a walkway directly to the Convention Center would also greatly benefit those travelers.

7)      When the Convention Center was nominated for its “Green Building” designation, one major criterion was the count of public transit stops within a quarter mile.  Without an elevated walkway, many of these stops are inaccessible, forcing complete dependence on the automobile.

8)      Should a commuter rail service be instituted, whether from the Allegheny Valley, Greensburg or elsewhere, those riders would become pedestrians beginning at the Amtrak station.

9)      The Convention Center spur, if built, would be of the greatest benefit only to those light rail riders arriving from south or north of the city.  Because of the many modes served, a walkway would benefit convention traffic from multiple directions.

10)  Rail riders would still have access, since the T’s Penn Park Station is fully operational.

11)  With the Greyhound Bus Terminal undergoing a complete demolition and reconstruction, this is the perfect opportunity to build a walkway adjacent to that property with no disturbance to their operations.

12)  A walkway system’s extensibility is highly flexible and can be done quickly, whereas light rail is not.

13)  The cost of extending a walkway would be very little in comparison to that of a light rail extension.

14)  An extension farther south, upward to Bedford Avenue, would also connect these transportation facilities directly to Mellon Arena.  Connecting a second major in-city destination to four major transportation facilities, all without delaying the motion of a single automobile, can only enhance the attractiveness and usability of them all, both individually and together.

15)  Deferring the spur in favor of building a walkway would also facilitate saving the rail yard adjacent to Penn Park, currently unused, which if put to use provides possible cost savings, both in operating the system and in capital costs in case the T is ever extended eastward.

16)  The elevated walkway between the Westin Hotel and the Convention Center has proven to be an essential part of the conventioneers’ experience.  This one can be expected to do the same. 

17)  The idea is not new, and has been proven worthy elsewhere.  Minneapolis and Cincinnati have had extensive elevated pedestrian walkways throughout their downtown business districts for many years.

18)  A walkway would foster the feeling that all modes of transportation are equal and easily accessible.

19)  Including the space and support for street vendors in the design, similar to those recently added to Downtown T stations, could help defray maintenance and operating costs, and/or increase the tax base of city businesses.

20)  Amenities such as moving walkways, elevators, etc., could easily be included in the design at this point.

21)  Since construction time would be a fraction of what a subway requires, a walkway could be put in service ahead of the subway.

 

In summary, the ACTC recommends that an elevated walkway connecting the Convention Center to the Greyhound, Amtrak, East Busway and the existing and functional Penn Park T stations be constructed, deferring the light rail spur to the Convention Center.  This would provide a transportation solution superior to a new rail line alone at a fraction of the cost, thus keeping the North Shore Connector project within its original budget plan.

 

Draft submitted by Stuart Strickland, ACTC Technology Committee.

Direct questions and comments to stusarah@telerama.com, 412-366-5009.

 

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