Pittsburgh Oakland Gondola



A Pittsburgh Gondola

Brian T. suggests that Pittsburgh’s challenging topography (not to mention finances) and its historical association with cable transit solutions might make it an early adopter of urban gondolas. Check out the route he devised on google maps (make sure to view it in Earth mode, to fully appreciate Pittsburgh’s topography).

Image by Brian T.

With the growth of various universities, hospitals, and related companies, the Oakland section of Pittsburgh has become the third-most important business district in Pennsylvania, after central Philadelphia and Downtown Pittsburgh.  Transit officials have studied extending Pittsburgh’s modest light rail/subway system (the “T”) from Downtown to Oakland via the underdeveloped Hill District, but the tunneling costs have proven prohibitive for cash-strapped Pittsburgh.  The northern portion of the proposed gondola route would provide this service.

South Hills Junction is the collection point for various T branches and the South Busway (a bus-only highway), and is connected by a tunnel and a bridge to Downtown.  Potential transit commuters to Oakland from the southern suburbs must pass through South Hills Junction to Downtown, then walk to a bus stop for an often-crowded transfer to Oakland.  The southern portion of the proposed gondola route would provide a bypass of Downtown from South Hills Junction directly to Oakland, via two secondary employment centers (the South Side Works and Pittsburgh Technology Center).  This route is inconceivable with light rail, since it would require two tunnels and a bridge.

Both branches of the proposed route would also greatly improve connectivity for Oakland’s student-heavy and car-light population, and provide a fun way for visitors to loop through many major tourist destinations.

Generally, Pittsburgh’s topography has often forced it to the cutting edge of transportation technology: it was an early adopter of cable-propelled streetcars and inclines (two are still in operation), and its Busway system, which serves many more riders than the T, has been described as the grandfather of bus rapid transit in the United States.

It would not surprise me if Pittsburgh’s pressing unmet rapid transit needs, capital constraints, and ever-challenging topography once again combined to make it an early adopter of urban gondolas.

Thanks to Brian for this!

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