Sunday, July 02, 2006

Adventures in Pittsburgh

I'm on a two-week reconnaissance mission in Pittsburgh. Getting here was a bit of an ordeal thanks to my goal to keep this business/research trip as inexpensive as possible. I cashed in some frequent flyer miles for a free trip on Frontier Airlines, but the closest airport in Frontier's network is Akron/Canton airport.

I didn't think that would be a problem, securing a Greyhound Bus ticket from Akron to downtown Pittsburgh. However, getting to bus station in Akron from the airport proved to be difficult and expensive. Public transportation doesn't run to the airport on weekends, at least from Akron.

How does someone of limited means travel in this region? I gather that if you use the airport, you should have enough money to navigate the secondary legs of your journey. $40 plus tip got me the bus station via a cab. That was more than half of the price of a roundtrip bus ticket between Akron and Pittsburgh.

I was still way under the price of a rental car so far, but intraregional travel is often more expensive than interregional travel. Am I making an argument for intraregional infrastructure? I do believe I am. Airports, CBDs, IT corridors, and universities tend to form the hub of any region's globalization link. How well the rest of the region is connected to that hub will define the extent that area is linked to global processes.

Akron-Canton is a great secondary airport for the Pittsburgh region. I realize that Cleveland is the selling point, but Pittsburgh would be wise to establish some formal links to this airport, and I don't mean a puddle jumper to Pittsburgh International. There is a different tier of business traveler that Pittsburgh could target.

Despite the steep price, I enjoyed my cab ride. If you want to know the secrets of any area, engage your cabbie. My driver told me that he doesn't see many riders who are there for business, let alone going to Pittsburgh. His bread and butter is shuttling pilots.

He could smell an opportunity and asked me to keep him in mind if I needed someone to build webpages. I thought to myself that he would be better off starting a business shuttling people to Pittsburgh from CAK.

I'll fast forward to my arrival in Pittsburgh. The location of the new Greyhound Bus station is a major disappointment. If Pittsburgh would like to attract Latino immigrants, they need to do a better job of promoting the cheaper forms of interregional transportation.

Pittsburgh is a horrible city to navigate for a first-time visitor and the relocation of the bus station was a step in the wrong direction. A local friend offered to pick me up. She had never been to the Greyhound station. Even though she knew where it is located, she struggled to figure out how to get there.

The message was loud and clear: we hope you are just passing through to somewhere else.


Jim Russell said...

The opportunities for, and obstacles to, intraregional transport are defined by our reliance on the automobile.

But the transportation geography of globalization is defined by a lack of a car.

Pittsburgh's transportation infrastructure is remarkably visitor unfriendly. Even if you had access to a car, getting around is difficult.

The Sun Belt cities are being built up by outsiders, which I think gives them a huge edge in establishing an urban global presence.

Jim Russell said...

It is close to where Roethlisberger had his accident, near the jail.

Jim Russell said...

I should add that I found out that the current location of the Pittsburgh Greyhound station is temporary. The new Greyhound station will be in roughly the same place as where the old one is, conveniently downtown.

That said, how about some signs to the temporary digs, Pittsburgh?