Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pittsburgh Connectivity

My blog fodder queue is overflowing, but I gather that the high-speed rail issue merits some further discussion. How might we prioritize the various project proposals? I'll start with Pittsburgh's problem:

So while the Keystone state enjoys a higher-than-average passenger rail availability as compared with other states, the western Pennsylvania counties are noticeably underrepresented in the equation.

“It’s interesting how over the years, Pittsburgh has become something of an island,” said Congressman Tim Murphy, PA-18, citing decreasing air and ground transportation options.

In fact, as Ken Joseph, a councilman for the National Association of Railroad Passengers pointed out, Pittsburgh is one of the few regions that has lost passenger rail service. Previously, there were two round trip links to Harrisburg and direct service to Chicago.

Pittsburgh is increasingly isolated. The historical geography of the region lends itself to a particularly fierce form parochialism and is partly to blame for anemic in-migration. Pittsburgh desperately needs to improve its inter-urban connectivity, especially with cities outside of the United States. Domestically, which high-speed rail route would best benefit Pittsburgh?

Paz chips in his two cents:

No one is going to admit it, but Cleveburgh is probably a more important line than the Keystone corridor (and this is coming from someone who goes East far more often then he goes West). A Cleveland-Pittsburgh line is more in keeping with the major city-paring lines like the Hiawatha in Milwaukee or the Lincoln service in Illinois. Keystone makes more sense politically, but I think Cleveburgh makes more sense from an economic and cultural standpoint.

Improved service between Cleveland and Pittsburgh is a great idea. I'm a big fan of Cleveburgh connectivity. However, I think I have a different idea of how best to do it. I'd link the airports of the corridor, not the downtown areas. Shrinking service to and from Rust Belt cities is a strong trend, unlikely to abate in the near future, making the support of international flights difficult. But the much larger Cleveburgh market can fill a plane to Paris and attract more business to the region. Regardless, Cleveburgh isn't ideal for high-speed rail given the short distance between cities and the likely number of stops.

I'd promote non-stop high-speed rail service to Washington, DC. That option isn't on the table, so I'd settle for a line to Philadelphia without a layover in Harrisburg. I doubt I'll get that, either. Pittsburgh appears to me to be ambivalent about this opportunity. Once again, historical geography is destiny. It's steel good enough in Pittsburgh.

1 comment:

Stephen Gross said...

I'd love to see high-speed rail from Pgh to NYC. I suppose that's probably not going to happen... It's 6hrs by car. Maybe a 120mph train could do it in 3hrs. That would be awesome.