The Romare Bearden mural at the Gateway station. Photo by TH Carlisle

“You can’t get there from here.”

Ask a longtime Pittsburgher for directions, and chances are, you’ll hear that more than once. Navigating your way around is … challenging. Especially without a car.

Port Authority’s 2045 NEXTransit Network for Allegheny County attempts to remedy many of the longstanding problems of getting from here to there. It’s actually a plan for the next quarter-century, developed with extensive public input.

“We asked people to dream big and tell us what they need,” says Adam Brandolph with the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

The public was engaged in several ways, including virtual meetings, surveys and input submitted directly to the NEXTransit site.

What emerged were Top 5 Priorities (Policies & Programs), including affordable fare and better signage, and Ten Project Priorities. The 10 projects are:

1. East/Central Pittsburgh Connection
2. Downtown Transit Center
3. Library Line Best Use Study
4. Homestead to McKeesport Upgraded Transit
5. Allentown/Downtown/Strip District LRT Best Use Study
6. East Busway to Monroeville Rapid Transit
7. McKnight Road Upgraded Transit
8. Allegheny Valley Rapid Transit
9. East Busway Phased Extensions
10. Airport Corridor Rapid Transit

These plans are entirely aspirational at the moment and lack funding. But they will help determine what the Port Authority’s priorities are for the next quarter-century.

Possible future Strip District station with a vertical connection to the Hill District. Rendering courtesy of Port Authority.

Some of these projects have a lot of moving parts. The East/Central Pittsburgh Connection calls for studying the impact of a new station in the Strip District and “a vertical connection between the Strip District or northeastern Downtown and the Hill District.” It’s not clear what that would mean (an incline? a gondola?), but it’s part of a network of transit connections needed between the Strip District, Hill District, Oakland, Hazelwood, across the Monongahela River toward Overbrook, and with areas in the South Hills that need an Oakland connection.

Some of the ideas include light rail expansion, a rare and costly endeavor. For example, a “Best Use” study for the neglected Silver Line/Library (the South Hills station) route is fifth on the list. There are other less exciting efforts under consideration, such as a bus garage expansion study. PAT can’t add new routes without new buses, and the garages are at maximum capacity, notes Brandolph.

Photo courtesy of Port Authority.

It’s still early, and the public is still invited to submit their feedback.

“All of these projects are going to require followup steps,” says Brandolph.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.