Left: A crowd gathers in Gateway Station Downtown to take the first ride on the North Shore Connector. (Photo by Kelsey Shea)
In Downtown’s newly reopened Gateway T Station, two Northsiders Mark Fatla and Darlene Harris tried to put a number on the years spent working towards the day’s event ¬– the grand opening of the North Shore Connector.
Darlene Harris, Pittsburgh city council president and Spring Hill resident, remembered attending meetings for it in the late ’80s, while Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference, said he has planning models in his office from the ’60s that show a rail system spanning the Allegheny River.
But under or over, ’60s or ’80s, both Fatla and Harris agreed that the new link between Downtown and the North Shore was a good thing, not just for stadium and casino business, but for the neighborhoods of the Northside as well.
“It’s not optimal and it’s certainly not a substitute for busses in the neighborhoods but it’s an upgrade,” said Fatla who noted that the Connector would enhance Northside development, cut commuter cost and open up amenities for Northsiders.
At 1 p.m. on March 23, the North Shore Connector, an extension of the T system that links the Northside to Downtown through a tunnel under the Allegheny River, held its grand opening after eight years of planning and construction.
As well as Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, former mayor Sophie Masloff, Port Authority CEO Steve Bland, Art Rooney and Congressman Mike Doyle, volunteers in costume from the Pennsylvania Trolley museum were in attendance to help herd the several hundred attendees on and off the trains.
“The boundaries of our Downtown neighborhood have been expanded,” said Bland, who noted that easier access would help development Downtown and in the Northside.
Before the passengers boarded the trains, Congressman Doyle joked that passengers need not worry, “you don’t have to hold your breath.”
The March 23 inaugural ride started Downtown before stopping at the North Side Station near PNC Park where Mayor Ravenstahl and Warhol Director Eric Shiner spoke, and Northside attractions like The Children’s Museum and The Mattress Factory had exhibits and performances set up for riders to visit.
“Go outside and experience the wonderful neighborhood we have here,” said Ravenstahl at North Side Station.
The final stop was at Allegheny Station near Rivers Casino, Heinz Field and the Carnegie Science Center before the T headed back Downtown.
Rides between Downtown and both North Shore stations will be free of charge due to sponsorships from ALCO Parking, The Stadium Authority, The Pittsburgh Steelers and River’s Casino.
The 1.2 mile long T ride lasts about two minutes and trains leave every four minutes at peak hours.
Two days after its grand opening, The North Shore Connector opened to the public at 6:45 a.m., just in time for the morning commute and had 80-90 passengers for the first public ride.
Though Port Authority said ridership numbers are not yet available Port Authority Spokeswoman Heather Pharo said they are pleased with the number of people checking out the new service and that there was a healthy number of riders on Sunday morning.
She said that there have been no problems related to the new service that have been reported in the first week.