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North Shore Connector should not be transit priority

North Shore Connector should not be transit priority (credit: Josh Smith/Forum Editor) North Shore Connector should not be transit priority (credit: Josh Smith/Forum Editor)

The North Shore Connector, a 1.2-mile-long light rail tunnel under the Allegheny River that connects Downtown and the North Shore, is set to open by the end of March. The $523 million project doesn’t address the pressing needs of Pittsburgh; due to the construction of the connector, the city’s prevalent issues with public transportation are being overlooked.

That is not to say that the North Shore Connector isn’t beneficial to the city. Pittsburgh is spending relatively little for the expensive project. The connector’s primary funding is a federal grant program, with an additional $62 million coming from federal stimulus. The Allegheny County Port Authority also stated the that project supported 4,000 local jobs, according to a report on pittsburghlive.com.

While the economic advantages of the North Shore Connector are substantial, they are temporary, and the project seems to be a misfire. Besides the maintenance and repair that many roads, highways, and bridges in the region need, areas like Downtown and the Squirrel Hill Tunnel constantly deal with traffic congestion issues that are more pressing than the connector.

The Port Authority deals with a significant lack of funding annually and often threatens to cut bus routes important to the city. Numerous communities already have insufficient public transportation support. Important areas in and around Pittsburgh such as Oakland, the airport, and Downtown could be better connected. The funds used for the North Shore Connector could have been used to address, if not solve, these more pressing issues. Expanding a light rail system between Downtown and Oakland would greatly serve the needs of the large population of college students in Oakland who depend on public transportation. The expenditures of college students help support the local economy, and student spending largely depends on how students get around. If Pittsburgh were to improve transit to and from Oakland, it would be beneficial to the city’s economy.

Efforts like the North Shore Connector lack the necessary scope to improve public transportation in the Pittsburgh area. Instead, measures should be taken to improve transit among hubs such as Oakland, Downtown, the Waterfront, and the Pittsburgh International Airport.