In October 1981, the Port Authority began construction on its first “modern” light rail/subway service, the “T”, which used an old trolley route to connect Downtown Pittsburgh to the South Hills Village area. The “T” began operating in 1987 over the “Beechview” line. This was a former streetcar line that had been rehabilitated to accommodate light rail vehicles. This line was reconstructed (being completely double tracked) and routed from the South Hills Junction through the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel, emerging at a newly constructed station at Station Square before crossing the Monongahela river on the Panhandle Bridge (a former railway bridge), which then led into a newly built downtown (cut and cover tunnel) subway with four stations, which incorporated the nineteenth century Pittsburgh & Steubenville Extension Railroad Tunnel. The original subway branched north of Steel Plaza, with one branch heading west to Wood Street and one branch heading east to Penn Station. Upon completion of the subway, all former streetcar lines were removed from the surface streets of Downtown Pittsburgh. The First Avenue station was added in 2001; service to Penn Station was suspended later that decade.
Mid-20th century PCC streetcars continued to run over the “Overbrook” line until 1993, when concerns about the safety of the line led PAT to suspend service there pending reconstruction. In June 2004, the Overbrook line re-opened as a fully-rebuilt double-tracked line served by modern light rail vehicles. The “T” is most heavily used in four stations downtown (three of which are underground), where service is free of charge.
Formerly 42S. The Red Line runs between South Hills Village and Downtown Pittsburgh via the Beechview neighborhood. Six stops serve Upper St. Clair and Bethel Park before merging with the Blue Line at Washington Junction. The Red Line splits again before Overbrook Junction (PAT station) and the Red Line heads toward the suburbs of Castle Shannon, Mt. Lebanon, and Dormont. After entering Pittsburgh city limits, the route features a variety of closely spaced stops through Beechview, where bus service is limited due to the hilly terrain, despite a dense population. Twenty stops occur between the split in the lines and their re-juncture at South Hills Junction. The route then enters the Mt. Washington Transit Tunnel. The remaining stations in Downtown are at Station Square, First Avenue, Steel Plaza, and Wood Street (PAT station). In March 2007, the closure of the Palm Garden Bridge for refurbishment suspended the 42S for five months; it re-opened in September 2007.
Formerly 44L, 47L. Service begins near the Allegheny County line in the Library neighborhood of South Park. Fifteen stops serve Library, Bethel Park, and South Park before merging with the Blue Line – South Hills Village line at Washington Junction. Some weekday, and all weekend trips end at Washington Junction, where a timed transfer to the Blue Line – South Hills Village will continue a trip to Overbrook and Downtown. For the trips that serve Downtown, the line splits again before Overbrook Junction station on the Red Line, as the Blue Line instead follows the Overbrook route. The line then makes eight well-spaced stops on its arc through the Overbrook, Brookline, Carrick, Beltzhoover, and Bon Air neighborhoods of southern Pittsburgh. The line merges with the Red Line at South Hills Junction before entering the Mt. Washington Transit Tunnel. The remaining stations are at Station Square, First Avenue, Steel Plaza, and Wood Street.
Formerly 47S. In 2005, the Port Authority opened a new parking garage at the South Hills Village station. The 47S line was established in an effort to relieve congestion on the Red Line for the additional traffic that the parking garage created. The Blue Line – South Hills Village route follows the South Hills Village leg of the Red Line and the common leg from Washington Junction to Willow Station, which is adjacent to Overbrook Junction, where it switches to the Blue Line – Library mainline. It follows the Blue Line – Library to South Hills Junction where it reunites with the Red Line before entering downtown.
Formerly 52. The Brown Line runs from South Hills Junction low platform (except the first and last trips of each rush, which serve the high platform) over Mount Washington and across the Monongahela River to downtown Pittsburgh, terminating at Wood Street. It is the only downtown route that does not stop at Station Square nor use the Mount Washington tunnel. The line supplements the 46K bus, running 4 times each during the morningrush and 3 times during the evening rush. A throwback to the days of the streetcars, the 52 does not features stations or street-level boarding stops (which are generally designed like bus shelters in the suburbs, or are concrete island platforms in Beechview) but instead allows for boarding and unloading at designated 46K bus stops. Two inbound and two outbound trips (the first one in and the last one out of each rush) serve South Hills Village. This service exists because the train is coming from the rail center located near South Hills Village Mall, and serves the entire length of the route.
Occasionally, the Port Authority will use shuttle service for special occasions. For example:
On March 14th, 2010, shuttle service between Steel Plaza and Penn Park Station was used as a connection to the East Busway. Due to the St. Patrick’s day parade, the EBA bus (East Busway – All Stops)Was unable to connect with the downtown portion of its route.
On July 4, 2008, the SL – Subway Local was used. This route provided service between Gateway Center and South Hills Junction Low Platform via Mt. Washington Transit tunnel.
When the Port Authority was testing automatic equipment on the Overbrook Line, the 42L – Library via Beechview was used as a replacement to the 47L.
Shuttle buses are also used when the T cannot operate, such as when construction or tree removal is taking place, power outages, and derailments.
The 44 Castle Shannon-Library (44L) and the 44 Castle Shannon-Beechview (44S) were truncated versions of the Blue Line – Library and Red Line, respectively. The 44L ran from Library to Washington Junction. The 44S ran between Overbrook Junction and Traymore. It was introduced when the closure of the Palm Garden Bridge cut off the Beechview line from the Downtown. The 44S was discontinued when the Palm Garden Bridge re-opened, in favor of the 42C.
When light rail service began, PCC trolley service continued from Drake north through Castle Shannon along the Overbrook line to downtown. All downtown platforms incorporated both low- and high-level platforms enabling them to handle both types of vehicles. When safety concerns prompted the closure of the Overbrook line in 1993 the Drake line was cut back to Castle Shannon; later, service would terminate at Washington Junction. In September of 1999 PAT withdrew the four remaining active-service PCCs from service and closed the Drake line altogether.
This was a PCC trolley line that led commuters either northbound (via Overbrook line) or southbound (via South Hills Junction, Drake or Library lines) to Castle Shannon station. The line’s turnaround point, the Shannon Loop, was located just past the station at Mt. Lebanon Blvd. This loop no longer exists. Also removed from the Shannon route were the tracks surrounding the old Castle Shannon Municipal Building (which is also gone) at the intersection of Castle Shannon Blvd. and Willow Ave. At this Overbrook line connector, incoming trolleys ran in front of the building and outgoing trolleys ran behind the building and through the narrow passage between the building and Castle Shannon Blvd.
Fleet and depot
The interior of car #4240, showing the low-platform and high-platform doors.
Port Authority operates a fleet of 83 LRVs as of 2006:
4201–4255: Siemens SD-400s, built in 1984–86 as 4101–4155; rebuilt by CAF in 2005–2006 and renumbered
Trains are generally run in a two car configuration. The routes have sections that have a dedicated right of way as well as mixed sections that run along roadways with automobile traffic. Generally, stations along roadways have low level platforms while stops along the dedicated rights of way have high level platforms. To allow easy boarding in both situations, the trains have two sets of doors at the front, with a low set and a staircase as well as a high set with level access from the platform to the train.
Retired PCC fleet
The four remaining PCC cars were retired in 1999. They avoided the breakers yard, along with some other trolleys from the later years of PAT ownership.
The South Hills Village Rail Center (SHVRC) is located at the end of 42S and 47S lines at South Hills Village Mall. All of the revenue light rail vehicles (LRVs) and some Maintenance of Way vehicles are stored there. All the old PCC cars were stored there as well prior to their retirement in 1999.
Unexpectedly high bids from construction companies had stalled construction, originally scheduled to begin in Fall 2005. The entire project is budgeted at $435 million, with approximately 80% ($348 million) coming from the Federal Transit Administration. The Port Authority began construction in October 2006, and the twin tunnels under the Allegheny river were completed in early 2009. The North Shore Connector is expected to be completed and operational in 2011.