Light Rail Facts Page


Welcome to the fact page devoted entirely to our Light Rail Transit System. Our system is one of the nicer ones in the country. Photos of the cars have been moved to Siemens SD-400 and CAF LRV respectively.

In case you wondered how order was kept in the rail system, here's a peek into the world of the control center...otherwise know as OCC...

This is where the whole LRT system is controlled.

Here is a map showing the system as it will looks now.

The "T" is a 25.2-mile light rail system serving the South Hills. The southern end of the line, between South Hills Village and Washington Junction, opened in May 1984. The downtown subway opened on July 3, 1985.

The "T" includes the downtown subway and three routes to the South Hills.

The 42S South Hills Village operates between South Hills Village and Downtown via Castle Shannon and Beechview. The private right-of-way has been used for trolleys and now light rail since the turn of the century, except for the half-mile section built to connect the new car house with the now defunct Drake line at Dorchester.

The 42L Library operates between West Library and downtown.

The 52 Allentown operates every hour between South Hills Junction via downtown Allentown into downtown Pittsburgh. This Route does NOT serve Station Square. It was my personal favorite.


Some History...


In October 1981 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 (PAT station) 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. Upon completion of the subway, all former streetcar lines were removed from the surface streets of downtown Pittsburgh vastly improving the chronic traffic congestion.

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.

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. Until 1999, all the old PCC cars were stored there.


Active Lines


The "T" runs on two lines north of Washington Junction, the "Beechview" and "Overbrook" lines, over which a number of different services operate:

42S South Hills Village (via Beechview)
Now known as: 42 South Hills Village

The 42 South Hills Village (42S) runs between South Hills Village and Downtown Pittsburgh via the Beechview neighborhood. A companion route, the 47 South Hills Village, branches off at Overbrook Junction and runs through Overbrook. In March 2007, the closure of the Palm Garden Bridge for refurbishment suspended the 42S for five months; it re-opened in September 2007.


47L Library (via Overbrook)

Service begins very far south of downtown in the Library neighborhood of South Park, Pennsylvania. Fifteen stops serve Library, Bethel Park, and South Park before merging with the South Hills Village line at Washington Junction. The line splits again before Overbrook Junction station on the Beechview line, as the 47L instead follows the Overbrook line. The line then makes eight well-spaced stops on its arc through the Overbrook and Bon Air neighborhoods of southern Pittsburgh. The line merges with the Beechview line at South Hills Junction before entering the Mt. Washington Transit Tunnel. The remaining stations are at Station Square, First Avenue, Steel Plaza, Wood Street, and Gateway Center.


47 South Hills Village ("Via Overbrook")

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 Beechview line for the additional traffic that the parking garage created. The 47S route follows the 42S service until Overbrook Junction where it switches to the Overbrook line. It follows the Overbrook line to South Hills Junction where it reunites with the Beechview line before entering downtown.



Discontinued Lines


47D Drake

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. In September of 1999 PAT withdrew the four remaining active-service PCCs from service and closed the Drake line altogether.


52 Allentown

The 52 Allentown (often abbreviated as the 52A) is a service on the Pittsburgh Light Rail system that runs from South Hills Junction over Mount Washington and across the Monongahela River to downtown Pittsburgh, terminating at Gateway Center.

This line is much smaller and runs less frequently than the 42S or 47S and 47L, providing service to the Allentown neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where dense housing and the hilly terrain make automobile transportation very limited–some area streets cannot be used at all during the winter. Service begins at South Hills Junction, heading for Warrington Avenue. The 52 parallels Warrington in an easterly direction until Arlington Avenue, where it follows the sharply bending street until it is running northwesterly. It uses the same bridge into the downtown as the 42 and 47 services, stopping at First Avenue, Steel Plaza, Wood Street, and Gateway Center, but it does not stop at Station Square because it approaches the bridge from the southeast, while Station Square is southwest of the bridge.





Port Authority operates a fleet of 83 LRVs as of October 2005:

4101-4155: (Siemens SD-400) (1985)
4301-4328: (CAF LRV) (2003-2004)
4201-4255: (Except for some unrebuilt ones) (Rebuilt by CAF, ex-Siemens SD400s) (2005-2006)

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.


Future extensions



Since January 1999, the Port Authority of Allegheny County has undertaken environmental analysis, planning, design and engineering of a light rail line to connect Pittsburgh's Downtown and North Shore.

The main project involves twin bored tunnels below the Allegheny River to connect a refurbished Gateway Station, which is the current Downtown terminus, to a "North Side Station", located just west of PNC Park and an "Allegheny Station" located just west of Heinz Field. The North Side Station will serve PNC Park, the Andy Warhol Museum, Allegheny Center and numerous office buildings in the vicinity. The Allegheny Station will serve Heinz Field, the Carnegie Science Center, the National Aviary, the Community College of Allegheny County, the future Rivers Casino which should open in 2009, and other nearby businesses.

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 North Shore Connector should be completed and operational in 2012.

Fun Facts on the Connector...


The project enables future expansion of the T to Pittsburgh International Airport, the Parkway West/Airport Corridor, the North Hills, and other areas within Allegheny County.

The drill is tunneling 22 feet underneath the Allegheny River, which is 25 feet deep. The tunnel that the drill is digging has a diameter of 22 feet, which means you will be about 66 feet below the surface of the river when you travel on the North Shore Connector.

Although new to Pittsburgh, underground light rail transit systems are currently being constructed across the country, and across the world. In New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles, tunnel boring machines are working to unite areas of these cities that were struggling to connect. In Sweden and China, tunnel boring machines are connecting areas that are more than 15 miles apart!

When the drill excavates the dirt, rock, and sludge, it positions air-tight concrete segments that hold the tunnel in place. Sorry, there’s no room for windows!

The American Public Transportation Association estimates that every dollar invested in public transportation returns up to $6 in economic and other public benefits, and that every $10 million in capital investment sparks up to $30 million in business sales. So, just think of what $435 million will do!

Construction on the North Shore Connector will be completed by 2011, which is also when the Freedom Tower in New York City will be completed.


Here's some more...


The North Shore Connector is nearing completion and is scheduled to be functional in March of 2012. The Port Authority of Allegheny County is scheduling test runs for late December, 2011.


This one of the tunnels...


Actual map of the connector.




Planned since the late 1990's, the North Shore Connector received federal funding on February 6, 2004 and had crews complete the initial bore under the river on July 10, 2008. The Connector had a "soft opening" on Friday, March 23rd, 2012, with regular service beginning March 25, 2012. The final cost of the project was $523.4 million


The new North Side Station...


And the inside of the North Side Station.


Headed into the tunnel under the river!


Allegheny Station.


My friend, Sasha Craig, lead instructor at the rail center, preparing to continue training operators.


Siemens LRV at Allegheny Station.


More to Come!