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Downtown Pittsburgh skyline as seen from Mount Washington, November 26, 2015

Downtown Pittsburgh skyline as seen from Mount Washington, November 26, 2015

Pittsburgh is often thought of as a city of bridges; it actually has three more than Venice, Italy (446 to 443).  However, the city also has a significant rapid transit history.  Pittsburgh had the highest concentration of freight traffic during the height of the steel industry.  From 1956 until 1980, Conway Yard was the busiest freight rail yard in the world.

The city’s intracity public transit system is now operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County, often referred to as PAT for short.  PAT was authorized by the Pennsylvania General Assembly to acquire the Pittsburgh Railway Company and other private transit operators in the metropolitan area in the late 1950s.  Those purchases were completed in 1963 and PAT began operating those services directly on March 1, 1964.  The Pittsburgh Railway Company had one of the largest fleets of PCC streetcars at one time, but PAT gradually converted the former streetcar routes to bus services.  Today’s light rail uses former streetcar routes, but the light rail only has two lines extending for a total of 26 miles, whereas the Pittsburgh Railway Company operated 62 routes and 600 miles of track at one time.

The PAT bus network is quite large, as of early 2016 the fleet has over 700 buses in it.  While the number of rail routes in Pittsburgh has decreased over time, PAT has constructed three busways to provide rapid bus service in the corridors formerly served by the streetcars.  The first of these busways opened in 1977.

PAT also acquired an incline railroad, the Monongahela Incline, that it continues to operate to this day.  The incline operates a short route from near Downtown Pittsburgh to Mount Washington and is used more by tourists than by commuters.  A second incline, the Duquesne Incline, is owned by the PAT but is operated by the Society for the Preservation of the Duquesne Heights Incline.  Both inclines accept PAT fare media.

Finally, several neighboring jurisdictions operate limited commuter bus services in to downtown Pittsburgh.  These operators are separate from PAT though there have been proposals to bring them under a single, operator in order to create a truly unified transit system for the whole Pittsburgh area.

Port Authority Buses

The Port Authority operates nearly 700 buses. While the current fleet primarily consists of Gillig Advantage and New Flyer D60LFR buses, over the years PAT has also operated Neoplan Transitliner AN440s, Gillig Phantoms, Flxible Metros, Orion Vs, GMC RTSs, and GMC Old Look buses.

Pittsburgh Light Rail

The Pittsburgh Light Rail is a direct descendant of the Pittsburgh streetcar network, which was at one time the largest streetcar system in the United States. Following the Port Authority's acquisition of the Pittsburgh Railways Company and about 30 other private transportation companies, streetcar lines were converted to bus operations. In the mid-1970s, the Port Authority proposed eliminating the remaining streetcar lines in favor of a bus rapid transit system. However, community objections in the South Hills neighborhoods resulted in the streetcar line being rebuilt as a modern light rail line in the 1980s. Light Rail service began in 1984, and a subway section was constructed in Downtown Pittsburgh and opened in 1985. Today, the Pittsburgh Light Rail has two lines serving 53 stations along 26.2 miles of track. About 27,700 people use the light rail each day as of late 2014.

Duquesne Incline

The Duquesne Incline first opened on May 17, 1877 as a steam powered freight operation. However, as residents of Mount Washington got tired of climbing the steep footpaths to reach their neighborhood, the incline began to serve passengers as well. Many other inclines were built along the hill, but by the 1960s, all had shut down with the exception of the Duquesne Incline and Monongahela Incline. The Duquesne Incline was almost shuttered as well in 1962. However, in 1963, the incline reopened under the auspices of the Society for the Preservation of The Duquesne Heights Incline, a nonprofit organization dedicated to operating, maintaining, and preserving the incline. The incline remains in operation to this day and is one of Pittsburgh's most visited tourist attractions. The incline operates a route nearly 800 feet long at an incline of 30 degrees seven days a week. Although operated by the nonprofit, PAT passes are valid on the Duquesne Incline, and it is used by commuters in addition to tourists.

Freedom Transit (Washington, PA)

Freedom Transit was founded by a merger of the Washington County Transportation Authority and the Washington City Transit on July 1, 2015. Freedom Transit operates a mix of fixed route and demand-response services. Freedom Transit offers 80,000 trips on its fixed route services and 210,000 trips on its demand-response and paratransit services each year.

Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority

The Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority (MMVTA) was established in 1985. It operates 7 routes in in Washington County, Westmoreland County, and a small portion of Fayette County, as well as commuter service to and from Pittsburgh. The Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority provides commuter service between