The biggest use case for the wabash tunnel in the short term, and one of the larger ones in the long run, will be as a link to one or more park and ride locations along what limited infrastructure can be tacked on from there. The further south and the more you can branch out, the more tunnel traffic and misery you can save, and the more attention it’ll get.
Some folks will use their bikes for a lot more, but probably most won’t. The hills are one thing, but multiplied out over an entirely suburban development pattern, that’s when it’s really rough. As a for instance, comparing my home in squirrel hill to my parent’s in the south hills and just using the google biking directions to the closest grocery store, I have a half mile trip, they have a three and a half mile trip. I have 46 feet of climbing to get there, they have 328. Both are doable, but one is a lot more so than the other. You could repeat that experiment for almost any other common destination in life and find the same thing.
I think it would be much more useful to improve the bike-friendliness and functionality for bikes of the inclines, rather than expend much energy on this tunnel. The other end of the inclines open directly onto neighborhoods, actually neighborhoods with vast swaths of undervalued property, within city limits, that would be attractive to a demographic open to better transportation biking. As others have implied, the other end of this tunnel would still require crap-tons of additional infrastructure before it is even remotely more attractive to the casual transportation bike user. If someone is committed enough to make it from the south to the tunnel, they are likely enough to be able to make it over the last hill.
SW PA is just a hard and shitty place for “casual” biking, it just has to be admitted. The level of fitness and commitment required for the easiest casual ride is very high. It’s very difficult to go against billions of years of geology.
I don’t think admitting defeat facing topography gets us anywhere and I’m especially loathe to do so in a thread that has the potential to make some difference in the matter. There are slowly riding valleys coming from the other end going into the south hills that could get you pretty far if there were some decent infrastructure built to follow.
I haven’t tried the incline with a bike, or generally, in about two decades. Not that it can’t be a small helpful thing, but I somewhat doubt you’ll ever see truly a lot of people using it. I’m generally wary of suggesting public transit, whether it be buses or funiculars in the same breath as biking infrastructure. There’s a lot of overlap to the applicability and the two can be complementary, but I know for myself, and I have to imagine for many others, it’s principally as a backup plan. One of the major reasons I ride is so I can come and go freely, more freely than in a car because I’m not worried where to put the stupid thing.
Put those two together and the fact that connecting that last mile or three (whether it be via bike or bus) is intrinsically harder and lower payoff with a suburban development pattern, that’s why I talk a lot about park and ride. Is that not pure enough or something?
Seriously folks, the south hills people will go from thinking bikes are the stupidest thing ever to the greatest thing ever, overnight, if you can spare them tunnel backup headaches getting into town. I can’t comment on cost/prioritization vs. other stuff in the pipeline, but having allies matters, even beyond the city limits. I’d like to see us try and make them here.
One thing about the inclines though – as ancient as they are, unlike buses or even the T, they are the most reliable and consistent component of the transit system. You always know where they are, and more or less when they run.
Somewhat out-of-date financial info about the tunnel is here: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2006/04/25/Wabash-Tunnel-has-become-expensive-venture/stories/200604250155
As of 2006, PAT paid $780K/year to a local contractor to maintain the tunnel. The PG estimates this works out to $12/trip so 65K trips/year.
I think PAT would dearly like to be rid of the tunnel, if funding could be found to pay for it. They might even be willing to sell it for a good price. But it’s still a matter of several hundreds of thousands of dollars / year to maintain it.
It sounds like bikes in that tunnel is a pipe dream, at least for the foreseeable future. A decent enough alternative would be a separate bike path from the bottom of Crane Ave. to the bottom of Warrington, combined with a bike lane going up Warrington to Allentown. Once you hit the top of the hill at the police station, it’s like skiing a big mountain out west: if you make the right turns, you can put yourself about anywhere along the base of the mountain.
Only 65K trips a year, that’s truly amazing and pathetic. Looking into the source of the costs:
“They change gates and signs that control the alternating one-way flow of traffic, monitor closed-circuit video surveillance and carbon monoxide detection systems, respond to accidents, clear snow and handle breakdowns”
Most of those costs go away if it’s bike only and now I’m quite sure we could beat those ridership figures if it’s either/or.
If it’s not either/or, none of those costs should be any higher with bikes in the mix.
I agree with @byogman, getting 100 people to commute daily to downtown Pittsburgh using that tunnel shouldn’t be hard.
I genuinely think that with the right argument and right advocate, PAT could be sold on this. They’re paying $780K / year for 65K trips (or whatever the current numbers are). Convert it to bikes, and they’d pay say $100K / year for some larger, and growing, number of trips. So they end up saving hundreds of thousands of dollars, and more people use the tunnel.
And they don’t even have to sell it.
More traffic on Perrymont Road in two weeks (5000/day x 14 days =70K trips) than the Wabash Tunnel gets in a whole year.
Or, for the bike advocate: more trips on the Penn Cycletrack in 3 months 24000 X 3 = 72000 than the Wabash Tunnel gets all year.
“The tunnel had been forecast to attract 4,500 vehicles a day by 2015, a number officials said was predicated on other factors like connecting the south end to Banksville Road.” PG, 2006
Even with the HOV restrictions lifted due to the West Carson construction, I doubt the daily usage is anywhere near this.
Thinking about it, the financials are very different from what I thought. Obviously PAT isn’t paying a contractor $780K to maintain the tunnel for 65K cars out of the goodness of their heart. They must be doing it because they’re required to, by the Feds, who paid for the renovation.
Suppose we were to go to the Feds and get them to agree that the tunnel could be used for bikes so long as the total number of trips was more than is currently used by cars. They might go for that, really. And then if PAT signs the tunnel over to the city, say, with some money for maintenance and a park and ride lot at the end, they’d be relieved of a financial burden. And folks in the South Hills would get a new way into the city.
I like the data comparison of riders and motorists. There is a bit more network connecting the Penn Avenue protected bike lanes then there is leading up to and from the tunnel though. But it does show how valuable the data from Penn Avenue is and will continue to be. I hit that route almost daily as part of my commute and I take my warmshowers and couchsurfing guests dahntahn to roll in the lanes too.
As for air quality I found some info on the Posey Tubes, which have a bike/ped ledge of sorts. They said the air system is similar to that of the Holland Tunnel. The Holland Tunnel turns over the air completely every 90 seconds. There are a lot of comments about how bad the noise from heavy traffic is, but the Wabash would be comparatively low.
I think the Port Authority wants to hold onto the tunnel as a detour route if the Mt Washington Tunnel is closed, but they could also use Arlington Avenue, albeit longer. At least if the tunnel goes back to HOV then the weekend and most of the weekday traffic would be so low as to make it easier on the ear drums and you wouldn’t need so much $ to improve the ventilation (maybe).
Food for thought: The Le Tube tunnel in Lyon
Cyclists, pedestrians and buses all getting along
Side thread cross reference to discussion about the railbed that passes near the south end of the tunnel. link
There is a link in that thread back to this one.
From Port Authority’s website, 2 July 2015:
Wabash Tunnel Change on July 4th
The Wabash HOV Tunnel will be open to inbound motorists starting late afternoon on Saturday, July 4.
The tunnel normally is open in the outbound direction from 6 am to 11 pm on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, the change in direction is scheduled to occur by 5 pm.
The tunnel, which provides a connection for motorists between Route 51 and the South Side and Downtown Pittsburgh, will return to its normal outbound direction on Sunday.
Wabash Tunnel information for the holiday weekend
Friday, July 3: Open inbound 6 am to 2 pm, closed 2-3 pm, open outbound 3-11 pm.
Saturday, July 4: Open outbound 6 am to 4 pm, closed 4-5 pm, open inbound 5-11 pm.
Sunday, July 5: Open outbound 6 am to 11 pm.
*Note that the tunnel closes for an hour when transitioning from one direction to another. Also, the tunnel closes nightly from 11 pm to 6 am the following morning.
Posted on Thursday, July 02, 2015
Since Seldom Seen & Wabash Tunnel came up in another thread…
Saw Mill Run Watershed group is having a litter cleanup happening on Oct 10th from 9am to Noon. Meeting point is the Salt Dome on Route 51, across from Woodruff Street.
I motorcycled through it last night around 6:30. It actually had quite a bit of traffic. I had at least three cars in front of me and one behind. More significantly, the ambient speed was 48-53 mph, for the posted-25 tunnel. I followed the same three cars onto inbound 51 down to the Parkway on-ramp. On wide-open, four-lane, posted-35 Saw Mill Run Blvd, in the left lane, this same set of cars traveled 48-53 mph.
The other observation is that every car in the tunnel obediently stayed to the right of the center double-yellow line.
This tells me why biking through there is inadvisable:
* The unneeded center line in the unidirectional tunnel directs cars to the right half of the tunnel.
* Drivers already don’t know they can cross a center line to pass a cyclist.
* Pittsburgh drivers have it solidly ingrained in their heads not to change lanes in any tunnel.
* The complete absence of adherence to the speed limit.
* Right now, there seems to be a lot of high speed traffic.
A good analogy would be if Butler St through lower Lawrenceville was posted 45 instead of 25.
@stu, expect traffic through that tunnel to be higher than usual due to the construction project on the Liberty Bridge
Wabash Tunnel HOV waiver extended through end of year
The HOV requirement for the Wabash Tunnel has been permanently waived:
I am not going to reply to the P-G article. I will take up the issue with staff directly. This might be a good thing.
Look what I just stumbled across from 10 years ago. From this very website!
October 2006. I wonder what ever became of this idea.
Bike trip #7 through Wabash last week.
Last Tuesday evening around 9:30, Washington Rd at Peermont Ave in Dormont, to Liberty Ave at 7th St, downtown, in 23 minutes, on a bicycle, at night. Yes, it can be done. Not even on my good bike. Bike #2 only has two gears since a cable shredded on my way out there. Path of travel: West Liberty, 51, Woodruff, tunnel, West Carson, Smithfield bridge and street, 6Ave.
I’ve been after Port Authority for years to get them to lighten up on their no-bikes policy in the Wabash Tunnel. Anytime the topic comes up, the answer is always no, and the reasoning is always “safety”. Horseshit. That tunnel is empty and unidirectional. Saw three cars going outbound while I was inbound. They stayed on their side of the road; I had half the tunnel to myself. A car couldn’t even get to coming up behind me because of a closed gate. Even if you had bi-directional bike traffic and unidirectional car traffic, it still wouldn’t be a problem.
If Port Authority was worried about safety, their trolley tracks on Arlington Avenue are an order of magnitude less safe for cyclists. Uphill, you’re forced to ride far right which invites super close passes, or between the rails, causing everyone to go up the street at 5 mph behind you (because there is constant oncoming traffic so motorists can’t pass). Downhill, you tangle with the tracks at 25 mph, which turn underneath you at McArdle. Either one will dump you, and right in front of moving traffic.
There is no safer or easier way to get from one side of MtWash to the other on a bike except through the Wabash Tunnel.
@stu Did anything ever become of this?/ Have you continued to take this route? Might squeak in there one of these nights to give it a try.
Haven’t been over that way in about a year, but have made at least one trip through since my last post. At least three of those eight trips were in daylight, one of them on a weekday.
This is one of several bike/transit projects I haven’t put much time into recently, but the issues are still valid. This thread is not far from 10 years old, but nothing really has changed.
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