Least Favorite Airports: PIT

Pittsburgh. Great city with great views. Three rivers, two inclines, and decent public transit though a shell of what it used to be, three busways, but one airport, far slung from the city of Pittsburgh proper. It’s no secret that most airports are far from the city centers of their namesakes, but when the city’s only airport is a nuisance more than it is a destination, therein lies a problem.

If you are driving, US 60 Business is the only road that leads to the airport (similar to Denver’s Airport Parkway), spurring from US 60 and ending right at the main terminal building.  Once you get to the airport, you have to hope that there is parking here, as the facilities aren’t as big as you would expect for an airport in a large metropolitan area.  In terms of public transit, Port Authority of Allegheny County operate one route express to Pittsburgh and Oakland, the 28X which runs along US60, I-279, and the West Busway (a roadway built exclusively for buses with stations for bus stops and park-and-ride facilities for commuters headed downtown).  These days, there are full-length buses on the 28X, but during the early days of the route, they used smaller van-like buses even when the ridership increased enough to warrant a full-length bus.  It was like riding in a cattle car, especially when in the opposite direction was a light full-length bus and you were cramped in a mini bus.

Aside from access to the airport, the main terminal contains ticketing, check-in, baggage claim, and security areas.  Where’s the concourse and the gates?  Well, you have to take a people-mover train from the main terminal area to get to the main concourse area running underneath the tarmac.  The difference between this and Sea-Tac is that here ALL passengers had to take a train, not just passengers for flights at the remote terminals.  At PIT, the main concourse IS a remote terminal.  Good luck trying to catch a flight with all of your fellow passengers having to squeeze onto a people-mover just to get to the concourse with all the gates, the food options, and any view of your plane once you get to your gate.  I don’t know when this airport was designed or who designed it, but I’m pretty sure this airport wasn’t designed for its current usage.  If Pennsylvania or the PIT airport authority had the money, I would hope they can find a location for a more modern airport closer to the city (either near the “T” light rail or any of the three busways, East, West, or South) and has better facilities than the current PIT.

Let’s not talk about the airline options, which appear to be few and far in between.  U.S. Airways has a hub there, but other airlines such as Delta, United, and JetBlue fly there as well, albeit with not nearly as many flights as in previous decades.  JetBlue has only two round-trip flights a day from JFK to PIT, down from 4, and they flew their Embraer E190 aircraft since their mainstream aircraft, the Airbus A320, is too large for the dismal ridership on that route.  Other airlines have pulled trips from PIT due to demand as well.  Is it because ‘Burghers don’t fly as often as those from other cities, or is it that PIT is just PIT-iful to deal with, enough to force people to drive to other airports (such as CLE, Cleveland’s Hopkins International, or BUF, Buffalo Niagara International) or just make the entire journey via automobile?  Who knows.

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