Penguins' parade revelers strain transit system, turning commute into a nightmare

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This is your consolation prize, Detroit.

Spared the bother of a victory parade, you avoided the sundry traffic, transit and parking headaches that commuters and parade goers experienced here yesterday as an estimated 375,000 jammed Downtown to celebrate the Stanley Cup.

So it was a great day to be hockey runners-up, right, Detroit?

Chortle.

Those trying to join the revelry, or just make it to work, had their patience tested as streets closed, parking lots jacked up their prices and buses and rail cars overflowed.

As in February for the Steelers' Super Bowl parade, Port Authority was overwhelmed by riders wanting to use the Light Rail Transit system.

   
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The authority added four two-car trains to its normal morning complement, but long lines formed at South Hills Village, trains got packed early in their trips and riders at stations closer to town got bypassed.

"We certainly got crushed on the T coming inbound," said authority spokesman Jim Ritchie. "With events like this, we try to do the best we can. Even the T has its limits."

Fifty to 60 bus routes were detoured because of Downtown street closings, he said.

While no ridership figures for yesterday were available, Mr. Ritchie said that for the Steelers' parade Feb. 3, the authority carried nearly 300,000 riders, some 70,000 more than on a typical weekday.

Tom Hopeck of South Park and his 14-year-old daughter, Faith, boarded at Library, the first stop on their line. "I don't think he made two or three stops before the thing was full and he couldn't [take] any more," Mr. Hopeck said.

Riders hoping to board at Dormont Junction at 10 a.m., two hours before the parade started, watched several two-car trains go by, packed to capacity, before they were able to board one after nearly an hour's wait.

Port Authority added service after the parade, as well, but again had more business than it could handle.

More than an hour after the post-parade fireworks, Gateway Center and Wood Street remained jammed with riders trying to push their way onto packed trains.

It took Augie Ciampaglia of Beechview nearly 90 minutes to make what is typically a 15-minute trip home.

"They should've learned from the Steelers [celebration]," he said. "Apparently, they didn't."

Katie Mulkerin of Dormont and her friends waited on the outbound platform at Wood Street, only to see inbound trains across the station that were already full.

"We already missed one. We tried. There was no way. I doubt we're going to get on the next one, either," she said.

Shortly before 3, Port Authority police closed the entrance to Gateway Center station after a man waiting for a train collapsed.

The man's identity and condition were not available.

Pittsburgh police closed the Boulevard of the Allies overnight, and commuters who thought they were ahead of the scheduled 9:30 a.m. street closings found themselves in a crowded Golden Triangle maze that led, for many, to parking lots charging a $20 "event rate."

Post-parade traffic was equally daunting. The driver of a Park and Ride van, stuck on Liberty Avenue behind a turning pickup truck, leaned on her horn and swore.

"Why walk when you can ride?" said a slogan printed on the van.

Yesterday, the answer was obvious.


Staff writers Ray Fittipaldo and Victor Zapana contributed. Jon Schmitz can be reached at jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868.


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