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Oakland Innovation District Connector

Brookings Institution: "To reach its full potential, the Oakland Innovation District needs to be better connected to the regional economy."

Photo of Josh Clark
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Written by

Brookings Institution: "Innovation districts—even those with the natural density and capacity of Oakland—are not islands. The value of an innovation district is defined by the interplay between district anchors, firms, and startups and job creation in the region. Therefore, the innovation assets adjacent to a district’s borders are just as important as the institutions within the district. To the northeast of Oakland is Chatham University and Bakery Square, home to Google and Pitt’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories and UPMC Enterprises. To the northwest is Lawrenceville, anchored by CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) and perhaps the fastest-growing cluster of robotics startups in the country."

Oakland Task Force: "Oakland universities have picked up on the role of transit in maintaining a competitive advantage among urban campuses. There is a growing trend throughout the nation of urban university centers providing a higher level of transit service for its students and faculty as a means of better integrating urban campuses and their activities with the larger urban area."

Peduto for Mayor: "Just as this line was critical to the rise of Pittsburgh’s industrial age, it is now the lynchpin in a transit-oriented development plan for our new economy. Oakland is a job creator, and it needs the help of this line to allow those jobs to expand to neighborhoods that have not seen growth in a long time. This line does just that, and it does even more."

Post-Gazette: "Allegheny Valley Railroad Co. filed a lawsuit Monday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court in an effort to block the Buncher Co. from moving ahead with the proposed residential and office development, claiming the plan violates a 1981 deed covenant involving the terminal building. In the lawsuit, the railroad said the covenant required the URA, which was purchasing the terminal, to use its "best efforts" to continue to provide space for produce wholesalers or "some other rail-oriented use" in the Strip landmark".

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

There's an amazing, under-utilized railroad track that runs from Panther Hollow in Oakland through the Schenley Tunnel to the Strip District and Downtown. Getting the Universities and local foundations to subsidize a railcar that travels back and forth between the two points should be the easy part. The challenge will be getting Allegheny Valley Railroad, AMTRAK, Port Authority of Allegheny County, CSX and Norfolk Southern to agree to allow the Oakland Innovation District Connector to operate on their tracks. Allegheny Valley Railroad Pittsburgh Subdivision Pittsburgh Line Pittsburgh Light Rail Battery electric railcar AMTRAK Capitol Limited

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

It's just me at this point, but this needs to be a team effort. Who's up?

Size of your team or organization

  • I am submitting as an individual

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

You pilot the idea by building a computer model (a virtual miniature railroad) of existing tracks and rail traffic and proposed switches and stations. Then you test to see how regular Oakland Innovation District Connector service can operate without interfering with existing rail operations.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

Success will be determined by whether or not Allegheny Valley Railroad, AMTRAK, Port Authority of Allegheny County, CSX and Norfolk Southern agree to allow the Oakland Innovation District Connector to operate on their tracks.


Join the conversation:

Photo of KatieWalsh 100

Hi Josh - many thanks for this proposal. Have you applied to take part in the workshop in your city - please see calendar linked above at the top of the page for details. There is a good place to potentially find a team! Katie - Facilitator

Photo of Josh Clark

thanks so much - i'll be there