Location: Bus Traffic Operations Center & Rail Traffic Operations Center at the South Hills Village Rail Center

Featured guests: Mike Sniegocki, director of road operations at Pittsburgh Regional Transit

3 things that surprised me:

1. The Bus Traffic Operations Center is sort of like mission control for every bus in Pittsburgh. The folks in that office can bring up any bus on their screen and tell you how fast it’s going, who’s driving the bus, how many passengers are on board and whether it’s on time or not.

2. Whereas the Bus Traffic Operations Center is a bright and airy office, the Rail Traffic Operations Center looks more like the bridge from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” It’s dimly lit with a wall of rear-projected screens displaying train maps and live feeds from various stations and rail yards. On the day we were visiting, there were a few routes running on one track so that both the inbound and outbound trains had to take turns. Mike referred to the folks working these desks as “movement directors” since they had to take care to time all the trains so that they wouldn’t slow down other trains or block another train’s route.

3. In addition to making sure all bus and rail services continue throughout the day (and night), these offices also act as a 911 call center for any bus or rail emergencies. If a downed tree blocks a route or there’s a car accident or a passenger has a heart attack or a lost child is found, then these folks spring into action and call the appropriate team to make sure that all buses and passengers are safe.

One thing that didn’t make the final cut: To get to the rail center, I rode on the T from Downtown Pittsburgh with Adam Brandolph, director of public relations at Pittsburgh Regional Transit. The last stop on the line is South Hill Village but we didn’t get off there. Adam went up to the conductor and flashed his ID card and she took us one stop further, to the South Hills Village Rail Center that’s only accessible to PRT employees.

Additional info: You can learn more about Pittsburgh Regional Transit on the agency’s website.

Want more Yinzer Backstage Pass? Check out our visit to West Penn Hospital where we discovered secret tunnels and a pharmacy that’s been untouched since the 1800s.