Activists and community members gathered Sunday afternoon on the west side of Schenley Park for a not-so-solemn funeral to ceremoniously “bury” the failed Mon-Oakland Connector shuttle road project and celebrate community-led development in its place.

The project, which went through several iterations since first being proposed in 2015, aimed to connect Oakland to Hazelwood Green using autonomous shuttles. Residents fought against the plan, saying it ignored the needs of the communities it would impact the most and that the money could be used for more efficient and equitable public transportation improvements.

“We built a coalition of people that said, ‘No, this is our money and we should be using this money to do things that we need for our communities,’” said Pittsburgh Councilor Barb Warwick, a resident of Greenfield’s Four Mile Run neighborhood who opposed the Mon-Oakland Connector since its inception.

“When you are coming up with solutions … you start with the people who need those solutions the most. You start with the solutions that are going to help the most people. You don’t find a solution like an autonomous shuttle road that you would like to build and then try to fit it to the community,” she said.

Attendees listen as Pittsburgh Councilor Barb Warwick, a resident of Greenfield’s Four Mile Run area who opposed the Mon-Oakland Connector from its inception, speaks before the procession. (Alexandra Wimley/Union Progress)

Mayor Ed Gainey announced the end of the Mon-Oakland Connector shuttle program in February 2022.

“As we seek to improve mobility throughout our city, we will focus on investing in transportation justice-oriented projects to increase connectivity,” the mayor said in a statement at the time. “Today’s announcement is an important step forward in meeting that goal, and I am thankful to all of the city’s partners for their thoughtful and dedicated work on this project.”

Pittsburghers for Public Transit, in partnership with the Junction Coalition, P.O.O.R.L.A.W., and GH-CARED, organized the Sunday event to celebrate their victory in stopping the project and to continue building neighborhood relationships. Led by a New Orleans-style funeral march featuring the Eagleburger Band, attendees marched from the Panther Hollow parking lot in Oakland through Schenley Park to Four Mile Run Park, where the celebration ended with a community-building picnic.

Saundra Cole McKamey, center, a Hazelwood resident and CEO of P.O.O.R.L.A.W., a Hazelwood-based social justice nonprofit, plays a tambourine as she marches. (Alexandra Wimley/Union Progress)
Members of the Eagleburger Band, who volunteered their time for the event, wear funeral garb as they perform. (Alexandra Wimley/Union Progress)
As members of the Eagleburger Band play, activists acting as pallbearers carry a cardboard casket representing the Mon-Oakland Connector shuttle. (Alexandra Wimley/Union Progress)
The pallbearers dance as they carry the casket. (Alexandra Wimley/Union Progress)
Families watching soccer in Schenley Park look on as activists process through the park. (Alexandra Wimley/Union Progress)
Members of the Eagleburger Band perform as the procession finishes at Four Mile Run Park. (Alexandra Wimley/Union Progress)
Kids dig into the cardboard casket, which was filled with candy as a surprise for the participating youth, after the procession arrived at Four Mile Run Park for a community picnic. (Alexandra Wimley/Union Progress)

Alexandra is a photographer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike.

Alexandra Wimley

Alexandra is a photographer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike.