The Monongahela Incline has been around for a while, as this postcard view attests.

With riders, Mount Washington businesses and Pittsburgh Regional Transit at their wits’ end over repeated closures on the Monongahela Incline, the agency will bring in an outside consultant to determine why the system has had a series of shutdowns in the past year.

In a news conference Tuesday at Station Square at the bottom of the oldest continually running funicular in the U.S., PRT said the agency already is talking with a firm to review the incline’s operation but hasn’t reached a deal yet so it wouldn’t identify the firm. The system probably will not have to remain closed during the entire review, but it hasn’t passed an inspection by the state Department of Labor & Industry and remains closed.

The latest of four closures in the past year began March 5 when the brake resister and the motor controller failed, preventing cars from leaving stations at Grandview Avenue and Station Square. PRT spokesman Adam Brandolph said repairs have been made, but the agency considers it a top priority to determine the cause and prevent future closures.

Brandolph said it’s important for the agency to “bring in some new eyes” to review the incline’s operating system. The agency also will form a review committee of elected officials, business owners and other stakeholders to oversee the consultant’s work for transparency.

“We’re frustrated; the community’s frustrated; the riders are frustrated,” Brandolph said. “We have essentially exhausted all of our options. As we’ve gone through this, we’ve exhausted the knowledge base and know-how that we have.”

Michael Carlin, executive director of the Mount Washington Community Development Corp., said some merchants near the incline will be “ready to panic” if the incline isn’t open soon and stay open through the summer. St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday is the unofficial start of warm weather and the tourism season for the merchants, he said.

“It’s just a mess, man,” Carlin said. The merchants are very upset and “really praying this gets solved soon. Some of them will go out of business if this goes on all summer.”

The series of closures began shortly after the incline reopened in March 2023 after a seven-month, $8.1 million project to revamp much of the mechanical system and restore the stations to the way they looked when it opened in 1870. The closures have been linked to a variety of issues such as a door being out of place, condensation causing the electrical system to shut down with cars about 50 feet away from the stations, and “multiple” electrical issues that wouldn’t allow the cars to stop when they reached the stations.

Brandolph stressed that the consultant will look at the entire operation of the system, not just the work done during the most recent upgrade. One of the main reasons for the continuing problems is the age of the system, which opened in 1870 and has been through several major upgrades in the decades that followed, Brandolph said.

“It’s a Ford Model T with a 1980s computer in it,” he said. “The 2020 computer has to work with the 1980s computer and the 1870s mechanics.

“It certainly has its challenges, but it shouldn’t have this many challenges. If the issue is us [the way the agency runs the system], we want to know that, too.”

While the incline remains closed, Brandolph said, PRT will change the way it operates shuttle buses between the stations. Right now, buses sit on Grandview Avenue and wait for passengers, but that will change so the buses leave every few minutes and circulate regularly.

Carlin stressed that the reliability of the system is important to merchants because half of the system’s 600,000 riders each year are tourists. Restaurants and other businesses on Shiloh Street, near Grandview, rely on those visitors.

“It’s just so frustrating,” he said. “We feel that incline is an asset, but they’ve got to get over these technical humps.”

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at