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DBR96

PITTSBURGH

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New to the forum here. I was raised in Pittsburgh and currently live in Athens, GA, so Pittsburgh- and Atlanta-related topics interest me. I do tend to compare the two cities as well. Both have their good and bad points, and both have interesting histories. But while Atlanta is often viewed as a dynamic 21st Century city with a bright future, Pittsburgh is often viewed as just some place that should be leveled, evacuated, nuked, etc. The "armpit of America," or whatever. Some of the differences between Pittsburgh and Atlanta are startling. It was sometime in the 1970's when Atlanta started to gain confidence in itself as a city. This was around the same time that Pittsburgh started to lose confidence in itself as a city. Also, the highway infrastructure in Atlanta is vastly superior to Pittsburgh. In Atlanta, some of the highways (like I-75 in Cobb County between I-285 and Delk Road) have eight lanes in each direction. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh still has the same highways that were built in 1953, with the same number of lanes, the same on- and off-ramps that are too short, etc.

The one thing that baffles me about Pittsburgh is that it has all the ingredients needed to become a first-rate American city. It has several major colleges and universities, a solid work ethic, and is within 500 miles of half the country's population. It's also sort of the gateway between the Northeast and the rest of the country. Pittsburgh is the last stop in the Northeast before heading out into the rest of the country from the Northeast. It is also the first stop when you enter the Northeast from the rest of the country. The cost of living in Pittsburgh is lower than in any of the megalopolis cities, but I suppose it's a little higher than it would be in the Sun Belt. According to the most recent edition of Places Rated Almanac,, both Pittsburgh and Atlanta have a cost of living index of 111, so sometimes I'm not sure how Atlanta's able to grow so much faster. Maybe it has to do with corporate taxes or property taxes being too high in Pittsburgh? Maybe some of it has to do with glamour. Rappers hype up Atlanta all the time. It could be the weather too. Personally, I think the weather issue is overrated. Sure, people may rather have Atlanta's weather in the winter, but I'm sure they'd rather have Pittsburgh's weather in the summer.

Job growth in Pittsburgh isn't where it should be. The median income in the region is reasonable, but the growth is slow. I suppose it probably has to do with corporate tax rates and a dated transportation infrastructure. Those would be the first two things I'd fix. Some of it may have to do with the local politicians too. Allegheny County keeps a reasonable, balanced budget, but the city of Pittsburgh itself is in a lot of debt. Sad thing is, the city voters keep voting the same bozos back into office over and over again; meanwhile, if the rest of Allegheny County got to vote in city elections, the vast majority of them would turn the city's political landscape upside down. There tends to be a rift in city/county relations, but I think the city's politicians deserve most of the blame. Meanwhile, the region keeps slooowly losing population, even though it has the attributes needed to grow. It's sad to see a city with so much potential squander it. Meanwhile, cities like Atlanta are the beneficiaries of it. The three big Steelers bars in metro Atlanta are proof of that.

If any of you have ever been to Pittsburgh, I'm just curious what your impressions of it were. Anything you liked? Anything you didn't like?

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Here are some pictures of Pittsburgh for anyone interested...

Downtown Pittsburgh at dusk

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Downtown Pittsburgh at dusk from the Strip District

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Downtown Pittsburgh from the top of Mount Washington

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PPG Place

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Ice rink in PPG Plaza

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Steelers pep rally at Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh

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:)

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Welcome!!! I've always had a fascination with Pittsburgh and don't see it as the "Armpit of America" at all. Nice pics! I look forward to learning a lot more about the city and seeing more pictures of it!

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I've posted a whole bunch of Pittsburgh pictures on the "city skyline" topic. You can see them there.

As for Pittsburgh's public transportation, the Allegheny County Port Authority handles it. The system is called PAT, standing for Port Authority Transit (although I like to pretend it stands for Pittsburgh Area Transit sometimes). The majority of the transit consists of buses, and the Pittsburgh area has good bus service. The light rail system is known as the T. The T serves the southern suburbs pretty well, and they've recently expanded the T line even further to the south. However, the T needs to be expanded to the north and east. The East End is the most densely-populated section of the city, and I think it's a shame that there's no rail service out in that direction. Also, the northern suburbs are the fastest-growing part of the area, so extending a rail line up there would be good as well.

As for population migration, the trend from the north and east to the south and west definitely hurts, but what makes matters worse is that Pittsburgh isn't attracting a lot of immigrants either. The Boston, New York, Philadelphia and D.C.-Baltimore metro areas all gained population through immigration, as did Chicago and Detroit. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has not seen a major influx of immigrants, so there's zero population growth.

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Guest donaltopablo

Glad to have a Pittsburg forumer here. Also glad to hear of someone else interested in Atlanta (where I represent).

What are you doing in Athens? Going to school?

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DBR, greetings dude

<==this is Westinghouse in another virtual domain lol, so I see some of us Yinzers are following me into this forum. now all we have to do is change the color scheme to black and gold and we will be all set lol

About the highways and Interstates they do sometimes seem to be to 1950s standards though most of them were completed in the 60s and 70s and the Parkway North I-279 was completed in the 1980s.

i-279_sb_exit_008b_03.jpg

For more information on this visit: http://pittsburgh.pahighways.com/ it has TONS of info all about transportation infrastructure in and around the 'burgh.

another useful link that I know many who have not visited Pittsburgh notice when they arrive are the number and variety of bridges (most in the world save for Venice Italy!) http://www.pghbridges.com

-We have the world's first computer designed bridge (Ft. Pitt)

and worlds only triplet bridges (6th, 7th & 9th)

Alas, having valleys and rivers and hills in the middle of a Metroplex makes navigating it harsh. Plus there are never ENOUGH bridges (imagine only being able to take every 5th street instead of every street to go south or west or east the rivers cut you off from other corridors) and they need to be overhauled every 20 years which isnt a lane or two closed but the whole bridge. (then you have to skip every 10 or 15 blocks to find a passage to the other side). But the town is beautiful I will give it that! But we are getting MAGLEV (either us or Baltimore-DC!)

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I think Atlanta's Interstate infrastructure is a drawback to the city rather then an asset. Its killed the city and fueled growth 30 miles from the center.

Pittsburgh is not an armpit. Pittsburgh's problem isn't with taxes either - its rates are competitive with just about anywhere.

The problem in Pittsburgh is that its not got the PR, marketing, and redevelopment efforts that other cities have.

Emphasize helping businesses move in that make sense. Pittsburgh is not an ideal location for warehousing distribution, and never will be. Its mountainous terrain will keep it that way. The city has no problem with making products and sending them out, it just isn't an ideal location to headquarter things like UPS hubs. This is about the only thing Pittsburgh wouldn't be good at.

Pittsburgh is, however, ideal for everything else under the sun. High tech? Yep. Bio tech? Yep. Call centers even? Yep. Manufacturing? Yep.

Pittsburgh shouldn't be afraid to tear down some of the old century old housing. It should not be afraid to rennovate what can be rennovated either - its horrible to lose ALL the history, but you obviously can't keep it all. The things that should have priority are large structures like skyscrapers from 1920.

Anyway, Pittsburgh is a fine city. The downtown is top notch, and for those who like suburbia it has that option.

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Guest donaltopablo

I think Atlanta's Interstate infrastructure is a drawback to the city rather then an asset. Its killed the city and fueled growth 30 miles from the center.

I think that's debatable. Although I do believe is a contributing factor, I think lack of natural boundaries and the era it boomed in has more to do with it. Having the already extensive freeway certainly made it easier. But look at other sprawling cities, like Phoenix. No where near the freeway system Atlanta has, yet with no natural boundaries, it's sprawling as badly. Where they didn't have freeways to support the sprawl, they simply built them.

What the extensive highway system has done is help fuel the economy. The extensive highway system has helped Atlanta attract a lot of regional distribution centers.

On the topic of Pittsburg though, I agree. Pittsburg is one of those cities who reputation is it's biggest downfall. The lack of PR and promotion allows the negative images to float around in peoples minds, if they think of Pittsburg at all. Ask most people who have never been there, they will automatically assume it's a run down old steel mill town.

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Donaltopablo:

The city's bad image isn't allowed to be for lack of trying. Pittsburgh has done TONS in the last few decades to promote itself, I do agree some though that I would do more telegenic and pop-culture type of stuff rather then CofC and Corporate type stuff.

The BIGGEST problem by far for the city is that after attracting close to 100,000 college students per year to top 3 programs such as CMU's Tech, Engineering and Arts, and U of Pgh's Medical and Law programs as well as Chatham, Duquesne, Point Park, RMU, St. Vincent, Seton Hill, Washington&Jefferson, Cal U of Pa., LaRoche etc. most of those graduates end up leaving Pittsburgh. You can't ask for a better promo program, come try us out young people and then the majority end of leaving anyway. Primarly because there is not tech giant in town offering good jobs (though with Intel, Seagate, and Ariba starting operations here, and the move of Corporate HQ of Guru.com from Silicon Valley to Pittsburgh that is changing some).

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Guest donaltopablo

It's good to here they are trying. I also think it's positive they are pulling high tech companies to help diverify their employement base.

How are the redevelopment activities going? I posted one article that sounded as if it was hot. But it's been some years since I've been to Pittsburg last, so I can't say I'm familiar. I think this is another area that gives cities a positive spin, when people see and hear about quality redevelopment projects and a renewed interest in the city core.

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the development question:

Harbor Landing (northside), Pittsburgh Mills (northeast burbs), the Southside Works (southside), Luna Park (eastside) and the Northshore are all retail/commercial residential complexes that are high-end and all are under construction currently. Southside Works is to have a skyscraper hotel/condo in it. There are some hotels going in downtown with the newly completed convention center(very nice center, first "green" enviromentally friendly center in the world). And the Stadiums on the northshore were nice additions in 2001, as well as the new Basketball arena in the University section, U. of Pittsburgh is buidling a high-rise Bio Science bldg. there also. So development is going ok but I would say it is slower and smaller projects then the city saw in the 1950s and the 1970s and early 1980's.

As far as the tax situation goes, Pittsburgh is a old Democractic machine union town so the tax situation isn't the kindest when compared to the Florida's and Texas's (the city even has an income tax levy) but I have seen rankings and Pittsburgh is pretty good when compared to other regions/cities in the Northeast. The kicker though is that the cost of living for a Boston-like or San Francisco-like city (with the hills, water, rich world-renown universities, and a strong tradition of charities and the arts)--with a cost of living that is 25% less then those regions!

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So the real question isn't why can't Pittsburgh keep up with healthy, younger towns (specifically in the South)...it's why can't Pittsburgh keep up with a town like Boston.

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Taxes in the city itself are probably too high for a city its size. In the outlying areas of Allegheny County, they are lower. Property taxes are higher than in the Sun Belt. The sales tax is 7% in Allegheny County and 6% in outlying metro counties. Good news is, food, clothing and medicine are all exempt from sales taxes in Pennsylvania. Utility costs are higher than in the Sun Belt, but have come down in the past 10 years. Electricity in Pennsylvania is deregulated. Gasoline is cheaper in Pennsylvania than in any of the surrounding states, but not as cheap as in Georgia. Housing costs is one area where Pittsburgh has a dramatic advantage. You get a lot more house for your money than in most other major metro areas. The average price of a house in the Pittsburgh region is roughly $110,000 to $120,000, and about $100,000 in the city itself. (Problem is, the property taxes tend to negate the price advantage.)

Besides reputation, I think one thing working against Pittsburgh (and possibly Pennsylvania in general) is corporate taxes that are a little higher than they should be. I also mentioned the inadequate transportation infrastructure as another drawback. I'm not calling for Pittsburgh to "Atlantacize" their highways and make them eight lanes in each direction, but I think there needs to be more than a measley two lanes in each direction. I'm in favor of four lanes in each direction; that would be perfect.

The cost to operate at Pittsburgh International Airport is high because of the debt that needs to be paid off. The new terminal was built in 1992. (The old terminal was built in 1953, and was no longer adequate.)

In short, these are some of the things that I think may put Pittsburgh behind the 8-ball:

- Corporate taxes too high

- Property taxes too high

- Inadequate transportation infrastructure

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Corporate taxes too high...or, do they let too many corporations get away without paying taxes...?

Also, as an outsider, I have to question the insufficient transportation infrastructure you mentioned. Seems to me, Pittsburgh has enough infrastructure for a city with a much higher population than it currently has. How is it that it does not have sufficient infrastructure?

I know that coming from Buffalo, that city has infrastructure up the wazoo, but nobody left to use it.

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Nice pics, I use to really love Pittsburgh, I had a little stage where I wanted to live there, but I guess it died out for some reason... Maybe because the Steelers started playing afful :P

Nice skyline non the less, I hope I have time to visit it when I come next year, it looks like a nice place.

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DBR is right on with his anaylsis.

Pittsburgh though I do have to stress when compared to cities like it demographically (Northeastern cities like Boston, New York, Cleveland, Detriot) the overall tax burden is comparable maybe even better. But true the sunbelt cities are the best tax structure overall.

The Parkway North (279)

i-279_sb_exit_008a_01.jpg

is probably the best stretch of interstate in the Pgh Metroplex, The Parkway East (376) is a obstacle course with a 2 lane each direction tunnel

i-376_eb_squirrel_tunnel.jpg

a steep grade that trucks have to exit off of (near wilkinsburg complete with flashing yellow lights etc.). And a bridge that is dropping chunks of concrete on the Parkway below.

i-376_eb_exit_005_02.jpg

The Parkway West (279) also has a 2 lane each direction tunnel (should really be 4 lanes each way)

i-279_nb_exit_006_95.jpg

i-279_nb_exit_005c.jpg

and has a few sharp angels (greentree hill etc.) all the way out to the airport, the final leg of the PW to the Airport is not even considered "interstate grade" although it is still limited access, the offramps are dangerously short and angeled and some are missing ramps (for example at the 279-79 interchange you cant go from 79 southbound to 279 westbound and vice versa!?!) The stupidly short ramps and sharp angels of them are also on the PE (376)

i-279_nb_exit_006a.jpg

. . . the obstacle course remember.

A little Too Much Info here but also:

PA 28 is limited access in the Allegheny Valley but is far from being "interstate grade" in some areas there is no shoulder, no emergency lanes and a stretch of it is one lane in each direction, it really should be expanded and upgraded and deemed "Interstate 280" and extended to I-80 via Punxatawny (where Phil the Groundhog lives).

The Airport corridor should have another interstate link other then the Parkway West and the busways east, south and west should be interstated to allow alternated expressway access to those parts of the metroplex:

pittsburgh-busway.jpg

And for a Metroplex with a population of over 2 million there really should be a dedicated beltway around the city (they are building the southern leg slowly in the next decade) we have a psuedo beltway that I-79, I-76(Tnpk.) and I-70 form a sort of triangle around the city proper.

The new I-576 will be the southern beltway and it is taking shape slowly, also the Steel Valley (Mon Valley) Tollway is almost complete from Morgantown WV to Downtown Pittsburgh, the only parts of it still under construction or planning is for about 10 miles from Brownsville Pa. to Uniontown Pa. and from Clairton Pa. into the city.

But the Interstates are a STATE issue (PA is one of the WORST states in Transportation planning so I'm just thankful we aren't in Philly's mess), and in no way do I wish to see Pittsburgh detracted by a few poorly planned interstates (Parkway East and West) Parkway North is one of the best I've seen anyplace!

thanks to: http://pittsburgh.pahighways.com/

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When I speak of deficiencies in Pittsburgh's transportation infrastructure, I'm referring to the following:

- Not enough lanes (Parkway East, Parkway West)

- On- and off-ramps that are too short for safe merging or exiting (Parkway East, Parkway West)

- Innermost lanes that are too close to the concrete median barrier (Parkway East, Parkway West)

- Lack of anything resembling a beltway around the city (for now)

- Lack of efficient access to the Monongahela River Valley (for now)

- Lack of light rail to the north, east or west of town

The Parkway North was finished in 1989, so they do a good job of meeting modern Interstate Standards. The only complaints I have with the Parkway North are that it needs one more lane in each direction, as well as HOV lanes that are more accessible.

The Parkway East was built in 1953, and was considered obsolete by the time it was finished. There have been exactly zero attempts to update it in the past 51 years, which is pathetic. Imagine, if you will, a highway with two lanes in each direction. The left lane is maybe three feet from the concrete median barrier, and there are visible scuff marks from cars and trucks that have drifted into said barrier. Now imagine that the majority of on-ramps along the highway have no acceleration lanes, and STOP signs at the end of each lane. The cars coming up the on-ramps have to stop, and usually end up pulling into the right lane at maybe 25 to 35 miles per hour. Traffic that is already moving at highway speeds needs to move over into the left lane (again, merely three feet from the median barrier) to keep moving at a brisk rate of speed. Now imagine one interchange in particular where the eastbound on-ramp enters the highway about 500 feet BEFORE the eastbound off-ramp exits the highway --- and that the eastbound off-ramp is at the end of an EXIT ONLY lane. Yep, traffic wanting to enter the highway eastbound at this interchange has to terrace down the side of a hill, STOP at the bottom of the on-ramp, and then floor the accelerator to keep from being rear-ended as they pull into the EXIT ONLY lane that ends in 500 feet! THEY HAVE TO MAKE A DOUBLE-LANE CHANGE ACROSS THE HIGHWAY FROM A DEAD STOP IN ORDER TO CONTINUE EAST! Even when I was in 3rd grade, I knew that something was wrong with this interchange, and no, I'm not exaggerating either.

The Parkway West was completed sometime in the 1950's as well, and does not meet modern Interstate standards, although it is better than the Parkway East. The good news here is, there is enough room for the Parkway West to expand to four lanes in each direction. However, everyone uses the Fort Pitt Tunnel as an excuse to not widen it. My solution: Drill a third and fourth portal to accommodate the extra lanes. The current setup involves two portals with two lanes each, so two more portals will help the Parkway West accommodate four lanes in each direction. Before we do this, though, we need to make PA 51 a controlled-access highway between the Liberty Tunnel and the North Side Near Heinz Field --- and this includes a direct link to the West End Bridge, with no turns or traffic signals required. In order to get to Carson Street from PA 51, a simple four-point diamond interchange will do the trick.

The Mon-Fayette Expressway will provide better access to the Monongahela River Valley from the city. However, it'll probably be another five years or so before the section between the city and the section completed two years ago is complete.

The Southern Beltway will be a partial beltway from the Monogahela River Valley south of the city around to Pittsburgh International Airport, which is west of the city. This alone ought to dramatically improve traffic mobility across the southern and southwestern suburbs. The Southern Beltway, along with a spur highway between the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Monroeville, will likely be named I-576, and will give Pittsburgh the beltway it desperately needs.

As for the T (Pittsburgh's light-rail system), it is imperative that they build lines to the north and east. The northern suburbs are the fastest-growing part of the Pittsburgh area, so extending a T-line up there would give people an extra option to head into the city, and would also alleviate the Parkway North and McKnight Road. To the east, the East End is the most densely-populated section of the city, and the eastern suburbs are fairly established. A T line needs to be built out this way as well, especially if the Parkway East is ever to be improved to meet modern Interstate standards.

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I was about to say the EXACTLY same thing.

While in Pittsburgh last April, I got to know the roadways well even though I was there for only 3 days. Pittsburgh does NOT need a beltway roadway. What it needs to do is find a way to expand current interstates to 4 lanes in each direction (8 total) within the metropolitan area including enhanced entry/exit ramps for select areas that have very poor designs.

On the tax issue again - I assume the city income tax is totally deductible/exempt from federal income taxes, so that is more or less a smart move to keep money in Pittsburgh from otherwise ending up in Washington D.C. If I'm wrong, correct me on that. Cincinnati, just 200 miles up the road from me, has a 2% city income tax itself - and the metro area still grew by nearly 200,000 people. I don't think the tax issue is what is hurting Pittsburgh.

I don't have the answer to the problem, but I wanna study Pittsburgh more. I love the place.

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BTW, mirroring what monsoon has said, looping beltways tend to take money away from the city.

This is something Pittsburgh ESPECIALLY can't handle right now. Pittsburgh's population in the city has went from 676,000 people in the 1950 census - its height - down to 350,000 (maybe dropping still today) in 2000.

To add incentive for downtown businesses to move away isn't going to help Pittsburgh's situation at all.

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