Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

A Study on Regional Governments


I’m finally finished with the regional governments project that I’ve been working on for something like six weeks and that has kept me from writing in that time.  In the future I may want to use more accurate measures and publish this, so I’m going to practice by presenting this as scientific research.  So here goes.

Introduction

I wanted to study the possibility of creating regional governments in the United States for three reasons.  First, because I agree with The Charter of the New Urbanism when it states that “The metropolitan region is a fundamental economic unit of the contemporary world. Governmental cooperation, public policy, physical planning, and economic strategies must reflect this new reality.” Also, I feel that the lines that divide government designations in America are arbitrary at best and, in many cases, don’t reflect reality on the ground.

It is interesting to compare government designations in Europe and America.  If you look at a map of Europe, you will notice that none of the boundaries are straight lines.  This is because the boundaries do a much better job of reflecting things like topography and real cultural divides.

The US, on the other hand, was drawn up for ease of division by immigrants who considered it to be essentially uninhabited.  Many counties, particularly in the Midwest, are just boxes laid out along the survey lines created by Jefferson, regardless of the topography on the ground.  There is only one state in the US that doesn’t have a straight line for a boundary, and that is Hawaii.  I don’t believe that this is advantageous.  Take my hometown of Pittsburgh, for example.  Pittsburgh is within the state of Pennsylvania, which it shares with Philadelphia.  This is about all the two cities share.  Their economies, populations, ethnic groups, and cultures are very divergent.  When the two cities are thrown into competition, often for State funds, Pittsburgh, with its lower population and generally higher standard of living, often does not get as much as Philadelphia.  According to Pittsburgh Quarterly, “It is often lamented that the Pennsylvania legislature tilts to the east, favoring Philadelphia over Pittsburgh.”  It would be advantageous to Pittsburgh to not be as closely linked to Philadelphia, which it in reality has little relation to.  At the same time, there are areas in Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland that are closer to Pittsburgh than to any major city in their respective states, and would do well to be involved with the politics of that city.  At a lower level, there are people who live just outside of Alleghany County, where Pittsburgh is, so that they don’t have to pay the higher taxes in that county, yet they still use Alleghany County roads and services without paying their fair share.  I believe that, along with state borders, county borders should be amended to reflect the reality on the ground of how central city services are used.

This brings me to my third point: I don’t think, in many parts of the country, that county governments serve a needful purpose in the way that they did in the past.  When the country was made up of many small, independent towns, counties worked to unite them in common purpose.  Now, in our metropolitan world, counties are often used as tax havens or otherwise don’t serve their original purpose.  Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts have done away with their county governments, streamlining political processes and ironically creating “small government” in some of the most liberal states in the Union.

But how does one define a region?  For an answer, I turned to Christopher Alexander, as I often do, who, in A Pattern Language, encourages us to, “Wherever possible, work toward the evolution of independent regions in the world; each with a population between 2 and 10 million; each with its own natural and geographic boundaries; each with its own economy; each one autonomous and self-governing; each with a seat in a world government, without the intervening power of larger states or countries.”  With that in mind, I began my research.

Methods

I relied heavily on Wikipedia and Google for this research, which is why it isn’t publishable in its current state.  To begin, I set benchmarks for regions.  I wanted to make three maps to visualize regions of different sizes, so I decided that, so as to be in line with Alexander’s requirements, I would have one map with a minimum population of 2 million per region, another map with a minimum of 5 million per region, and a third with a minimum of 8 million.  Then I got a list of cities in the US with a population of over 100,000.

I went through every county in the country and measured the distance from the county seat to the nearest city of over 100,000, marking them on a map with a different color to designate different cities.  I used Google Maps’ walking distance feature because I felt that it would do a better job of reflecting topography than simple as-the-crow-flies measurement, while at the same time being more accurate than the car distances since cars are expected to travel on highways over large distances, which may be faster but not as direct.  Also, I wanted to measure it as if some sort of catastrophe happened and people were unable to use cars, thus being forced to walk.

After finding out which counties were closest to what cities, I counted up the population of the counties that were marked for a given city based on the most recent data on Wikipedia.  Some of this information was as recent as 2009 estimates, while some was as old as the 2000 census.  Hopefully when the new census comes out I can redo this project with better results.  If the population of the area was below the population benchmark that I had set, then the city was removed from the list and the counties were remeasured and marked for the next closest city.  I then mapped them out on large national maps.

Results

This work generated three maps with corresponding lists of cities and the populations of the regions based on these cities.

This first map is based on regions with a minimum population of 2 million, with the following cities anchoring the regions and their given regional populations, from highest to lowest population of the central city:

  1. New York City, NY (10,861,700)
  2. Los Angeles, CA (11.624,092)
  3. Chicago, IL (7,312,584)
  4. Houston, TX (5,807,864)
  5. Phoenix, AZ (6,662,822)
  6. Philadelphia, PA (7,398,857)
  7. San Antonio, TX (3,836,400)
  8. San Diego, CA (3,322,432)
  9. Dallas, TX (3,742,720)
  10. San Jose, CA (3,329,396)
  11. Detroit, MI (2,384,057)
  12. San Francisco, CA (4,318,813)
  13. Jacksonville, FL (3,040,268)
  14. Indianapolis, IN (3,652,091)
  15. Austin, TX (2,079,499)
  16. Columbus, OH (3,736,506)
  17. Fort Worth, TX (3,586,057)
  18. Charlotte, NC (3,878,660)
  19. Memphis, TN (2,502,573)
  20. Boston, MA (6,831,829)
  21. Baltimore, MD (4,243,534)
  22. El Paso, TX (2,874,140)
  23. Seattle, WA (7,070,662) (This includes both Alaska and Hawaii, as will be explained below)
  24. Denver, CO (5,896,137)
  25. Nashville, TN (2,909,035)
  26. Milwaukee, WI (3,184,691)
  27. Washington, DC (3,031,043)
  28. Louisville, KY (2,949,715)
  29. Portland, OR (4,607,152)
  30. Oklahoma City, OK (2,542,568)
  31. Atlanta, GA (6,151,488)
  32. Kansas City, MO (3,814,650)
  33. Fresno, CA (3,032,183)
  34. Sacramento, CA (5,691,903)
  35. Omaha, NE (2,506,874)
  36. Miami, FL (2,785,746)
  37. Cleveland, OH (2,249,989)
  38. Raleigh, NC (2,252,861)
  39. Tulsa, OK (2,843,868)
  40. Minneapolis, MN (4,490,267)
  41. St. Louis, MO (5,069,109)
  42. Tampa, FL (5,049,680)
  43. Santa Ana (Orange County), CA (3,121,251)
  44. New Orleans, LA (2,534,949)
  45. Cincinnati, OH (3,472,024)
  46. Pittsburgh, PA (4,470,907)
  47. Riverside, CA (2,088,322)
  48. Toledo, OH (2,019,458)
  49. St. Paul, MN (2,573,057)
  50. Buffalo, NY (2,782,734)
  51. Greensboro, NC (2,678,241)
  52. Madison, WI (2,070,908)
  53. Orlando, FL (3,625,795)
  54. Birmingham, AL (2,896,134)
  55. Baton Rouge, LA (2,841,516)
  56. Arlington, VA (2,615,764)
  57. Akron, OH (2,307,186)
  58. Montgomery, AL (3,057,149)
  59. Richmond, VA (3,725,124)
  60. Shreveport, LA (2,146,547)
  61. Des Moines, IA (2,092,903)
  62. Augusta, GA (3,286,871)
  63. Grand Rapids, MI (2,311,561)
  64. Little Rock, AR (2,377,037)
  65. Knoxville, TN (3,215,185)
  66. Fort Lauderdale, FL (3,511,282)
  67. Salt Lake City, UT (4,773,812)
  68. San Bernardino, CA (3,454,754)
  69. Fayetteville, NC (2,047,029)
  70. Aurora, IL (3,986,086)
  71. Springfield, MA (3,183,813)
  72. Paterson, NJ (2,285,085)
  73. Syracuse, NY (2,641,398)
  74. Bridgeport, CT (3,876,777)
  75. Warren, MI (2,393,541)
  76. Elizabeth, NJ (4,235,727)
  77. Lansing, MI (2,543,980)
  78. Manchester, NH (3,289,238)
  79. Allentown, PA (2,559,796)

This second map shows regions with a minimum population of 5 million.  They are listed below in the same manner that they were previously.

  1. New York City, NY (15,100,008)
  2. Los Angeles, CA (15,562,860)
  3. Chicago, IL (12,213,121)
  4. Houston, TX (6,568,198)
  5. Phoenix, AZ (8,490,543)
  6. Philadelphia, PA (10,845,050)
  7. San Antonio, TX (5,398,906)
  8. Dallas, TX (5,916,711)
  9. San Jose, CA (9,241,701)
  10. Detroit, MI (8,757,618)
  11. Indianapolis, IN (7,153,419)
  12. Columbus, OH (7,066,082)
  13. Fort Worth, TX (6,422,682)
  14. Charlotte, NC (9,064,119)
  15. Memphis, TN (5,335,220)
  16. Boston, MA (9,275,561)
  17. Seattle, WA (8,755,217)
  18. Denver, CO (10,039,895)
  19. Nashville, TN (5,631,919)
  20. Milwaukee, WI (6,167,922)
  21. Washington, DC (11,269,595)
  22. Portland, OR (5,263,530)
  23. Atlanta, GA (11,943,974)
  24. Kansas City (9,015,985)
  25. Sacramento, CA (6,370,171)
  26. Miami, FL (6,297,028)
  27. Cleveland, OH (6,605,216)
  28. Raleigh, NC (6,911,460)
  29. Minneapolis, MN (8,704,527)
  30. St. Louis, MO (5,438,438)
  31. Tampa, FL (11,235,143)
  32. New Orleans, LA (6,317,469)
  33. Pittsburgh, PA (5,274,967)
  34. Riverside, CA (9,002,191)
  35. Springfield, MA (5,943,610)
  36. Paterson, NJ (6,595,744)

This final map is for regions with a minimum population of 8 million, based on the following cities.

  1. New York City, NY (24,002,264)
  2. Los Angeles, CA (15,562,860)
  3. Chicago, IL (17,521,680)
  4. Houston, TX (14,995,203)
  5. Phoenix, AZ (8,493,518)
  6. Philadelphia, PA (11,376,896)
  7. Dallas, TX (12,594,912)
  8. San Jose, CA (15,669,851)
  9. Detroit, MI (10,047,016)
  10. Indianapolis, IN (14,442,659)
  11. Charlotte, NC (14,787,271)
  12. Memphis, TN (9,796,539)
  13. Boston, MA (12,318,503)
  14. Seattle, WA (13,493,324)
  15. Denver, CO (10,100,944)
  16. Washington, DC (13,875,208)
  17. Atlanta, GA (15,249,097)
  18. Kansas City, MO (10,585,310)
  19. Cleveland, OH (14,161,269)
  20. Minneapolis, MN (9,192,555)
  21. Tampa, FL (17,532,171)
  22. Riverside, CA (9,044,828)

Discussion

There are a number of inferences that can be made from these findings.  The first that I would like to discuss is that, despite using county data, there are still a lot of straight line boundaries.  This is going to be the case as long as counties have boundaries as arbitrary as states.  A more thorough and accurate analysis would include a municipality-by-municipality, rather than county-by-county, analysis, but that would take more time than I am willing to put into this project at this juncture.  The arbitrary straight lines on the map can lead to some unusual results.  For instance, Grand Junction, CO, the county seat of Mesa County, is closer to Salt Lake City and to Denver on the first map, while most of the rest of the counties on the border follow the state line, leaving Mesa County jutting awkwardly into Denver’s region.

Another odd effect is what happens when water transportation is a factor.  Google’s walking directions take regular ferry service into account, so areas such as San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, Lake Michigan and Massachusetts Bay have many more connections than areas such as Chesapeake Bay.  While in all reality the residents of Northampton County, VA may be more willing to ride a boat to Virginia Beach than to walk to Philadelphia, this isn’t taken into consideration here.  Rivers with infrequent bridges, or at least bridges lacking in pedestrian walkways, also pose a problem.  There are many counties in Arkansas, for instance, that are much closer to Memphis, TN than to Little Rock; however, the lack of bridges and regular ferry service across the Mississippi River made it so that the Google analysis gave many more areas to Little Rock.  Also, Google’s directions from Honolulu to the Mainland included “Kayak across the Pacific Ocean,” and no matter where you wanted the final destination to be, it went through Seattle, thus making Hawaii, as far as this discussion goes, a part of Seattle.

Another issue is the methodology used in selecting which cities would anchor areas.  After having attempted this analysis before with a top-down approach and being unsuccessful, I tried a bottom-up approach, starting with the smallest cities on my list and moving up.  This creates some situations that are somewhat awkward; for instance, Newark, NJ is much more of a population center than either Elizabeth of Paterson, NJ, yet it didn’t make the cut.  Tampa, FL, is another example; it is more likely that Jacksonville and Miami would split the state, rather than Tampa eliminating both of them.  I may in the future consider another top-down approach to see how the results differ.

There is also the fact that this search was limited to cities in the US.  If we were to do a more complete analysis, we would include neighboring countries and, time permitting, the whole world.  There are certainly cities in Alaska, for instance, that are much closer to Vancouver and even Victoria than they are to Seattle.  However, for the purposes of this study, it made sense to limit the scope to the United States.

The last problem with the model is the fact that I set minimum benchmarks.  This worked very well for the first map, which only has two regions exceeding Alexander’s limit of 10 million people, and those not by much.  However, when we get to a minimum of 8 million, nearly all of the regions exceed the limit.  It may be better to next time set a maximum number and split regions in two as they exceed that limit.

These weaknesses being established, there are a few recommendations that I would like to make after doing this research.  First of all, all counties should have one county seat.  There are a number of existing counties that have two seats, and even a few counties that have no seat.  Counties with more than one seat should settle on one and move on, while counties with no seat should either establish one or be dissolved.  Second, if counties are to exist, then all cities should lie within one.  I feel that there is a little bit of leeway in here for state capitals, such as Carson City, NV, which are just following the example of our nation’s capital, but most of the 39 independent cities in Virginia, for example, shouldn’t be independent.  Many of these cities are even the seats of the counties that they are not a part of!  Unless a city has the same boundaries as its county, like Miami and Boston, they should not function independently.  Counties should also be contiguous.  There are a few counties in Louisiana and Kentucky where changing river course or other events have cut certain parts of a county off from the rest of it.  These areas should become part of another, adjacent county.

Also, I will again refer to Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language: “Decentralize city governments in a way that gives local control to communities of 5,000 to 10,000 persons. As nearly as possible, use natural geographic and historical boundaries to mark these communities. Give each community the power to initiate, decide, and execute the affairs that concern it closely: land use, housing, maintenance, streets, parks, police, schooling, welfare, neighborhood services.”  While there is a lot in there, Alexander does seem to set 5,000 persons as a baseline for a functional community.  With that being understood, I propose that any counties under 5,000 in population be dissolved.  If this were done, the country would have 292 fewer administrative units to deal with.  The interesting thing is that most of these counties that would go away are not in the sparsely-populated regions of the Rocky Mountains, as I had supposed; they are in the Plains States, where counties were created arbitrarily after Jefferson’s survey and without any sort of requirements for a population to support them.  These counties have no reason to be there, and their citizens would be better off being a part of a real, larger community.

With these suggestions being made, there are still many things that we can learn from these maps.  I personally prefer the first map and think that it could be a good basis for establishing regional governments and possibly eliminating county governments, particularly in the East and in California, where the population is the most dense.  To properly follow the borders of these regions, state borders would also have to be amended.  In this process, States which don’t have significant population centers would be eliminated, including Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The second map, with the much fewer and larger regions, might not be as good for establishing regional governments, but may be more useful for realigning state boundaries to better reflect reality.  If this were the plan, then county governments would probably still be needed, but only if they conform to the requirements stated above.  The last map, with the fewest and very largest areas, might not function either as regions or states, but may be one example of how the country might be equitably divided if it were to break up into small countries.  It is interesting to compare this map to others of how the US could potentially break up, as seen here.

Finally, it should be remembered that mere numbers are not what links people to a city or a region.  Few people would ever say that San Jose is the heart of the Bay Area, despite it being considerably bigger than San Francisco.  The only way you would really be able to truly find a dividing line between New York and Boston would be to go door to door through Connecticut and ask people if they are Yankees or Redsox fans.  The only true way to establish a regional identity is through years of tradition and cultural association with an area.  In the words of Lewis Mumford from his epic The City in History, “Contrary to the convictions of census statisticians, it is art, culture, and political purpose, not numbers, that define a city.”

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Dissent Magazine Essay


I recently submitted this essay to Dissent Magazine for a scholarship contest.  I have been accepted to the University of Maryland and the University of Pennsylvania, and if I want to pay for it, I need a lot of money.

The United States is facing a blizzard of societal problems at the moment.  Our central cities are falling apart, while suburbs eat what’s left of our productive farmland.  Neighbors never meet each other unless they’re angry.  Our economy is run on energy that comes from outside of our borders that could be cut off at any moment and, at any rate, is running out fast.  Americans are the fattest people on the planet, due mostly to a sedentary lifestyle.  Public transportation helps the most needy people in society, yet most of our funding is poured into highways for commuters.  To say that all of these problems could be solved by only one solution would be ludicrous, but they can all at least be addressed by one issue: better city planning.

Various movements, including New Urbanism, Smart Growth and Transit-Oriented Development, are trying to do that very thing.  All of these focus on greater residential densities, mixed land uses, and making sure that walking, biking, and public transit are at least as feasible as car travel, if not more so.

This addresses the before-mentioned issues in a number of ways.  The best place to start on all of this is where it is already somewhat existent: current cities and towns.  Although many of our major cities have been gutted of their mixed uses, transformed into oversized office parks, the basic framework is there to turn them into high-density, mixed-use centers, with people living, working, shopping and playing downtown, all within walking distance.  When peak oil hits, all the people that commute via car won’t be able to live in the suburbs and work in the cities, so they will either have to work closer to home or live closer to work.  When this happens, our metropolitan areas will contract in geographic scale, but they will densify around certain centers, most of them traditional cities and towns.

The separateness of the suburbs has led to a certain type of sociopathy.  People never get out of their cars and talk to their neighbors.  They get in their cars, pull out of the garage, drive to work, spend most of the day in a cubicle, drive home, pull into the garage and get out of their cars while barely so much as talking to another human being.  This is why people create rules in HOA’s to maintain civility, because no one has the gall to actually talk to their neighbors or worry about how their actions might affect others.  When your neighbors are closer to you, and when you all walk to get anywhere, you’re bound to run into each other and have a conversation.  Who knows, you may even become friends and start walking to the pub together.

When we start to run low on oil, it will bring a massive shock to our economy.  We will no longer be able to rely on international shipping and long-haul trucking to bring us goods from across the world.  We will have to live on a much more local scale.  We will need to grow our food within a closer proximity to markets, preferably within cities so that those living there can also benefit from the greenery and the cleaner air.  We will have to manufacture our products within our communities.  People with manual labor skills will become much more important in our society, since it will again become more reasonable to fix things that break than to buy a new one at Wal-mart.  We will become much more intimately aware of where all of our products come from and who they are made by.

It’s amazing how much money people spend on their cars, only to get fat from having no incidental exercise whatsoever, and then spend even more on gym memberships and fad diets trying to lose all the excess weight (although there are many in America who opt to just stay fat).  We’d all be a lot better off if we just lived a life that gave us exercise.  If it were safe, pleasant and timely to walk or cycle, America would be in much better shape.  Again, with peak oil, we may be forced into a world where this is the case, so we might as well be ready for it when it comes.

Some critics of New Urbanism and Smart Growth say that suburban sprawl is the byproduct of the free market and that it illustrates what people really want, but it wouldn’t be at all economically feasible if it weren’t for government intervention.  The suburbs were the weekend retreat of the elite until after World War II, when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were created to help returning veterans get affordable mortgages (these two may be dismantling themselves as we speak, so it may not be entirely necessary to intervene).  Sprawl is also a product of expansive highway building.  No one would live in the suburbs if they couldn’t get to them, and for every dollar states pay towards new highways, the federal government pays nine.  Public transit and rail have never gotten this kind of funding.  Unlike in Europe, where many freeways went around cities or turned into grade-level boulevards within them, American cities have been cut up by freeways, creating barriers to non-car movement and walling certain neighborhoods off from the rest of the community, as with Pittsburgh’s impoverished Hill District.  With peak oil fast approaching, we need to be ready to use what fossil fuels we have on the most efficient forms of transport.  Public transit can move more people, and in some cases do so faster, than single-occupant cars, and while using less fossil fuels.

The greatest changes to this system need to be made at the top.  Most city planners are familiar with New Urbanism and Smart Growth, but are unable to implement policies due to public inertia.  The federal government could help by dismantling programs that favor cheap mortgages in the suburbs over city development (if there’s anything left to dismantle in the coming years); fund public transit and rail projects at least at the same level, if not more, than highways; and discourage single-use zoning, the land use law in most American cities that doesn’t allow the mixed uses found in traditional cities.  If we do this, we can save our cities and our farms, make better neighbors, be prepared for peak oil, be healthier, and allow for those in need to have better access to transportation options.

7 Urban Freeways To Tear Down Today–And What Tomorrow Might Look Like If We Do


Yonah Freemark and Jebediah Reed of The Infrastrcturist bring us this article on freeways that should be torn down.  Although there is a lot of crossover between this list and the Congress for the New Urbanism‘s list of Freeways Without Futures, they are separate and do have some differences.  Urban freeways function as walls, cutting off neighborhoods from the rest of the city with disastrous results.  They are often built along lakefronts and waterways, destroying what could be a great asset to a city.  When freeways have been torn down and turned into surface-level roads, such as in Portland and San Francisco, they have had wonderful results as far as revitalizing their neighboring districts.  Their list of freeways to tear down includes:

Cleveland: West Shoreway

Seattle: Alaskan Way Viaduct

Oklahoma City: I-40

New Haven: Route 34

Buffalo: Skyway

Syracuse: I-81

Baltimore: Jones Falls Expressway

I think it’s great that people are willing to re-examine urban freeways and the negative impacts they have on cities, and I hope more cities (including my hometown of Pittsburgh, which could afford to tear down both I-376 along the Monongahela River and I-579 which cuts off the Strip, Hill and Uptown districts from Downtown) follow the example of Milwaukee and others and tear down their freeways.

A Tale of Two (Segregated) Exurbs


This article from the Daily Kos brings up some good points of discussion.  They start by mentioning the “White Flight” behind suburban development.  From there they go on to compare Leesburg, an exurb that is totally car dependent, to Gaithersburg, which “has a quaint “downtown,” very few cars, lots of walking, and…wait for it…a wonderful sense of community.”  The problem with Gaithersburg, which they misallocate to the design of Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ), is that it is just as racially and economically homogeneous as your regular suburb.  In addition to this de-facto segregation, they critisize New Urbanism for being susceptible to gentrification.

First of all, Gaithersburg is mostly suburban.  DPZ only designed Kentlands, a small part of Gaithersburg, so to attribute all of Gaithersburg’s problems to the design of DPZ is not entirely accurate.  Second, gentrification is a big problem.  Part of it is that projects that aren’t really New Urbanist use the title as a buzzword, and developments that are just modified suburbia, which cause more harm than good, make true New Urbanism look bad.  If you look at the Charter, it’s obvious that communities of mixed income and race are a big priority.  There’s also a problem with supply and demand.  Many New Urbanist developments start out affordable, but because there are very few of these developments and because they quickly grow in popularity (demand), prices skyrocket.  This has very much been the case at Daybreak, Utah’s premier New Urbanist community.  Part of housing affordability is having a variety of housing types, from apartments to condos to townhouses to single-family.  Another technique is less design-oriented and more policy-oriented.  Crawford Square, in Pittsburgh‘s Hill District, when it underwent New Urbanist redevelopment, created a policy by which they made sure there was a good balance of units that were for sale, for rent, and rent-controlled, so that anyone on the income spectrum could afford something in the neighborhood.  Despite early fears of gentrification, there have actually been some citizens who have been able to start in rent-controlled units and work their way up to owning their first home.

The moral of this story is that, yes, New Urbanism can encourage gentrification, just like any form of urban redevelopment.  But if dealt with in a smart way, it isn’t necessarily the only outcome.

Pa. awards funds for walking, bicycling trails


It’s always good to hear more good news from home.  The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is awarding almost $75 million for smart transportation and safe route to school projects.  Some of those projects getting funding near Pittsburgh are: Point Park University, for enhancing intersections downtown; Allegheny County, for improving bike and pedestrian trails in the park where my mom goes for walks and where a friend of mine in high school got run over by a bike rider on a poorly-lit trail, and for researching ways of making walking and bicycling “an integral part of getting around Allegheny County;” Beaver County, for improving roundabouts and other traffic calming measures at a proposed TOD site in Rochester; Munhall, for replacing and improving sidewalks and bike trails in their old downtown; and Blairsville, for improving bike and pedestrian paths along Market Street.  Pennsylvania is taking aggressive steps to combat climate change and car-dependence, and I hope that they, along with other states like Maryland, can set an example for the rest of the country.

Castle Shannon hoping to lure commuters with new business


Margaret Smykla continues the flow of good news coming from Pittsburgh.  She reports on the borough of Castle Shannon‘s plan to renew their downtown and to take advantage of the location of a T-station nearby.  They’ve done a great job of recognizing what they have and what uses would compliment that, as opposed to simply courting Wal-mart or other big box stores as a solution.  The plans for the village at the T-station include mixed use development, and would be built on a deck over the parking, hiding it and making the development pedestrian friendly.  I hope that they get going on the project and I can check it out sometime when I go home.

UPDATE: This project continues to move forward.  Check out a new article here and check out the plans.

Cranberry’s Belle Vue Park blends styles into a traditional neighborhood


More good news from the homefront. Karen Kane of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports in this article on Belle Vue Park, a new development in Cranberry Township, on the fringes of Pittsburgh’s metropolitan area and a real posterboy of suburban development.  Belle Vue Park’s mixed housing types, including rowhouses and smaller homes, walkable community centers, and neighborhood commercial uses, are somewhat of a departure from Cranberry’s domminant large homes and strip commercial.  I think it is a great move in the right direction and hope the rest of the community follows suit.