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What do these little towns need?

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StuInMcCandless

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Mar 10 2013 at 8:26pm #

My interests are evolving. First it was transit, then it was biking by itself, then bus-and-biking. Now I find myself looking at all the little towns and neighborhoods I roll through, asking some combo of these questions:

* Does anyone actually live here?
* What is it like to actually live here?
* Can I walk to a grocery store, bank, pharmacy, laundromat?
* Can I easily bike along the street without (much) fear of getting run over?
* Is there a park or someplace else safe where kids can play?
* Is there a public library I or my kids can walk to?
* Is there a store where a kid can walk or bike to and buy a popsicle?
* Could I and would I live on the top floor of that building?
* Is it possible to walk to a neighborhood school?
* Can I bike downtown from this spot?
* Does it look from the outside like the {wiring|plumbing|roof|furnace} is 100 years old?
* Could I retire and live here?
…and the ultimate question…
* Would I let my 9-year-old kid travel from a random residence to that neighborhood store to buy a popsicle, unaccompanied?

What I’m getting at is that places like Millvale and McKees Rocks are worlds apart in some of these things. Both of those towns are on a level path to downtown, but Millvale is easy, and McKees Rocks is unbearably difficult.

Maybe I’m getting out of the realm of strictly cycling, but then again, maybe not. Even if one would not bicycle downtown from Rankin or Woods Run or Homestead every day, one might bike *around* those towns. Glassport could use a park. Rankin needs everything. So does Braddock.

Bicycles are the answer to all those things. What would it take to make cycling easier in all those little spots? Some (Millvale) are outside the city limits but not by much, some (Woods Run) are actually inside city limits. They all face similar problems, but there are *so many* of them. Even a comparatively healthy little spot like Sewickley could use some bicycle love. Even there, it’s still all about the car. And that’s increasingly wrong.

I don’t know where to go from here. I’m rather composing at the keyboard. But I’ve had these thoughts for weeks, months, and going to that TEDxCMU event last weekend has focused somewhat my thinking, at least to the point of clearing my head enough to write it down here.

Is anyone else thinking this? Where to take this?


Vannevar

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Mar 10 2013 at 8:58pm #

First squirrel:
What’s constraining the SouthSide? Cars and the SouthSide’s current car-dependent situation. So, to be clear: It’s not that cars are bad. It’s that a situation where cars are the only option is bad.

Second squirrel: Change. In any change there’s winners and losers, and the legacy Winners have Power to preclude change. So in Sewickley, for instance, the legacy Winners like things the way they are and don’t want the tone of “The Village” affected. So change will only happen when the pain(status-quo) GT pain(change). So I think the fertile fields are Millvale and Monaca, not Sewickley.

Third squirrel: Take SouthSide’s problem (car-hegemony) and extend avoiding it as a solution to the bottom-level communities. In other words, How could Monaca-Millvale become cost-benefit attractive vs. other similar communities? Answer: Make them locations where you truly don’t need to own a car to live. Save residents the cost of owning a car. Frequent reliable mass transit with a Zip-car station. (Corbett’s transit cuts are going to really screw this up)

Having dealt with squirrels, here’s what I’d really like to say:

Complete Streets Legislation and Coalition
One thing that’s needed is (ahem) a Complete Streets Coalition that touches all the existing stakeholders in order to make sure that all t+1 activities fall within the complete streets paradigm – which is, that a truly complete street represents the full community, and the full population has an equitable access on the street. Which means: older folks, handicapped folks, bicyclists, walkers, children, blind/deaf people, transit users, non-car-owners, bike-sharers, automobilists.

I read this somethere: “Instituting a Complete Streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.”

A Complete Streets Program:
• Is understood by all agencies to cover all roads.
• Applies to both new and retrofit projects, including design, planning, maintenance, and operations, for the entire right of way.
• Makes any exceptions specific and sets a clear procedure that requires high-level approval.
• Directs the use of the latest and best design criteria and guidelines while recognizing the need for flexibility in balancing user needs.
• Directs that complete streets solutions will complement the context of the community.
• Establishes performance standards with measurable outcomes.
• Includes specific next steps for implementation of the policy.

Until we implement a city/county/regional Complete Streets program, budgets will continue to go to quick/dirty car-centric projects, with a tip of the hat to ADA compatibility – and few of the worthy issues you identified, Stu, will ever bubble out of “nice to have” pile into the “action item” list.


Vannevar

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Mar 11 2013 at 9:04am #

Following up on that, check this out:

A Map Of Key Transit Choices

http://urbanist.typepad.com/files/abundant-access-diagram-1.pdf

described and explained in this blog post

http://www.humantransit.org/2013/03/abundant-access-a-map-of-the-key-transit-choices.html

Cheers, V.


jonawebb

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Mar 11 2013 at 9:14am #

One thing I’d like to see is a state law that requires new road construction to include bike lanes. PA only requires DOT to ‘consider’ biking as part of any new construction, so, for example, the reconstruction of the Boulevard of the Allies basically made biking impossible through that area.


gg

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Mar 11 2013 at 9:21am #

Many need a bit more love than cycling. Just feeling safe to be on a bicycle in some of the areas around Pittsburgh would be a challenge let alone driving through in a car.

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=200857273326139925307.0004aa8bcf58f986e6de2


byogman

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Mar 11 2013 at 10:52am #

Had a little of this discussion with Ahlir while we were riding yesterday. His thought, which makes a lot of sense to me, critical mass.

Of course, (and this is just me), you can have bootstrapping problems even if geography and settlement patterns says you could have this, if the area is perceived as run down and dodgy. Businesses tends to be risk averse.

But honestly just riding through it’s often a little hard for me to figure out what fits in that category and not. Prior to moving up here I was living in Raleigh,NC. Except for a couple neighborhoods everything was less than 30 years old (and a lot of it, less than 10 years old). Almost everything, at least in the east end, looks run down and dodgy here in comparison. The only difference I see between what’s called good and bad here is the occupancy rate on the business strip and the associated amount of pedestrian traffic.

So maybe that is, in and of itself the answer to the bootstrapping problem. Not, if you build it they will come, but if a few come, especially in some of the key categories already discussed, it’s much more likely that more might follow. There are a lot of approaches to that, but somehow to recognize the positive externalities produced by a few “founders” seems just like common sense, and I’m guessing it would be less expensive than than kowtowing to big developers and interest who need big plots of land and millions and millions in incentives to get interested in doing anything.


StuInMcCandless

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Mar 11 2013 at 1:02pm #

My post came about because three unrelated friends on Facebook intersected with similar, relevant questions within a matter of hours, just after I had been thinking about one of the TED talks about public investment, and also riding through Millvale four times in a week.

The friend in Glassport is nine months pregnant, went out for a walk, and got lost looking for a park to sit down in. How livable is a community that doesn’t have even a small park for kids to play or a bench to sit on? I don’t know Glassport that well, but I think I can extend that to some other towns I do know.

A friend in his 50s in Rochester NY sent me an article about real estate people repeatedly being asked by retiring baby boomers for a small house, with no yard to attend to or (much of a) sidewalk or driveway to shovel, and on a transit route, and it’s an unmeetable request, while McMansions keep being built.

A friend in Murrysville feels trapped in her own house with no way out other than the car, and the car is less than reliable.

How often do these questions get asked? Meanwhile, we have places like The Bottoms, under the McKees Rocks Bridge, with 120-year-old housing stock that used to flood all the time before upstream flood control was installed. Probably the best thing to do with any of them is knock them down and start over. That little spot is perfect for biking, and would easily address all those issues above, and might not even need a gargantuan influx of money. Just something to tip it the right way, a la Conflict Kitchen or some more green space.

Woods Run: It was during one of the pool rides two summers ago, we rolled through there on our way up to Riverview. It has a lot going for it already (flat, transit service, a library, some retail), but like Helen Street, everything there looks old and decrepit.

Answer the “why would anyone want to live there?” question, and all these places would start turning around. There’s plenty of (private) money around, but it’s getting spent in the wrong places. And anything that helps feed anyone’s gas tank is money leaving town.


jonawebb

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Mar 11 2013 at 1:14pm #

I think the real problem with a lot of these small towns is bad governance. Each little town has its own board of supervisors and public officers, and a lot of money gets wasted because so-and-so’s nephew needs a job. And every so often the town’s government makes a really boneheaded decision like when Killbuck Township decided to build a Walmart on land too small to fit, leading to too steep hills and a landslide that shut down railroad tracks and a highway. We really need to have governmental consolidation at the county level and an honest, fair, long-term plan for development. Things are going nowhere with each little fiefdom defending its own interest.


edmonds59

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Mar 11 2013 at 1:22pm #

Stu, “experts” have spent millions of dollars studying and entire careers trying to figure out the things you are mulling and the answers are still elusive. Nonetheless still worth thinking about, I think the same things when I go through places like you mention, what would it be like to live there?
Some of the things that hurt the region are simply lack of density, and lack of cash. There are simply too many little burgs that need revitalizing, and far too few people with the combination of creative spirit and a little money to revitalize them all. The energy just dissipates. Fetterman in Braddock has been trying to seed the creatives to come in and revitalize that community, but there are too many intangibles and it is (probably) impossible to “force” such a thing to happen.
In McKees Rocks they built the Father Ryan Arts Center, which is an amazing facility, but people are still doing crack and getting killed a block away, and that tends to keep away people who are averse to being killed.
I disagree with V on one of his points about Sewickley. I do think that is where energy needs to be spent on change, rather than the lower income areas. Whether people want to admit it or not, people take cues from the upper classes, not from the bottom up. If biking is viewed as something that people do for economic reasons, then as soon as they are able to move up the economic ladder, they will discard it. I think a lot of current fashion advertising is doing some of our work for us – there are a lot of ads featuring beautiful women and metrosexual dudes on bikes, and it’s fun! and cool! and that’s what makes people want to do things. We need to learn what the ad industry has known for a hundred years. Biking needs to make peoples teeth whiter and their breath fresher. Practicality is a lead balloon.
Also we need to force public entities to provide real leadership on these issues. The Complete Streets concept is absolutely on the money. We need to get through to politicians and make them lead. As things work now, a little revitalization money gets tossed here and there according to the constituency with the loudest mouth, and it’s just wasted, there’s no intelligent plan.
I have lots more ideas, I should probably start to organize them somehow, I might be helpful. But I’m lazy.


Marko82

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Mar 11 2013 at 1:59pm #

While you’re pondering; think back to what made those little enclaves prosper in the first place. For most it was probably tied to one industry or even one employer. My mother talks about going shopping in Braddock when she was a kid because they had three or four high-end dress shops on the main drag, along with all of the other shops one would expect. It was better than shopping in downtown Pittsburgh because the trolley dropped you off right in front of the store. All because of well paying steel mill jobs – both in the region, and Braddock specifically.

I wonder if in forty years we’ll look back at all of the east end development and regret the day that Google went out of business and started a slow decline in the region’s hipness. Or in the decline of Oakland after UPMC moved all of their beds to the suburbs.


Vannevar

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Mar 11 2013 at 2:39pm #

edmonds59, you might be right about marketing, white teeth, and Sewickley; you make an interesting point. I was looking at it from a resistance-to-change perspective.

Stu, when you mention a ConflictKitchen in TheBottoms you made me think of the BraddockCommunityCafe. I’ve ridden to Braddock twice recently for breakfast just because of this new cafe: localvore, high-quality, fresh as can be, generous serving, moderate price.

Braddock is just such a Ground-Zero, but there’s such awesome stuff. Check out the North Braddock Aviary (must be seen to be believed!), and a lot of tremendous murals.

(If you venture out to the Braddock Community Cafe on your bike, I’ve been leaving my bike inside the building in the hallway, they’re ok with that. )

North Braddock Aviary: Hall of Male Birds in Courtship Plumage

http://www.pghmurals.com/demo.cfm?m=287

Braddock Community Cafe

http://www.braddockcommunitycafe.com/

Braddock Murals and public art

http://www.pghmurals.com/Braddock-PA-murals-public-art.cfm

among other bike routes: Steel Valley Trail to Rankin Bridge.


Vannevar

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Mar 11 2013 at 2:45pm #

Marko82 wrote:While you’re pondering; think back to what made those little enclaves prosper in the first place.

Friendship, for instance, was a street-car suburb.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friendship_%28Pittsburgh%29#History

and so were Highland Park, Squirrel Hill, Regent Square, Dormont, Mt. Lebanon, Castle Shannon; and in a slightly upperclass price range so were Edgewood, Sewickley, and Aspinwall.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streetcar_suburb#Pittsburgh

not that transit matters n’at.


StuInMcCandless

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Mar 11 2013 at 3:20pm #

Kinda hoping ALMKLM would chime in on this.


edmonds59

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Mar 11 2013 at 3:28pm #

re: marketing; I kind of think what pedestrian/cycling/transit advocates need to go on the offensive and, rather than presenting the positive aspects of those, present driving as dumb and “totally uncool”, something “old” people and the witless do (i.e., the truth, and something we believe pretty much anyway)(no offense to the old and/or witless). I can think of a number of visuals for an ad campaign without even trying.


jonawebb

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Mar 11 2013 at 3:41pm #

You can see where the streetcars were as you ride around by looking for the rusty metal poles now used as light standards. Wherever you see them, there used to be a trolley track. And they used to be pretty much everywhere. I start picking them up on the ride home east of Turtle Creek.


StuInMcCandless

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Mar 11 2013 at 4:29pm #

Electric trolleys started happening around 1890, and to a great extent they accompanied a land grab, selling people on the idea of not living in the dirty, cramped, noisy city. Just pay us a nickel and live out where it’s quiet and you have space. Each electric company bought a bunch of land, laid track, built and sold houses, and started collecting nickels. Hence, your trolley suburbs, all dating to about 1890. Add Wilmerding and West View to the list, and I’m sure there are more.

Decades pass. The rolling stock and railbeds start getting long in the tooth. The automobile comes along in significant numbers in the 1920s, providing an alternative to trolleys. Electric companies, which sold both transit service to their select suburbs as well as electricity to houses, start propping up the cost of the transportation with increased residence utility rates.

Remember, this is all tax paying private industry.

Along about 1935, Harrisburg passed a law that forced electric utility companies to split off their transpo businesses from their residential power businesses. This forced the trolley companies to make a go of it themselves. With increasing costs for supplying good trackage, rolling stock and regular service, fares had to be raised. This pushed more people into using cars. At roughly this same time, trolley companies were being bought up left and right by an arm of General Motors, forcing many out of business. Those that stayed eventually went into receivership.

A bare 10 years later, Pennsylvania passed an amendment to the state constitution, what we now know as Article VIII Section 11A, forbidding use of motor fuels taxes for any purpose other than highway and bridge construction. In other words, not transit. One more nail in the coffin of (privately run, tax paying) public transportation.

In 15 years, they were all broke. Every one of those little “traction companies” and bus firms was losing money. The county passed the Second Class Port Authority Act in 1960, bringing them all under the umbrella of county government. Car barns and inclines were closed, routes and fare systems consolidated, and in 1964, PATransit started service. They never did resolve the issue of how to pay for it — not before, not then, not since.

And here we are, almost 50 years later, with a hodgepodge of little trolley suburbs all over the place. Maybe they have transit service, maybe not as times have gotten tighter.


Steven

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Mar 11 2013 at 6:13pm #

For the record, Glassport does have a playground, near 3rd Street by the railroad tracks, right on the Montour Connector bike route. There’s a gazebo there too. The environment is more Mad Max than Mr. Rogers, like they noticed there was nothing suitable in the residential part of town so they stuck it in an unwanted commercial area, but it’s there.


Vannevar

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Mar 11 2013 at 6:38pm #

Stu, you absolutely rock. Wow. My compliments.


gg

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Mar 11 2013 at 6:59pm #

edmonds59 wrote:
I disagree with V on one of his points about Sewickley. I do think that is where energy needs to be spent on change, rather than the lower income areas. Whether people want to admit it or not, people take cues from the upper classes, not from the bottom up.

Correct.


jonawebb

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Mar 11 2013 at 8:28pm #

Thanks, Stu. Fascinating. Explains “Electric Avenue”, I think.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Mar 12 2013 at 6:38am #

@Stu: It just took me awhile to read through all the posts. It’s a really dense thread…


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Mar 12 2013 at 7:01am #

@jonawebb, re: “consolidation at the county level”

Couldn’t disagree more.

The only thing keeping most of these small towns from slipping into neglect is the fact that they have their own local governance. Look at many of the overlooked locales mentioned on this thread… how many are within the friendly confines of the City of Pittsburgh? Do they benefit from that large government downtown?

Look at what Millvale has done with their Riverfront Park. They embraced the bike trail there and now when people hear the name “Millvale” they think “bike trail.” The challenge for Millvale now, is how to leverage that into making the town a more appealing residential destination.

I love how Stu framed this, and I think this conversation is crucial for the future of the region. How do all of our towns, big and small, make (or keep) themselves appealing to an affluent or aspirational demographic.

I know everyone I meet in Aspinwall says the same things: They came here for the better schools and because they can walk places (boutiques, drug store – with popsicles!, coffee shop, restaurants, salons, grocery store…) . Not coincidentally we are developing a walkability program for our business districts. We have also budgeted money to install bike racks throughout town – including a repair station. Future planning includes a walking path connecting our playground, business/residential area, our new riverfront park, Chapel Harbor, St. Margaret’s Waterworks Mall, Squaw Run Park, etc. Many of these amenities are outside Aspinwall, but they are important to our residents, so we’re working with our neighbor communities as well.

This, hopefully, will be one answer to Stu’s question. But what might work here, may not work everywhere.

However, while County-wide consolidation may save a few sheckles here and there, it would destroy all the small towns that do work, and completely erase through neglect those that barely survive.


cdavey

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Mar 12 2013 at 8:39am #

@Stu — Thamds for taking time to post your history lesson above. Absolutely brilliant. I know you have posted it before on some thread somewhere. It is sort of a variation on the idea that “those who win the war get to write its history.” The creation of the car culture was not just by popular demand. It was, shall we say, helped along a lot, but that part of the story has been conveniently edited out of the narrative by those who wrote it and benefitted from it. Truth, however, is always worth remembering.

@almklm — I am going to have to make a stop by your little town of Aspinwall. I occasionally go by there if I’ve been to the ‘Burgh and come back over the HPB or Route 28. I have never had any reason to go through town instead of drive by it. But now you’ve given me a reason to go exploring. Sounds like you and the rest of the town fathers have “gotten” it. Congrats and keep up the good work. It does always help when the town citizenry have “gotten” it, too, can see the benefits, and back what you are trying to do.


Jacob McCrea

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Mar 12 2013 at 9:08am #

I don’t necessarily disagree with anything said above. But, from four years of owning and improving a piece of commercial property in a gritty “hilltop” neighborhood (read: spending my own money, not wishful thinking about spending some else’s) I have a little different perspective. More than anything else, what would help the really rough city neighborhoods, and I imagine others, is an effective program or procedure for quickly getting abandoned residential properties back into tax-paying use, i.e., before one decrepit property creates a domino effect by driving away people who would actually take care of their property. The challenge would be in making the program 1) consistent with the U.S. and Pa. constitutions; 2) consistent with the Pa. Eminent Domain Code; 3) not a boondoggle which primarily benefits developers; and 4) not a financial black hole for the municipality. That’s a pretty tall order, at least as I understand the legal and practical realities of the situation.


jonawebb

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Mar 12 2013 at 9:38am #

I still think it’s a good idea, on the whole, for some of these little towns to disappear — I don’t see how Mount Oliver, for example, benefits anyone except for those employed by its government — but of course there are some small towns that have managed to thrive and who would be hurt by consolidation. But on the whole I think more consolidation would be better. I’d like to see Wilkinsburg absorbed by Pittsburgh, small towns like Wilmerding and Wall absorbed into the county, etc.
Jake makes a good point about getting abandoned properties back into use. There is also the issue of speculators buying properties and sitting on them, waiting for property values to increase. A friend of mine who rehabs properties in Lawrenceville tells me he can’t find places to buy because of this.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Mar 12 2013 at 9:57am #

@jonawebb: how would you propose to affect thus absorption of Mount Oliver Borough by the City? Would you force it on them, or propose a referendum? What if tax rates are lower and public services, like street sweeping and salt in winter are better?


jonawebb

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Mar 12 2013 at 10:03am #

@almklm I’m not talking about forcing anything on anyone. I just think it would be better in general for it to happen.


edmonds59

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Mar 12 2013 at 10:16am #

To return to a kernel of Stu’s thought, “what would it be like to live here?” I often find myself thinking of living in some simple unassuming house in an interesting location, but to Jacob’s point, I am never going to take a chance of moving next to some idiot troglodyte who is going to leave appliances in the yard and let the siding fall off the house. It’s a sad truth but as a society we have completely lost the concept of simply taking care of things, however simple. We consume and discard and move on. Effing depressing.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Mar 12 2013 at 10:37am #

@jonawebb: But what does “better in general” mean? If the taxes are lower and the public services are better than the alternative, who would a consolidation benefit? And if Mount Oliver isn’t asking for it, how would you accomplish it?


jonawebb

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Mar 12 2013 at 10:59am #

@almklm, What happens now is people move out of Pittsburgh to avoid paying city taxes, but still work in the city. So they end up using city infrastructure and services but not paying for them. Instead they have their little community, with its own government etc. So all these little towns keep the tax burden high on people who choose to live in the city, while at the same time reducing density and ensuring there is lots of traffic as people go to their jobs. Overall, the quality of life for everyone is worse — though some benefit.
Again, I’m not talking about accomplishing the change — just saying what I see.


Kordite

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Mar 12 2013 at 11:04am #

Pittsburgh can do for (to) Mount Oliver what was done for (to) Allegheny City.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Mar 12 2013 at 11:23am #

@jonawebb: well that’s a different argument than you were making previously, and one that has been debated ad-nauseam elsewhere.

My view of the municipalities responsibility is to maintain the environment necessary for businesses – which are the lifeblood of communities of any size – to succeed. That responsibility includes maintaining such infrastructure as necessary for employees to get to their job – regardless of whether they live within the municipality or not.

I’m not sure it is possible to quantify the incremental degradation of pubic infrastructure resulting from commuters from various locales. And, frankly, i’m not sure it matters, vis-a-vis at least my view of the municipal responsibility.

But beyond roads and parking (which they pay for, part of which is a tax), and the meals they eat and private services they use (which they pay for, and part of which is tax), and their “city income” (which is subject to taxation by the city), what infrastructure and services are you referring to?


Marko82

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Mar 12 2013 at 11:35am #

^ I see both sides of the issue, but I think the real problem is with the state & fed, and how they fund/subsidize new road construction. How has 279 North affected the city? How many people would have moved to Cranbury (not a typo) had that road not been built? Let’s put in a road and when it gets full we’ll just make it a bigger road. Whenever I talk to old timers from up that way they are just as unhappy with the influx of people as the city is for the outflux.


jonawebb

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Mar 12 2013 at 11:38am #

I’m not sure what the point is of describing city infrastructure. You seem like an intelligent person with some experience in city management; surely you can figure them out. And whether commuters pay anything other than the minimal ‘commuter tax’ towards them depends on where they work.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Mar 12 2013 at 11:42am #

@marko82: I think that is a more appropriate application, perhaps, of the argument jonawebb was trying to make. That the federal interstate highway program literally paved the way for urban flight. Last I checked, none of these little towns we’re discussing connect to the city via an interstate highway…

But back to Stu’s OP – what are some ideas for reviving these small towns? My gut tells me it’s more likely going to have to be an organic, grassroots, bottom-up approach…


edmonds59

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Mar 12 2013 at 11:57am #

Invite a neighbor on a bike ride, lend somebody a bike, show a kid how to fix a flat, pull a bike out of the trash, fix it, and give it to somebody. Be out there riding. That’s how I’m doing that.


StuInMcCandless

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Mar 12 2013 at 1:09pm #

One way to plant a seed under my dentures is to talk about “moving out of A to B to avoid the taxes”. That argument is stupid. In every case I’ve heard that mentioned (city to suburb, or out of Allegheny County), it is accompanied by increasing one’s transportation cost.

I’ve stated it on other threads before, but it bears repeating here: I used to own four cars and lived in New Stanton, Westmoreland County. After moving to McCandless, I was able to get rid of two of the four almost right away, by choosing to use transit instead. Going from two to one was forced on me, but by that point, I realized how much of a money sink that second car was, so embraced the idea, and have been a single-car household ever since.

At the same time, my taxes about tripled going from New Stanton to McCandless. Right. And my transpo costs went down by half, in so doing canceling out the tax difference. So, that tax argument is bogus. Why pay bottom-line-more in transpo-plus-taxes by moving from A to B?

Note that I continued (and continue still) to own that property. In the 20 years I’ve not lived there, my Allegheny taxes have stayed level, while my Westmoreland taxes have almost doubled. (I should dig out the 1991 tax receipts to verify this, but it’s on that magnitude.) So those who have “moved out of the city to avoid the high taxes” are quietly being squeezed on both ends: Higher transpo costs, and the tax dodge doesn’t work anyway.

Instead, if we had properly funded and operating transit here, you could use that as the backbone of routine getting around, supplemented by bicycle, and one car per household, like I’ve been doing for 20 years.

And living in a walkable village, be it in the city itself or a stand-alone boro, removes much of the need for having a second (third, fourth) car. But first we have to make them livable.


jonawebb

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Mar 12 2013 at 1:23pm #

Yeah, Stu, it’s stupid, but people definitely do it.
And with Pennsylvania’s extremely local governments, you don’t have to go that far — ex. Baldwin Borough’s almost completely enclosed extension down Beck’s Run Road, or our good neighbor Mt. Oliver.
One step towards a more rational transit system is getting people to think regionally, rather than defending their own little town with its independent government.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Mar 12 2013 at 1:54pm #

From the Allegheny County web site:

2012 Taxes for a City of Pittsburgh property assessed at $100,000 (county + municipality + school district): $3041.00

2012 Taxes for a Mt. Oliver Borough property assessed at $100,000 (county + municipality + school district): $3311.00

2012 Taxes for a Baldwin Borough property assessed at $100,000 (county + municipality + school district): $3570.00

I bet all those people who definitely moved out of the City to Baldwin are so p*ssed right now.

And regarding “rational transit,” it’s not the small towns and boroughs standing in the way. PAT doesn’t ask, it tells. And we have no voice. PAT’s full name is the Port Authority of Allegheny County. It currently functions at the County level. If anyone is standing in the way of a broader regional system, it is at the County level, not the townships and boroughs.


Jacob McCrea

Private Message

Mar 12 2013 at 2:09pm #

Respectfully, you guys should go the whole nine yards and resurrect the old “City Budget and Taxes” thread. Whether you carry on there or here, you might want to take a look at municipal income taxes, rather than just real estate taxes, to see the bigger picture.

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