« Smoking Ban: Real Motivations Out in the Open At Last | Main | I'm a New Urbanist, and I Didn't Even Know It! »


sean mcdaniel

couldn't agree with you more. downtown has enough parking. if you can find it. right, sam?

John Morris

Actually, Downtown has far too much parking and in that way, it is just like the inner harbor on Baltimore. likely the main reaso that both places have never really jelled.

Jonathan Potts

I'm sorry to say I can't recall what many of them were, but Jane Jacobs had very specific ideas for ensuring that parking lots and garages did not consume valuable urban space.

My point remains that our redevelopment efforts should not focus on getting people to visit, but making this a good place to live. As we know, there is considerable disagreement over how to do that.

John Morris

The main thing, is just to aknowledge, that it is valuable space, which is a huge step in the right direction. anyway, as I have said, NY is the model of how to do it right and Baltimore is just another example of a screw up.

If you read Jacob's book; Pittsburgh shows up about 4 times for examples of what not to do. The city is sort of well known among urbanist's for it's screw ups.

John Morris

Here's a paragragh from the book Jane Jacobs

The problem that lies behind consideration for pedestrians, as it lies behind all other traffic difficulties, is how to cut down the absolute numbers of surface vehicles and enable those that remain to work harder and more efficiently. Too much dependence on private automobiles and city concentration of use are incompatible. One or the other has to give. In real life,this is what happens. Depending on which pressure wins the most victories, one of two processes occurs; erosion of cities by automobiles or attrician of automobiles by cities.

page 349 The chapter title is Erosion of cities or attrician of automobiles.

A few paragraphs later

" No one step in this process is, in itself crucial. But cummulatively the effect is enourmous. And each step, while not crucial in itself, is crucial in the sense that it not only adds it's own bit to the total change, but actually accelerates the process. Erosion of cities by automobiles is thus an example of what is known as "positive feedback". In cases of positive feedback, an action produces a reaction which in turn intensifies the condition responsible for the firs action. This intensifies the need for repeating the first action, which in turn intensifies the reaction and so on, ad infinitum. It is something like the grip of a habit forming addiction."

Pittsburgh set in motion a positive feedback loop that has been destoying the city and no one here seemed bright enough to realise it or say anything about it.

John Morris

The whole piece is great. The writer then sugests that Baltimore look at more successfull cities for answers.

"Some of the most visited cities in America (New York, San Francisco, Boston) are those that have lively streets, are easy to walk and have good transit."

Acording to Sean we can not look beyond our shoe laces cause Baltimore has a different history etc.. It's like saying that the correct answer to 2+3 was different in each city. There are universal laws that govern all things--- People can choose to violate the laws of logic and reality' but they can't escape the results.

Pittsburgh and Baltimore are like two lost Homers in a car who won't ask for directions.

sean mcdaniel

John Moreass says: "Acording to Sean we can not look beyond our shoe laces cause Baltimore has a different history etc.. It's like saying that the correct answer to 2+3 was different in each city. There are universal laws that govern all things--- People can choose to violate the laws of logic and reality' but they can't escape the results."

My reply is: WTF is he talking about? Sam, with your total recall, can you remember that I ever said anything about Baltimore having a different history than Pittsburgh (which, of course, it does). I did however say that is has a different geography.

as for the homers...have you looked in your rearview mirror lately, John? cause i really want to know who's in your metaphorical driver's seat. or maybe who's running your power plant.

gotta go, the twinkie gestapo police are kicking down my neighbor's door. of course, i'm doing nothing, because i'm not fat.

sean mcdaniel

sam says:

"I thought I would link to the article because the first two words are, "Jane Jacobs..."

You know, you guys sound like christian/islamic/religious fundamentalists of all types the way that you spout the gospel according to jane jacobs. any disagreement is viewed as heresy among the blasphemous. are there passages of JJ's great book that refer to cities going wireles? or the demise of downtowns because of casual friday dress codes or flexible work weeks or grad students getting free bus passes? come on guys, are cities stuck to following the jane jacobs game plan forever? before the 60s hit, downtown pittsburgh was successful — even though it wasn't liveable. how does jumpin jane flash explain that one?

sure, urban redevelopment designers fucked up e. libery and the n. side. but how did they kill downtown? by removing the rot below stanwix street? or was it the exodus to the suburbs...and the demise of big steel? well? don't tell me about the destruction of the hill either. because until the late 1950s and early 60s, black residents there patronized neighborhood stores instead of horne's, kaufmann's and others because of not so subtle discrimination. so downtown flourished for a long time without the help of 12 percent of the city's population. in fact, some might even suggest that downtown's demise could be linked to the fact that blacks DID start shopping downtown...it wouldn't take much work to make those numbers link up if you really wanted to prove a point.

so ahead, call me racialist. but the point is, sometimes the numbers can add up to anything you want...regardless of the truth.

and sometimes jane jacobs is a mere mortal.

John Morris

In the 1950's and 60's-- A lot of the highways did not exist yet and the population of the city was around double todays. Jane Jacobs is considered so smart because she has been proven smart by the facts and by history in city after city.

Your violent hatred for what I am saying, does make me think you don't like Pittsburgh very much. I am for the most part advocating development in ares where people do not currently live, so one has to wonder why it would be so opposed. It reinforces my opinion that Pittsburgh is not loved by it's subuerbs and that it acts as little more than a non profit job provider and parking lot for "special ocassions". The financial situation of the city indicates that this has been a dumb move. From what I can tell, Baltimore is similar.

sean mcdaniel

there's no violent hatred for what you're saying. as i said, i'm the guy who spends thousands of dollars in the city every year...far more than what i spend at ross park mall or cranberry, where i spend literally next to nothing (except maybe for a krispy kreme now and then).

i couldn't agree more that certain parts of the city could use some more life. as for the parking lots? i rarely use them. why's that? because more than half my trips into downtown or the strip and other parts of the city are on a bike. when i do drive, i find street parking, where it's free. i don't like paying $8 an hour during the day to parking in a city garage.

if there's violent hate anywhere, it's your venomous views on suburbs, where you believe that everyone lives in a 3,000 square foot home and drives a hummer, which comfortably rests in 1,000 square foot garage. and that's just not true.

as for the parking lots being part of pittsburgh's demise, how do you explain that they've been there for decades, long before the population loss that the area's seen?

from what i can tell about baltimore, well, let's just say that i don't live there, but it's a nice place to visit. i don't think you know enough about it or any other city to say whether it's successful or otherwise.

sean mcdaniel

hey, here's something i found in the "Jane Jacobs says" category:

"Every city has differences, from its history, from its site, and so on...Every city is different. But don't think that because Los Angeles can do that [that is, be successful and car-oriented at the same time], and it turned out that way, that every city can be a Los Angeles."

Now I'm adding this...in the JJ vein...not every city can be New York or Hong Kong on San Francisco. And Pittsburgh is different from Baltimore becuase of it's history and location and climate and industrial past.

And, John Morris, in case you're wondering where I found this convenient Jacobs' quote, google to find the June 2001 issue of a certain magazine called REASON. The interviewer was The Pittsburg Tribune Review's own Bill Steigerwald...that libertarian light who thinks that LA and Houston are successful because there are so few zoning laws.

And speaking about density, Jacobs says that Portland is a city she "likes" even though it is not and never has been a dense city. Look it up...it's in the same article.

So, this is what I mean. Just as Christians and Muslims can quote scripture chapter and verse to prove a point on anything from homosexuality to free WiFi in downtown for two hours, I can probably scour the works of Jacobs to find the points that suit whatever point I care to make...or refute any rigidly held beliefs based on a superficial knowledge of Jacobs or other source. And I'll admit it, I purposely searched for something of hers that ran contrary to the John Morris "consistent" point of view.

sean mcdaniel

And yet more Jacobs on the "evils" of cars:

"I didn’t see the automobile as a pernicious thing. I saw what was happening to the roads as a pernicious thing—the widening of roads and the cutting down of trees and then later on of course knocking down buildings, existing buildings. It was the roads I saw as being the destroyers. Perhaps that is a foolish distinction to make. The automobiles weren’t running into the houses and knocking them down, the automobiles weren’t cutting down the trees and so forth. Again, I’m not an abstract thinker, as you can see. The immediate concrete thing was what the roads were doing."

sounds kind of like the NRA mantra...guns don't kill people. people kill people...cars don't kills cities...roads kill cities.

here's the source: www.kunstler.com/mags_jacobs2.htm

if all you Jane Jacobs apostles read the interviews i've mentioned, i think you might walk away a bit frustrated. my guess is that she would have told most of you to calm down and be a little less didactic in your use of her wisdom.

honestly, she sounds down right reasonable...not a bit shrill or rigid ...even when the interviewers want to push her buttons. damn, i might actually read her stuff and become a fan...but not a fanatic.

Sam M

Those ARE interesting quotes. Especially for me. Because they go to what I have been wondering all along: How to define "downtown." That is, a long while back I sort of jokingly asked if, to revitalize Pittsburgh's downtown, we might just call Shadyside downtown and declare victory.

I know we can't do that. And probably shouldn't. But I did wonder about the push to add a whole lot of high-end residential to the Forbes-Fifth corridor. I wondered why we would want to do that. Especially since, it seemed to me, that Pittsburgh had never really had a strong residential component downtown.

That's not to say that Pittsburgh SHOULDN'T be that way. Or CAN'T. I just wondered why that is the only option. After all, Pittsburgh is, famously, a city of neighborhoods and all that.

It seemed odd to me that every city large and small everywhere in America was jumping on the downtown-residential bandwagon. And it seemed like pretty soon, all the cities were going to look the same. Some sort of weird mix of TGIFriday's and hockey arenas.

I'm still not sure. And I am still not sure there is one formula for what makes a successful city. I know there are a lot of things in common. And that cities "feel" a certain way. But I don't know how to define it. That's why I link to all these discussions going on in other cities. Not because they are exact parallels to Pittsburgh. But because they each pose different challenges and, it seems to me, should probably come up with a few different answers.

Although I think that is less likely to happen when politicians--so easily influenced by monied developers--get in on the action. When that happens, cities begin to look an awful lot alike. Is Station Square all that different than the Inner Harbor? Are the upscale condos in Baltimore going to be significantly different than the Piatt wonderland? I doubt it.

Maybe that's OK. But I suspect we are missing something.

sean mcdaniel

Sam comments:

"It seemed odd to me that every city large and small everywhere in America was jumping on the downtown-residential bandwagon. And it seemed like pretty soon, all the cities were going to look the same. Some sort of weird mix of TGIFriday's and hockey arenas."

Jacobs warns of that issue. She says that one can't just plop a pre-fab concept into the middle of every town and make it work. Of course, she's referring to the Cheesecake Factory and Crate and Barrel approach you bring up from time to time.

By the same token, I think she'd also say that what worked in New York or Hong Kong might not work in Pittsburgh because it's a different place from those two. And that's the point that J. Morris is missing — again and again.

If Portland never was a dense town...does it ever need to be? After all, Jacobs thought it worked. Downtown Pittsburgh and a lot of city neighborhoods were dense not all that long ago. But do they need to be dense again for the city to be a great place? Or do we need to rethink our way of defining what our neighborhoods need to do to thrive?

Somewhere in those articles I mentioned, JJ says that things change. Old warehouse districts become loft neighborhoods, because people changed zoning laws to allow residential uses when it became pointless to stay the course in the hopes of new industries filling the void. In other words, they adapted.

There's a void in pittsburgh now, all over town, for the most part. how we fill it will take time and creativity. as much as i like southside works, the rumors are growing that many stores are nearing the point of closing due to poor sales. The Cheesecake factory draws the people in...but it doesn't spread them around. Which is funny, because I've been to the CF twice...and probably hit SSW about 4-5 a month (mostly for movies and REI to get bike stuff). But the neighborhood in the box approach might not be working. Or maybe it will have a rough patch or two to crawl through before it is a long-time success.

like i said, whatever conflicting points you or i might want to prove, we could most likely hit the same source for the necessary ammo.

sean mcdaniel


am i behaving well enough?

John Morris

here's a writer on the success of Baltimore.

"Visitors who swoon over our architecture often observe that there are not many people in the streets and few stores. People don't walk downtown because for too long, the priority has been the car. Every new garage cements this misguided policy further and will make it harder to walk, because more cars will be drawn to downtown, clogging the streets and polluting the air.

Twelve thousand parking spaces within three blocks of the Inner Harbor are enough, especially if they were managed through a smart parking system guiding drivers to available spaces. It is time for Baltimore to say goodbye to this massive use of public money for garages and fund better transit instead. The most visited parts of our city (aside from the Inner Harbor) are those where the car-friendly plans were defeated (as in Fells Point) and the historic buildings remained. Some of the most visited cities in America (New York, San Francisco, Boston) are those that have lively streets, are easy to walk and have good transit.

Businesses need to stop blackmailing the city ("build us parking or we will leave"). Downtown can remain an attractive business location only if it is well planned and attractive to everyone - a people place, as envisioned by Jane Jacobs. That means no more parking garages in prime locations."

Could you at least admit that you have not read her book. The book is all about connected nieghborhoods, mixed use and the flow between areas that is destroyed by large areas of parking, mega projects, area's of strict zoning etc....

By the way, several of Pittsburgh's flops were already built at the time she wrote the Death and Life of Great American Cities and specifically debunked.

And yes the book has basic rules that logically apply to all cities. The fact that all fuctional areas, have to incorporate housing. The need for normal street grids and prefrerably short blocks. The book warns against "border vacumes" that are caused by dramatic shifts in land use.

sean mcdaniel

To John Morris:

a few posts back I said:

"damn, i might actually read her stuff and become a fan...but not a fanatic."

can you say the same? as i said before, any "true believer" can quote text from his sacred book to prove a point. by the way, in your quoted passage, the text isn't even a direct JJ quote.

as for the city connected, i've had that discussion with J. Potts. Pittsburgh really isn't as unconnected as people might think. that is something i've learned from my bike riding. or you could try riding the 54C. Have you ever done any exploring of this town? I could take you places that would amaze you. any you'd never have to get in a car. i'll let the offer stand. you up for a tour?

sean mcdaniel

i really get tired of all the bitching about the problems of pittsburgh from guys who never seem to get out beyond their few neighborhood blocks.

john, have you ever gone beyond the mexican war streets on the north side? or trekked up the slopes to allentown? ever talk a walk in south oakland, behind magee hospital...or ventured along centre avenue in the hill? I'm not assuming anything...I'm just asking. So, have you?

John Morris


Yes, I have been to a lot of those places. When I first came into town I walked most of the city, which was a huge project. I lived on the North Side and also in Dormont.

I don't have time for this and i think that at this point it's up to you to prove me wrong since the major facts are all on my side.

1) The city is on the verge of bankruptcy and the majority of retail sales go to malls in it's suburbs.( thanks for the offers to drive me to the mall – sweet )

2) the entire center of the town is a Donut of parking lots, single use zoning areas, highway dumpers and can't support shopping past 5 in the afternoon on a weekday!

3)All the basic Jane Jacobs rules are broken in the areas near the downtown. Super blocks instead of short walk able blocks. Massive amounts of parking; Single use zoning with dead zones and border areas; Broken Street grids in places like Allegheny Center and the Mellon Arena which discourages walking and creates gaps. ( as well as the Stadiums )

4) The city once had a much larger population- which supports the fact that it can have one again and in fact has to have one to support large amounts of retail. ( It also supports the idea that the current urban design is not popular and that's why people are moving )

Your argument really is just a refusal to argue combined with personal attacks. The fact that the city is "amazing" does not change the fact that for most people it is completely inconvenient without a car.

As for the fact that you bike around that's great, most people don't so it is not in any way a relevant.

5) Most of the functional areas now are the areas of high density and mixed use ( South Side, Shadyside, Bloomfield etc... )

sean mcdaniel


1. I'll turn to one of your retorts: Just because it's always been that way doesn't mean that's the way it always has to be. What do I mean? Well, get a bike. Just because most people don't pedal about doesn't mean that it's not a way to ease those traffic/transportation issues. Let's make bikes relevant. I can find a Jane Jacobs quote on that. Really, I can. It's about "mixed used" (does that phrase sound familiar to you?) transportation that includes public transportation, taxis, bikes, even private autos! Hey, her dad owned a car and used it for work! And she supported that. Can you believe it? Look it up. I did.

2. Super blocks downtown? Where? Remember, I ride a bike, with an odometer. So I can tell you that the blocks in downtown are not super. They are about .09 of a mile east to west and even shorter north to south (take a look at the two blocks from the end of the Sixth Street Bridge to Liberty Avenue. If you think that distance is daunting, then then you're part of the problem.) By the way, the average block length in NYC, is .10 mile. As for easy to dechipher street grids, take a look at the NYC map from Greenwich Village to the Battery. It looks a little like, oh no, mr. bill...downtown Pittsburgh! Streets on the west side merget into W. Broadway on an angle and resemble Liberty merging into Fifth here in Pittsburgh. And try to explain to anyone how having three streets with the names of W. Broadway, Broadway and E. Broadway makes any sense? The street map of lower Manhattan looks like the vericose veins in my mother's legs. Tangled and ugly and you wonder how anything moves through them. (For another example, take a look at what Market Street does to the SF map...and that's from a flat perspective. The hills in SF really are overwhelming to most people. I'm guessing that the reason there are so many nice little neighborhoods in SF is that getting around town on foot really is tough. So people rely on neighborhood merchants far more than we do here.)

Yes, I know I'm comparing Pittsburgh to NYC and SF and I've said that you shouldn't do that. But it seems to be the only way to get through to you.

3.I'm glad to hear you've hiked around Pittsburgh. Seriously. But I was in San Francisco this past summer. It is not an easy place to walk, unless you happen to be part goat or sherpa. And there are plenty of place there that don't connect, but people manage to get through those "dead zones." But I loved the bus system. It's fantastic...and the buses don't stop at every corner (there's another issue with PAT...too many stops.)

4. I've never argued with you or Sam about the amount of parking in Pittsburgh. The number of parking spaces in Downtown now was in place when 600,000 people lived in the city. I even think some garages could be torn down. Parking in the city is easy enough to find, but not always cheap. The problem is that Pittsburgher, like people in most cities, expect to park next to whatever destination they're visiting. the Kaufmann's parking garage (sorry, Macy's) is less than a half mile from Heinz Hall and the Civic Arena (damn, Mellon). But I doubt that many people think of that parking facility as an option when they come to town for the symphony or a Penguins game. And don't even get me started about how the locals show up 15 minutes before a show starts and expect to find "convenient" parking.

3. As for the broken street grids at Allegheny Center, again you're right. I don't disagree a bit. But that place was a huge success when it opened. Two things killed AC...Ross Park Mall and unbelievable shopifting. I lived on the N. Side as a kid. Even after my parent moved to Sewickley, they still shopped at Allegheny Center, even though the North Hills malls were just as convenient and offered more choices. So why did they go there? The answer is simple: Sears, the anchor store at AC. When Sears bolted 20 years ago, that was it. And as I said, rampant theft. It was so bad that people were stealing in front of store employees. It was open season.

4. As for the Hill, John, it was never a connector. Oh maybe in the days when the Hill was home to Italians and Jews. But once the place started drawing blacks residents from the South, the neighborhood split away. It was a haven for black businesses and arts and schools and churches. Sure, whites went there to hear jazz, but they didn't live there. They didn't shop there. They didn't worship there. John, just ask some of the older locals what they called the Hill back in the 1940s and 50s. The nicknames weren't pretty.

5. The city is on the verge of bankruptcy...because it still acts and operates like a city of 600,000. John, those departed 300,000 aren't coming back. As Jane Jacob herself said, Portland isn't a dense city, never was, but it works. Maybe that's our model. Not Hong Kong. Just as the Pirates shouldn't use the New York Yankees as a model of success. But the Oakland As and Minnesota Twins might be good leads to follow.

6. Back to your dead zones. There are plenty of them, such as the area along Penn between 10th and 16th streets. There's really nothing on either side of the street for that six block stretch...that same distance is a little better on smallman, but not much. On the north side, there's practically nothing to attract walking traffic from the mexican war streets until you reach bellevue, whether you follow brighton road or california avenue. And I think Carson between 2nd and 10th streets is pretty dead too. No one walks from Station Square to Marios, even though it's less than two miles, which you know a real New Yorker would consider a mere walk around a block. And just look at what Frick Park does in separating Squirrel Hill from Regent Square. Is it time to start clear cutting and filling in the ravine?

A lot of the "dead zone" issue is a matter of perception. Pittsburghers aren't walkers. Even when the distance is short.

7. The Jane Jacobs' books aren't manuals for cookie cutter recipes to fix ailing cities. She would have been the first to tell you that. And you'd realize that if you read some of the interviews i mentioned. She wasn't strident. You, on the other hand, are.

John Morris

The super blocks I am referring to are in the Strip, Allegehny Center and around the Stadiums and they are very relavant in explaining the dead downtown since they surround it. In fact, the downtown has wonderfull short blocks that are ideal for residential and retail. If the stadiums were not there a whole great aray of convenient mixed use areas could have developed on the other side of the river. All these areas are convenient to the downtown and easily walk able.

This is very related to the entire history of Pittsburgh. The Mills were located in these areas because they were so easy to build on and had river and transport access. The fact that people since have thrown them away is nuts.

Your job is to show me a successfull, city that is small in land area, has hills or other barriers and has succeeded by thinning out it's density and loading itself with dead space and parking lots.

John Morris


As to the issue of Pittsburgher's not being walkers, that is only selectivly true. South Sider's and to a big extent Shadysiders are walkers and that is the thing that draws people to those neighborhoods.

To a lage extent I find people who live on the South Side to be very reluctant to leave, in that very few other Pittsburgh places have the same level of walk ability.

sean mcdaniel

So in a city of 98 or so neighborhoods you point out 2 where the residents walk...thanks for proving my point...although, i'll bloomfield, squirrel hill and regent square...because i really want to help you make your point.

as for your point:

"The super blocks I am referring to are in the Strip, Allegehny Center and around the Stadiums and they are very relavant in explaining the dead downtown since they surround it. In fact, the downtown has wonderfull short blocks that are ideal for residential and retail. If the stadiums were not there a whole great aray of convenient mixed use areas could have developed on the other side of the river. All these areas are convenient to the downtown and easily walk able."

Once again John, the blocks in the strip are the same length as downtown...all those numbered streets are pretty much the same distance apart in the strip as they are downtown. but you know where the blocks do get long? Lawrenceville! And yet, your neighborhood is constantly pointed out as the new hot place.

As for my job being "to show me a successfull, city that is small in land area, has hills or other barriers and has succeeded by thinning out it's density and loading itself with dead space and parking lots..."

i'll say it again...Jane Jacobs points to Portland, never was dense, and doesn't need to be. you know, if a guy loses a leg in a war or job related accident...should he spend the rest of his life trying to regrow that missing limb? Or should he adapt, even it does take artificial measures to get back on his feet?

sean mcdaniel

hey, i'd love to discuss this more, but i need to pedal to REI to get a new taillight for my bike, and then pick up some stuff in the strip for dinner.

and john, please remember that most of the parking lots downtown have been there for decades...long before the golden triangle's decline.

John Morris

I think that first one has to look at Portland's level of density. I don't know it but suspect it is higher than Pittsburgh's. Also does Portland have any significant hills?Hills and or any breaks in terain etc, mean that other areas should be more dense. Portland has a nice simple grid. That's why San Francisco, is a much better city to look at.

Also, it's interesting that the list of walk able neighborhoods gives one a big chunk of the popular neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, which proves my point. Also those neighborhoods comprise a high percent of it's population.

And again, how do you explain the fact that the main period when Pittsburgh had a thriving Downtown or semi thriving was when it had more residents.

The comments to this entry are closed.