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John Morris

Really good article. I aggree with the major points that come out.

1) Is that the modern economy is more about employers chasing skilled labor than about labor chasing jobs.

2) Is the basic need for truth in advertising. Pittsburgh's "imagine what you can do here" pitch is a great one, but it does not ring true here since chances are you won't be allowed to do much.

The modern economy is more than anything centered on embracing or at least accepting change, which is a core problem for Pittsburgh.

From what I can tell about metro Atlanta, It fits a pattern that I expect for Pittsburgh. As far as I know, former white oldline residents of Atlanta, continue to move further and further out in searh of whitopia or whatever. However, this vacume is being filled by new groups of people interested in urban living. One sad thing for us that I expect to continue is that cities like Atlanta are now really attracting huge numbers of educated blacks away from the old northeast and midwest.

Mark Rauterkus


The bike paths along the river are for fun. They are a lesiure activity. There wasn't any 'vote' as to the priorities. There could be. There should be.

The dream of a bike path and river front park is fine. But, it won't be the critical link to make young people realize their objective.

However, I do think that a series and network of bike lanes throughout parts of the city and county that are built to take people places to work, shop, eat, play, worship and exercise -- along roads beyond just along the rivers -- is going to be a better pathway to living an urban lifestyle -- without being so glued to cars.

Mark Stroup

I'm with Mark R. on the bike paths. Maybe there could more public input, but on the whole the bike paths are things, things that become actions. Those actions lead to social connections that lead to more things, and so on.

Mark Stroup

Check this out from the Bike Pittsburgh blog.

sean mcdaniel

oh my god. atlanta's successful. john morris says so. even if the city's population density is nearly 50 percent LESS than pittsburgh's according to wikipedia. how can that be? can the numbers lie? can jane jacobs be wrong?

but here are the stats:

atlanta: 1221 people per km2
pittsburgh: 2001 people per km2

or is it just a case of my distorting facts to fit my view?
Sam, what's that word again?

and John Morris, it's not just white flight to the burbs ...blacks are skipping town in their SUVs for mcmansionville too. the region is 66% black. do you really think that they all live within the city? hey, i'll make a stereotypical statment and say that the 33% white population includes a sizeable portion of rednecks who are sucking on crystal meth pipes in their cracker slums. plus, have you ever seen downtown atlanta? it's not all that much more residential than the golden triangle.

anyway, have any of you guys visited atlanta? today it reminds me of a gigantic cranberry township under a sunlamp.

disclosure: I'm an atlanta native.

sean mcdaniel

hey mark and mark,

i agree with you on the bike paths. but john morris says i'm a freak because i use my bike for more than fun. he's says that biking not's the norm and i can't expect people to pedal about. however, he thinks that even though cars are the norm, there should be regulations forced upon motorists to discourage vehicle use...hmmm, quite a contradiction, wouldn't you say?

by the way, i pedal between 2,500 to 4,000 annually around town — for work, shopping, exercise,fun and other reasons. can anyone other than john morris find a reason to scoff at that?

John Morris

Sean, If and when biking becomes a major form of transport in the country, perhaps it can be talked about as a primary urban planning issue. I think that working towards that or at least not discouraging biking is good. The reasons, why bikes and private cars cannot be discussed in the same terms is because thier effects on urban life are in no way comparable, bikes don't polute and don't cause ny kind of major city destroying storage/ parking issues.

"there should be regulations forced upon motorists to discourage vehicle use" The preceding quote is pretty much a lie. I never said anything about regulations. I do support making sure that there are no minimum parking requirements and also that the government stop paying for the construction of parking garages. I also support any and all plans to attempt to make motorists pay the full cost of road constuction and any resonable ways to deconstruct the giant socialist government highway system into one in which people pay for road use.

I have also tryed to show how parking and road construction beyond a minimal level destroys urban property values.

John Morris

As far as Atlanta's density. I will admit to knowing very little about Atlanta.

I think that, like a lot of Sunbelt type cities, it is fairly young and new. A kind of sprawling-- Disposable city model of ever growing sprawl and new exurbs replacing older exurbs which replaced suburbs. This type of thing is a process of a city trying to escape from itself. From what one can see of the older cities of this type like L.A. is that thier disfunctions in terms of polution and traffic take a while to get bad.

The one thing that I think is happening is that the inner city itself is starting to attract people and is starting to become more dense.

John Morris

One more point

Atlanta 132.4 square miles
Pittsburgh 58.3 square miles -7 miles of water and extreme hills.

I always bring the actual size of the city itself into the discussion because that is the economic unit unless there is a lot of revenue sharing or commuter tax or something. Atlanta is a much larger city in terms of land area and I doubt that it has the kind of geographic issues that Pittsburgh has, so it can live with sprawl a bit better than Pittsburgh can.

sean mcdaniel

hey, atlanta is 179 years old. compared to rome, it's new. compared to pittsburgh, not so recent.

come on, fess up johnny, you've spouted about making it harder to park downtown and pushing people to use mass transit more. i guess as long as you propose it's a good idea. as for biking, no one can accuse me of proposing it as a mode of transportation for anyone other than myself. i'm pretty self serving in that respect. john, i love telling you how i don't use a fucking car to get into the city to spend money. i don't live under the 40th street bridge like a troll and never venture past wendy's and the get-go.

oh sorry for getting snarky. but i really get tired of the pseudo intellectual who can't spell even the simplest of English words, let alone disfunction or dat function.

and fuck, isn't density density? do you you always have to weasal out of every point you make?

seriously, i never thought i would hear you say that some cities can live with sprawl better than others. isn't all sprawl bad according to Jane J. and you? or is some sprawl less worse (more better?) than others? hey, you ever read animal farm? do you know the meaning of orwellian? or didn't your lit class ever get past the fountain head?

John Morris

To put Atlanta's age into some perspective, I think that the population of the city when Sherman burned it down was something like 40,000. Atlanta is a new city with a metro population over 4 million.

Yes Sean, I suppose that sprawl is at least somewhat realistic financialy. However Pittsburgh is not one of them. I am not trying to follow you with the personal attacks but I think that more than once you have said that you live outside of Pittsburgh partly for tax reasons which is the thing most people do here. More than once on this blog, I have asked you to explain how you can make the current urban plan finacially work for the city. You have made vague statements about cutting the size of government but that is about it.

As I said before, the current position of retail in the city also shows that your spending habits are not typical.

Getting back to Atlanta. I think that Atlanta is now seeing big time infill development and a lot of inner city high rise development and that the inner city density level is rising.

John Morris

Here's the historic population data for Atlanta. I think it backs up my claim that it's basically a new city. There are no figures given for the early "metro area" and the geographic limits of the city have grown a lot. But I doubt, that the entire metro area had more than 40,000 in 1860, now it's over 5 million.

1850 - 2,572

City limits a circle with radius of 1 mile (3.14 square miles)
1860 - 9,554

1870 - 21,789

1874 city limits enlarged to 1.5 miles (7 square miles)
1880 - 37,409

1889 saw annexation of Inman Park
1890 - 65,533

1895 city limits enlarged to 1.75 miles (9.6 square miles)
1896 saw annexation of West End (11 square miles)
1900 - 89,872, including 2500 persons of foreign birth and 35,900 of negro descent.

1909 (January) Copenhill area annexed
1910 - 154,839 (metro 522,442)

1920 - 200,616 (metro 622,283)

1930 - 270,688

1940 - 302,288 (metro 820,579)

1950 - 331,000 (metro 997,666)

1952 saw annexation of Buckhead, Adam's Park, Cascade & Lakewood adding 100,000 people (130 square miles)
1960 - 487,000 (metro 1,312,474)

1970 - 497,000 (metro 1,763,626)

1980 - 425,000 (metro 2,233,324)

1990 - 394,017 (metro 2,959,950)

2000 - 416,474 (metro 4,112,198)

2005 - 470,688 (metro 5,103,766)

John Morris

The last numbers on the list show a rising number of people living inside the city limits of Atlanta-- a trend towards density.

1990 - 394,017 (metro 2,959,950)

2000 - 416,474 (metro 4,112,198)

2005 - 470,688 (metro 5,103,766)

John Morris

Sorry to change the subject, but I wonder if anyone has been keeping up with the plans for Las Vegas?

SDowntown Vegas (yes, there really is a downtown Vegas) is reinventing itself. By 2010 it may be one of the best urban environments in the country.

There are currently nine mid and high rise condo and loft developments under construction in the downtown area and a dozen more on the books. These are in and around a newly created district called the 'arts district' connecting to downtowns south side, where old dilapidated buildings are being converted into galleries and eateries. Many of the lofts are of a live/work design to draw artists to the area.

The 61 acre Union Park development, which will connect to downtowns west edge will give downtown Vegas a real skyline and will include:
$200 million performing arts center,
New city hall,
Academic medical campus,
Alzheimer's research center designed by Frank Gehry,
City Park-3,000 high-rise residential units
1.5 million square feet of office and retail space.
$420 million, 40,000-seat stadium with a mostly glass exterior and retractable-roof.

Directly west of Union park is the World Furniture Market, a new 57-acre, 8-million-square-foot industry showroom and market facility at the gateway to downtown. Eleven of the 25 top U.S. furniture manufacturers have already signed up for space in the facility, including Ashley Furniture and Lane, says Berger, who notes that when completed, this will be the largest industry showroom and market facility in the nation. The first building is almost complete and will open on July 25th.

Three more blocks of Freemont St. have been included in the 'entertainment district, which will bring restaurants and clubs to that area.

The Monorail will eventually meander through these areas and connect with the Strips monorail system. 'Speed bus' lanes are under consideration as well as a light rail system.

The area of Las Vegas Bl. which connects the Strip with downtown is undergoing beautification and restoration. The first ten blocks (from the Stratosphere northward) will be a pedestrian district with many restaurants, coffee houses and clubs among the high-rise condos planned for that area.

All in all Vegas will finally be a real city.

sean mcdaniel

John Morris says:

"More than once on this blog, I have asked you to explain how you can make the current urban plan finacially work for the city. You have made vague statements about cutting the size of government but that is about it."

actually, i've never offered any remedy. all i ever do is joust with you over your arrogant, elitist stance that only city dwellers deserve to partake of what the city has to offer to the region — and that i and other suburban dwellers do our part financially and spiritually to keep the city vital. my point is that simple. i don't waver. i don't rant about SUVs (except when they push me and my bike off the road), i don't condemn 3,000-5,000 sq. ft. cranberry mcmansions (though i don't get the point), and i don't rail against the evils of parking garages (though i agree pittsburgh has far too many).

as for why i live outside the city limits in a suburb that looks far more like greenfield or brookline than it does cranberry township, you're right taxes played a big part in that decision. as did the city's school system. 30 years ago i was this close to buying a wonderful house on the mexican war streets — until one night i sat across from the place and watched the endless drug deals. and guess what? three decades later, despite ongoing gentrification, the drug transactions continue...and killings on a street two blocks away are frequent (6 on the one street so far this year).

maybe you should have opened your gallery on federal street instead of butler street. but maybe you're not the intrepid pioneer you claim to be. you chose the area that was building a critical mass, instead of the neighborhood where you'd stand alone. or am i missing another point here?

John Morris

What I am talking about is moving towards a proven, viable remedy that is modeled after the way cities with similar sizes and geography have dealt with land use. Cities like San Francisco, which is very similar to Pittsburgh.

I think that the saying - Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? -applies here. Why should anyone live in the city if the city is going to go out of it's way to make it easy and convenient for you not to. That is what Pittsburgh has done and what NY and San Francisco haven't. They kind of let you make out with them and tease you, but if you fall in love with them you kind of have to "buy the cow" and become a resident or at least deal with them on their own terms, by taking the train in and walking or taking the subway or a cab around.

sean mcdaniel

what the hell are you talking about?

i have a friend who lives in bethlehem, PA. He goes to NYC about once a month with his girlfriend. drives in, parks his car in a parking garage, has a good time for the weekend, and motors on back to his nice suburban home with the big backyard for his kids to play in.

and nyc doesn't seem to feel cheated or used by him and millions like him who live in PA, NJ, DE, CT, and anywhere else that's within an hour or so drive of the city and do the same sort of thing. not to mention the millions that work there but live elsewhere.

really, did you have a horrible suburban upbringing...or just wish you did? you know, for the street cred.

doesn't sound like he's buy the cow...but then again, you love beating a dead horse, don't you?

sean mcdaniel

okay, let me put this thought out there for you JM and anyone else...

is it far to say that to a degree a lot of the east coast is nothing else but NYC sprawl? hell for a long time, just about every immigrant from europe landed in manhattan before moving on. seriously, do you think every person from europe, russia, asis who ever trekked to NYC could have stayed there?

John Morris

First, I would imagine that your friend has some solid money to spend on a hotel and pays a nice chunk of change for parking on these trips.NY is happy to have rich people come in or at least people willing to pay their own way. I assume that your friend isn't expecting free parking, which seems to be the constant demand here. Also, your friend is comming on the weekends when parking demand is less and not competing for parking or clogging the streets with his car during peak weekday hours.
And, it sounds like he comes in parks the car for the weekend and gets around NY by other means when he is there.

We have already rehashed the general data- about 10% of the people in the city on a week day in peak hours are in private and non comercial vehicles and even at that low rate, they are a big pain. Take a look around NY on a busy weekday and what you see is oceans of cabs, vans, trucks and commercial vehicles with a lot of black cars- (limo- or car service) It's likely the cab numbers would be higher, but NY limits the number of medalions way below demand. ( Cabs don't cause parking problems so they are not the pain that private cars are. )The bulk of people are using some form of mass transit and also walking, which is why there is such a fear of a terror attack on the NY transit system.

As, to the attitude of New Yorkers towards the car people from Jersey. Hate is a pretty common view. There are always proposals to limit private car traffic in Manhattan and they are gaining steam. The people who commute in on the Long Island Railroad, Metro North, NJT or Path deal with NY on it's terms and are not hated. This hate really came out when they were pushing the West Side Stadium thing which a lot of people correctly saw as waste of valuable real estate and an amenity for suburbanites at the expense of New Yorkers.

I think that the resilience of New York's economy right after 9-11 proves my point. There was short period when a lot of people came into town just to show their support for the city, but after that faded, tourism from out of town came took a drastic dive for a really long time. People predicted, the collapse of the whole NY economy. What actually happened showed that the core supporters of New York are New Yorkers. The big hotels, Mega Broadway shows and major tourist stuff took a huge hit, but off Broadway chugged along as did most of the neighborhood stuff and even a lot of the retail. Studies showed that the core support for that stuff was mostly city residents. The core energy of the city is driven by residents and also by commuters-- most of whom use mass transit. Everything else is kind of icing on the cake. Watching the suburban kids from Jersey almost blinded by the energy of the city is something to see.

John Morris


Any comment's about this blurb from the Bike Pittsburgh blog? Sounds like hate to me.

"If you ride a bike, you want a healthier community, or you're just fed up with car-culture in general, be sure to check us out at www.bike-pgh.org."

sean mcdaniel

who knows what's on their minds at bike-pgh with that comment. but if you ask me, it falls into the Us vs. Them mentality. The world's too complex to break it down as cars/bad bikes/good. you ever hear me say that? the bike works for me. if it doesn't work for your pear shaped lard ass or anyone else's, that's fine. just don't shove your agenda up my ass. by the way, i've seen bigger agendas in my lifetime.

the bike is an alternative, at least for me. it's not the only way. do i want a healthier community? sure. am i tired of the car culture in general, no fucking way. i own two of them and drive about 40 miles a week combined. i love to plug my iPod into the radio and cruise.

actually, i rode in a critical mass ride on friday. i saw it on bike-pgh.org. i thought it might be a cool way to point out to people that bikers and cars can peacefully co-exist on the same roadways. unfortunately, the majority of the bikers were disenfranchised Anti-Flag types who don't want to co-exist. (seriously, i thought we would have a Henry Rollins poetry reading before pedaling off.) During the 1 hour ride the group consistently rode through red lights and stop signs (to the point of endangering the group), weaved across lanes of traffic on forbes and fifth avenues in oakland and did its best in general to irritate motorists in general. which in the long run makes it hard for someone like me who tries his best to be non-confrontational with motorist. yes, i peeled off for the ride when i realized it was just another "fuck you" exercise.

by the way, i wrote to bike-pgh to express my displeasure with the ride and my disappointment in the organization for promoting an event that did more to harm the repuation of bicyclists than to enhance it. do they care about my opinion? who knows...but at least they'll read it.

hey, is that fucking answer you expected? i'm not a bike nazi, you know. i can see both sides of an issue...unlike some narrow minded visionaries.

oh, sorry for the sarcasm. well, maybe not.

by the way, JM, my friend in bethlehem is far from rich. he's the editor of a non-profit organization's house magazine. man, how do you jump to such conclusions?

what the fuck is wrong with you?

John Morris


I guess rich is relative. I have to admit, that if I didn't have family and other friends in NY as a place to crash that I couldn't afford to go very often. I did slip in the- at least willing to pay his own way.

You didn't give too many details. Any idea on how much they usually spend on hotels and From what you said, they drive in and then park the car for the duration of the weekend usually. By the way, the number of places you think are an hour away from NY is interesting. I think that I have to tell people in Delaware that they are only an hour out of NYC. A lot of them don't know that.

"millions like him who live in PA, NJ, DE, CT, and anywhere else that's within an hour or so drive of the city and do the same sort of thing"

John Morris


It is us vs them or something close. A little look at the parking garages downtown and all the empty stores tells you that. I can only try to imagine the great buildings that were torn down to so that those garages could be there.Or what was torn down so the highway from 28 could dump into the downtown. Or, what was torn down so that people could park for a penguins game.

Socialist economies are Us vs. them and voting about it doesn't change that. People who want to live in walkable mixed use, convenient places and use mass transit are forced to pay for the highways that they don't want and face all the problems they cause.

sean mcdaniel

JM...i said an hour or so. two hours fit into the "so" part. and no response about my reaction to the bike-pgh.org message and arrogant bikers?

you know, there may have been a lot of great buildings torn down in pittsburgh to make way for parking garages. and some buildings not so great. this town was never really known for its architecture. still, there were great buildings razed for the heinz hall plaza and for the pittsburgh public theater. not to mention the old downtown alcoa building. great buildings get torn down in pittsburgh all the time — and not just for parking lots.

John Morris


I think it was a mistake on your part, but you slipped Delaware into this group. Pretty much anything in PA is likely over 2 hours. I would put Bethlehem at about 2 and a half. Philly is marketed as an hour, but that's by high speed train. With any traffic these numbers go up by a lot. Seems like "so" has to cover 1-5 hours.

Does anyone other than Sean want to comment on the "Pittsburgh is not known for it's architecture" statement? I think that as a fan of both Hong kong and New York, I support change in cities. But, You want to have something to show for tearing down a great building. In places like that tons of stuff comes down to add more energy- more residents, more shopping and more convenience to the city. Pittsburgh tears great stuff down to create a hole in the city.

Honestly, Sean these are things that are much more likely to bother a resident. At the end of the day, people drive out of the city; they don't have to look at the parking garages. It's the residents that have to deal with them.

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