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Jonathan Potts

He actually endorses pedestrian malls. Talk about applying a 1950s solution to a 21st century problem. Pedestrian malls don't just eliminate cars. They eliminate people and thus all meaningful life from neighborhoods.

John Morris

To be honest, this is a man bites dog story in NY and is being put up here as another red herring. The vast majority of people in Manhattan on a business day have taken some form of public transit or live so close by that they are walking. I am pretty sure that private vehicles account for only about 10-15% of the people city on a business day.

So, taking this and throwing on here without any context is misleading.
In fact, what it indicates is that a lot of people are seeing private cars in the city at peak hours as a hastle that the city doesn't need.

Sam M

I didn't throw it up without context. I provided the link. To a story written by a guy who dislikes cars and advocates for walkable cities.


In the meantime, I think that the mention of Atlantic Yards is worth a closer look. Especially with regard to the previous post in which you blast me for bringing up big box centers. In the comments there, we got to discussing economics and density. And I think that Atlantic Yards is a good place to begin the discussion. Or at least continue it.

Because Atlantic Yards is going to make Brooklyn denser. No doubt about it. But will it make Brooklyn better? That's an open debate. And an important one. There are a lot of people who recognize that the project will add density, but oppose it on cultural and aesthetic grounds.

Sure, some of that is rank NIMBY-ism. But I think it's clear that, at least for some people, denser is not always better. So while density is an important part of the discussion about cities, it is not the whole discussion.

John Morris

If you don't put any of the macro statistics in, you are not providing the context. A person in Pittsburgh, in which cars are the primary form of transit might think that was close to true in NY. The stats are somewhere between 10-15% of people using cars peak hours. If 50% of that number are city residents then one is talking about 5-7% or the people commuting into Manhattan. So while this guy might be advocating for less car dependence-- NY, is a transit city.

Providing a link to a goofball and no other data is not context.

John Morris

This is what i mean by lack of context
Your quote.

"This theory puts a bit of a spin on the notion that empty-nesters and creative types are abandoning the suburbs because they have developed a distaste for cars and commuting, and prefer to use public transit and/or walk to work. Some of that is clearly going on. But a lot of other people... really love their cars. And they like driving to work. Even in NYC, where it is a nightmare."

Here's the data buried in the article.

"Another of Mr. Schaller’s surveys, sponsored by the citizens’ group Transportation Alternatives, showed that 89 percent of people questioned on Prince Street in SoHo got there by subway, bus, foot or bicycle, and that the majority would gladly give up parking for more pedestrian space."

89% of the people questioned in a major part of lower Manhattan got there without a car. somehow you are trying to twist that fact away. The one interesting issue that is gaining serious traction in NY is charging drivers to enter Manhattan below 60th St during peak hours.

Data buried in the article

Sam M

Strange. Before you noted that piece of data, you said the guy to whom I linked was a goofball.

But now he seems to have really intriguing insights.

By the way, how did you find this useful bit of context?

I linked to it.

Moreover, the fact that 90 percent of people in the city use transit is certainly an interesting statistic. But that does not make all other statistics useless ot uninteresting. If, in fact, there is a trend pointing to an increase in the use of cars in Manhattan, then i think that is worth discussing without calling the guy a goofball.

Not everyone who disagrees with you is a goofball or a moron. And if you bother to read carefully, neither I (the moron) or Sullivan (the goofball) is even disagreeing with you.

Sam M

Don't know what you mean about talking about "anything else." I have posted about property taxes, about developement, redevelopment, parking, the Penguins, smoking, the Renaissance, forestry, journalism, grocery stores, subsidies, housing, and a host of other issues.

Sam M

For the record, chck out C. Briem's recent post at Nullspace2. He reports that about 60 percent of communters in Manhattan use transit. It's the highest of any place in the country.


John Morris

Yes, i think on this website in Pittsburgh. Providing a lot of context is needed. A person reading that might think that this is some kind of major trend. His op-ed is a man bites dog story. The norm in NY is transit. There are more cars are in the city but I don't think that there is a higher percentage of people driving-- there are just more people in the city. just go online and look at images of manhattan traffic and what you see is a sea of cabs, vans and delivery vehicles and black cars (limos )

The cars problem now is likely a reflection of the fact that not all NY neighborhoods have good transit links. As the city fills in and gains back residents there will be some car dependent areas. NY made a huge mistake years ago by not building a more extensive Subway system in the outer boroughs. Finally huge investments in transit are coming.

John Morris

Now, getting back to Pittsburgh. The situation is not the same at all.

The article states that 50% of the cars in Manhattan on a business day come from city residents. These are people who are paying taxes into the city, shopping in the city etc... In Pittsburgh, the percentage of people comming in with cars who do not live or pay substantial taxes into the city is much higher. Pittsburgh needs to take a hard look at what these people are providing to the city in exchange for being a pain.

This is why i am always giving the square area of the city out. As much as I hate LA, the fact that it has such large land are means that a lot of it's drivers are at least city residents. What the hell does Pittsburgh get for providing jobs to huge numbers of people who don't live in the city.

John Morris

As far as the other issues you raise on this blog--- I notice that you don't mention crime/ perception of crime, taxes or schools.These are the issues most people give for not living in Pittsburgh.

Sam M

Economically speaking, this statement seems indisputable:

"The article states that 50% of the cars in Manhattan on a business day come from city residents. These are people who are paying taxes into the city, shopping in the city etc... In Pittsburgh, the percentage of people comming in with cars who do not live or pay substantial taxes into the city is much higher."

But it seems clear to me that this economic argument is the bginning, not the end, of the discussion. The only way to solve this problem is to get people to move back into the city. But where? And how to get them to do that?

As far as the city tax coffers are concerned, it does not matter one bit whether these new residents move into the downtown corridor, Oakland, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, the North Side, etc.

In Cleveland, one of their answers was to build a big-box center inside the city limits to add to the tax base, on both the business and the residential ends of the equation. To essentially make the city look a little more like the suburbs in order to attract the people who would rather have these sorts of amenities. And there are a lot of them.

But is that a good answer? Is it one part of a larger answer? Is it a disaster? Seems to me that the only way to answer these questions--after you count up the dollars--is to engage in the cultural and aesthetic discussion. Because if you care about that stuff--the way cities look and feel and operate--then you care if people buy their toilet paper at Johnson's Corner Grocery or at WalMart.

Some people do care about that. Some people don't give a shit. Some people do care but think there is little they can do about it. Some people wish there was something that could be done, but figure the people who like shopping at Walmart are going to live near one and shop there no matter what, so why not build Walmarts and houses in the city?

Look at the Waterfront. I suppose people who hate such places... continue to hate them. But it's right across the river from Pittsburgh, so the supposedly negative effects of such places are probably still impacting the city. So would we be better off if the place were on this side of the river, inside city limits? We'd still be feeling the negative effects, whatever you perceive them to be. At the same time, we'd also be seeing the benefits in terms of whatever tax revenue the place generates.

So yes. The economic arguments are there. But so are a whole host of others. This is not New York, where the decisions seem to be between really, really dense areas and reallty, really, really dense areas. Places like Pittsburgh and Cleveland have huge swaths of empty space. And little pockets of empty spaces here and there. So there are some decisions to make. Is the answer to build a really, really dense core downtown? What if you can get the same economic benefits by filling in the huge empty spaces, or by piecemealing more people into the little empty spots? What if one of the latter solutions turns out to be way, way cheaper than the former? Should that be a consideration at all?

Culturally, what if major, developer-directed projects downtown compete with projects elsewhere in the city? What if developer-directed projects downtown bring us a McCormick & Erma's and a Max & Scmick's, while piecemeal infill would help preserve neighborhoods that people care about?

And what about the transit lessons in NYC. As you mention, sections of that city filled in without the presence of sufficient transit. The lesson might be, "We should have predicted those places would fill in and built accordingly."

Or the lesson might be, "Geez. There is no way that government directed planners would have guessed right. And there is a good chance that they would have guessed wrong and built wasteful transit infrastructure that we would be retro-engineering right now in addition to adding the new stuff."

All of these are debatable points. But only if you are willing to have the debate and consider counterarguments without considering everyone a goofball. Especially people who agree with you.

John Morris

As far as calling the writer a goofball. I stand by that. He puts in a really provacative headline and then deep in the article is a fact that shows the thing to just be bunk.

John Morris

Well, as I have said before, One major way to make people want to live in the city is to make commuting with cars harder. It wasn't a fully planned out that way, but the fact that NY is so hard to drive in and out of and park in has made a lot of people consider living in town.
Pittsburgh has consistently done the opposite. It has assumed that people are going to leave the city and has gone to extreme eforts to make it easy for them to live out of town. The dead downtown that exists now is the result.

We can see from a lot of recent developments in a lot of cities that there is a big market for urban living. The problem is that in Pittsburgh-- because it is hollowed out- this market has to compete with parking and highways for people who live out of town. NY in effect told those people to get lost ( or use mass transit ) and that is why it is still a great city. That is the basic question. There are people who like cities and want to live in them, so why should Pittsburgh be kissing up to people who don't and how is it going to make money doing it.

Mark Rauterkus

1. The people that live out of the city DO play a lot of taxes to Pittsburgh. Parking tax is very high. I think it should stay high too -- as long as there is a public owned parking authority. Once that is sold into the private markets, building by building, then the parking tax should drop very low.

There are many other income streams to the city from suburban folks: Ticket tax, RAD tax, cars towed, etc.

2. There are many ways where it does make more sense to help those that live in the city and make it more of a strain to the commuters.

2a. When the Ft. Pitt bridge and tunnel got a re-hab -- it was nearly impossible for me in the South Side to get to the South Hills. That was nuts. Had too many road blocks to please the downtown commuters and not the city residents.

2b. I would have first built the pedestrian bridge at the Hot Metal Bridge site -- then done the auto bridge. Oakland / Hazelwood to South Side link via bikes should have been more of a priority. Then the auto bridge would have come sooner.

2c. I want bikes, blades and peds in the Wabash Tunnel -- from Mt. Washington to city, full time.

2d. Other walkways, bike ramps, bike lanes and ped bridges should be a priority throughout the city over and along big roads, intersections and rivers. And, I'm not just talking about tourist bike paths.

Sam M

As far as the guy being a goofball is concerned, a few final thoughts:

He didn't write the headline. That's not how it works.

As for the study he cites, you might want to check out the source of it. It comes from Bruce Schaller ar Schaller Consulting. And, I am not sure how to say this, but... Schaller seems to not only agree with you on just about every single point, he has been driving the national debate in your direction for years now. Here's a link to his work...


The only difference between him and you is that he appears willing to address some of the thornier issues rather than lambasting anyone who brings them up.

John Morris

Well, I guess i don't know how it works. The headline was completly sensational and very inacurate. Anyone who goes around NY today would see a city that is more pedestrian oriented than it has been in years.
Whowever wrote it had no concern for accuracy. i would imagine that a bunch of people just grabbed the headline and said-- see NY is the city that never walks which is not close to true.

I imagine it was designed to grab you attention and that's about it.

John Morris

Seriously Mark, Do you really think that the taxes you stated come close to covering the cost of people driving into the city? The closing of the Barnes and noble gives you some idea of just how valuable commuters are to downtown.Just trying to estimate the opportunity value of the land dedicated to parking, the land cut off by highways and the actual cost of the infrastruture is mind boggling. Since so many of the major employers are non tax paying entities makes it even more crazy.

Now we are in a situation in which all big employers have the city by the balls. They know that a lot of their employees live out of town so they can easily threaten to leave if they are not paid off. The opposite situation exists in NY. since the bulk of high value people live in or close to the city ( and love it ) attempts to move usually result in tons of people quiting.

Mark Rauterkus

"Since so many of the major employers are non tax paying entities makes it even more crazy."

The non-tax paying entities all pay taxes for the parking. A parking spot at $400 a month gets a good bit of cash to the city. Sales tax at 1% of everything sold county wide -- has much of it going to the city and a good chunk went to the city schools.

To talk about the real $ to the city vs. the opportunity value is crazy. I'm talking real money. It is real. To say those in the burbs pay nothing is far from the truth.

Big employers don't have the city by the balls.

What, UPMC is going to move out of the city? Pitt is going to move to join Robert Morris? What -- the Bishop is going to go to Turtle Creek?

And, the city's balls have been missing for a few decades now. If they have them -- perhaps they can keep them.

John Morris

That's pretty much what you have , UPMC and Pitt for as long as the federal government can keep the grants going. And all of this Tax money is free money and nothing is spent? The city is a freaking parking lot and not much more. The only way that this looks logical is if you have a built in assuption that nobody wants to live here. That must have been what they thought when they put the stadiums in-- that the land was worthless and people wouldn't want to live there. As I said before, the current financial position of the city shows how well this is working out.

John Morris

For the record, I never said that the burbs paid nothing. I said they paid far less than what thay are getting out of the relationship. The city is currently designed for their benefit.

C. Briem

just a postscript.... Mark seems to say that county RAD sales tax money is going toward city schools. Unless I am missing something, I see nothing in the entire history of RAD allotments that have gone toward city schools or city government. These are online here:


I also would dispute the idea he throws out there that for some mysterious reason parking rates or taxes would drop if the parking authority in the city privatized lots. I just dont get the logic. Given how tight parking space is downtown, it seems as likely the authority rates are acting as a ceiling on rates downtown.

and having lived in Manhattan for 3 years (and Pittsburgh for 30) it just does not make much sense to try and compare the two cities. Also remember the city of New York is literally 5 entire counties that are each bigger than most metro regions. So to say half of all cars in Manhattan come from city residents or whatever the statement is is just not comparable to anything in the city of Pittsburgh which is a postage stamp in terms of sheer geographic size and population compared to NYC.

When it comes to parking I remember long ago one of the first prime time news programs had a whole piece on parking in Manhattan and just how pathological it was(is). Things like how everyone double parks on street cleaning days, thus blocking in half of all cars for the whole day. I swear everyone in Pittsburgh saw that piece and it formed the only datapoint they had of life in the City. For years, when I told friends/relatives back home that I was living in NYC it was literally the first thing they asked about as if it was something akin to living on the moon.. of course, trying to put out a chair to save a parking space in Manhattan would have been considered equally strange.

Mark Rauterkus

The money from RAD went to the schools before it ever hit the RAD folks. This was a deal way back. When the state bailout came, that money got yanked around. There were millions each year.

City schools were going to raise taxes but Sophie was working hard to lower city tax burden. So a deal was struck. For more than 10 years the city schools got, I think, about $10-M a year.

The PPS cried foul. A lot of it just came into the schools in other ways -- remember the payout to Pgh Public Schools to be a guardian of some sort over Duquesne Schools.

So, you won't find it in the RAD accounts.

The city government money from RAD goes into the 4 RAD parks. I think that this is $30-million a year or so. I should really check my $s before posting, but it is late. So, RAD park upkeep is done by city crews -- and billed to the RAD capital fund that the city has.

Mark Rauterkus

Parking ...

The Parking Authority is poison to the marketplace. When was the last time a private parking garage was built? Never more. They all have serious subsidization now. And, even the mega garages are sucking in terms of performance.

Nobody would invest in building a private building with serious parking when there is no trust in the marketplace for that type of investment.

The city gives away plenty of parking at a price that can't be matched. So, the city has to do it all.

I say, get the city out of the parking business in garages. Sure, meters on streets are different. Then the parking garages will compete. And, if the rates go too high, more parking will come on line because money can be made, investments realize a profit.

Logic is this: The city is controlling the market. The city is subsidizing parking. This is not a duty of government. More people would live in the city and more people would take the bus if parking's costs were closer to the rates charged. Meanwhile, new parking structures are NEVER going to come online given today's 600-lbs gorilla.

Mark Rauterkus

Update: $62.2 million over 12 years went to Pgh's Public Works for upkeep of our city RAD parks. The $10-m per year stated above is too generous.

However: Aviary, Zoo, Zoo debt, stadium authority, SEA, Phipps, Carnegie Museums, Cultural trust, many libraries, 3-Rivers, civic arena, and a host of others are in the city. Some were city owned -- (Zoo, Phipps, Aviary) -- not long ago.

The city makes out on the RAD funding.

I can't just yet nail down the little known point about RAD funding flowing to Pgh Public Schools, just yet. Perhaps $6-m per year is sticking in my head now.

I had this on my old platform page.
* The bailout took RAD money from Pittsburgh Public Schools. That money needs to be returned to the Pgh Public Schools. At the time, the budget for Pgh Public Schools had a $40-million cash reserve. Those in Harrisburg felt that any cash reserve was a luxery. So, the politicians in Harrisburgh made a take-away from the schools for being prudent and fit.

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