Thursday, June 17, 2010

Density is the Dream

Last night I dreamt that Pittsburgh was giving out incentive money (they’d gotten a grant, of course) to anyone in the metro area who would move closer to the city center. There was a bonus amount for crossing into the city limits, but that wasn't a requirement--the idea was just to dense up the whole area. If everyone could move a little closer in (closer to the city that is the reason for the metro area), it would make a noticeable difference in population.

I woke up thinking that there could be a separate incentive for moving close enough to your job to walk or ride your bike. Just think how great these movements would be: shops, grocery stores, and restaurants would thrive; streets would be safer in at least two ways: less desolate and fewer killer-cars; city services like libraries, schools, snow removal, public transit, and police coverage could expand through adequate tax funding; the long-discussed city-county merger might finally happen. The city would attract more tourists and transplants because we'd have a new light rail running through the center of town and we'd be voted Most Walkable City.

What else do you imagine could be the impact of more density in Pittsburgh and the immediate area?


Dan H said...

Karen, I have this dream as well! First and foremost I envisioned the old, cheap, beautiful homes that I lust after being snapped up and fixed up.

Density would also aid the city by helping support local businesses and encouraging diversity in the types of businesses. It would also support diversity in terms of people. I think it would be exciting to see more young families in the city limits.

That being said, I'd like to see density fill out the neighborhoods that aren't "cool". Siphon off some of the Sq Hill types into other areas!

Density would also create demand for certain types of businesses in neighborhoods that need walkable, "basic needs" kind of businesses. I'm thinking specifically of downtown/the northside and their lack of supermarket options. (When I lived in Bloomfield I was spoiled by my walkable/busable grocery options: 6!)

Love your point about taxes. Word! And I also like your emphasis on transport. If we want people to strike out into new neighborhoods, we need public transit that can bring them speedily to where they work. Pittsburgh is (geographically) a small city, but getting from one part of it to another via public transit is often a chore for those acclimated to cars.

Stephen Gross said...

Quick observation, if I may: Every urbanist I know likes to dream about how to make it possible to walk/bike to work. The unspoken assumption in this dreaming is that the job is in the city center, and the residence is in the suburbs. If only suburbanites would move into the city where they could walk/bike to work!

However... Many jobs are located in the city's periphery, usually adjacent to highway beltways. My own job is just like this: in an inner ring suburb, while I live in the city center. The urbanist dream? If only I could move to the suburbs, where I could walk/bike to work!

Ironic, eh? :)

John Morris said...

Very San Francisco. I know of lots of people there who live in town and commute out to work.

Given that most car trips I think involve just doing the little things at least having density intown helps a lot.

On a positive note, some of our suburbs like Mount Lebanon are relatively dense.

In Cleveland, I think the biggest moves towards urbanism have been made in some of the wealthier suburbs. (But I'm not an expert on Cleveland even a little)

I think a pretty typical scenario is that small companies, self employed people and startups favor locating in dense areas while some large firms need big spaces.

GE has a lot less need to be tied into an ecosystem like a small company would.