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Monday Night Football Matchup A Battle For Midsize Complete Communities

Kansas City vs Pittsburgh is a battle between midsize contenders in the Complete Communities contest, but storied programs on the gridiron. Pittsburgh (2.3 million) and Kansas City (2.0 million) fall in the category of regions between 1 and 3 million people and competed directly against each other (and their peers) to receive their scores in Living, Working, Moving and Thriving.

While the Steelers have been shining in the last decade, economically things have been tough for Pittsburgh, so it’s hard not to delight in their current upward trajectory. Once a major player in the steel industry, Pittsburgh has a complex fixed-guideway transit system with light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) combined, with 94 stations in the region. Local leadership has been key to making the connection between transit, land use, and revitalization opportunities. For example, Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), a coalition of nonprofit community based organizations and core partners dedicated to the revitalization of urban neighborhoods, was a key player in the economic revitalization around the East Liberty BRT station.

Kansas City, however, is not-quite-literally making tracks in expanding its own fixed-guideway BRT network. With 24 fixed-guideway stations on two BRT lines today, the region is studying several other corridors to determine what kind of transit makes the best fit.

Despite similar population size, Pittsburgh has more than three times as many opportunity areas as Kansas City. More compact development and smaller blocks give them a definite edge in the Complete Communities challenge. Only 7.3% of households in KC live in opportunity areas, compared to 22.5% of households in Pittsburgh. And nearly twice as many jobs are located in opportunity areas in Pittsburgh compared to Kansas City. This is the likely imbalance we’ll see on the field as well with the Chiefs having one of the worst seasons on record oscillating between quarterbacks and having a tough time on offense.

Commuters are more likely to take transit, walk, or bike in Pittsburgh compared to Kansas City, and Pittsburgh actually ranks in the top 30 safest places to walk in the country. Kansas City falls farther below at number 83. While Mendenhall is hurt, Isaac Redman is looking to walk all over the Chiefs as well.

However, when it comes to some of the other elements of a Complete Community, Pittsburgh could take a lesson from KC. Pittsburgh beats out Kansas City on Living, Working, and Moving (three A’s compared to Kansas City’s B, C and B), but under Thriving, Kansas City gets a respectable B, while Pittsburgh falls down into the C category. There are twice as many low-income households living more than a mile from a grocery store in Pittsburgh, raising serious equity concerns about low-income access to healthy food. More than twice as many households in Kansas City live near a park, and a slightly higher percent of those households are lower-income families as well, compared to Pittsburgh.

Overall, Pittsburgh wins the Complete Communities fight today, but it’s up in the air if they’ll hold onto their lead moving forward. On the field, it’s tough to see how Kansas City wins this one, but you never know on any given Sunday.

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