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Reinvesting in Pittsburgh's Neighborhoods: The Case for Transit-Oriented Development

This report identifies the potential that coordinated transit-oriented development initiatives have to enhance Pittsburgh’s economic competitiveness; the value transit brings to the region; and the potential of leveraging both to make life more affordable and connect more people to jobs. The report also warns of the impact of transit’s current funding crisis and calls for a realistic, actionable regional vision to advance transit and TOD.

Introduction

As more and more cities join the transit space race and see the benefits of walkability, places like Pittsburgh – which already have well established systems and walkable street patterns– need to revisit and reinforce their existing transit networks in order to stay competitive. Long thought of as a planning concept for managing growth in fast growing regions, transit-oriented development actually has great applicability when it comes to reinforcing the neighborhoods that make mature cities great. We have the opportunity to reinforce and invest in our transit network in a way that captures higher ridership, generates lasting value for our neighborhoods, enhances the economic strength of our job centers, provides enduring benefits for all of our residents, from young working families to retirees.

This report comes at a time when our region is at an ironic crossroads. The time has never been better to think about how we can improve the integration of our transit system with our neighborhoods. There is growing Federal support for concepts like sustainability and transportation alternatives, reflected in the creation of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s year-old Sustainable Communities Office. Many regions are building entirely new transit systems to improve the quality of life of local residents, many times as a strategy to enhance economic competitiveness goals. And despite fiscal and economic crises facing nearly every region in the country, residents in many regions including Houston, Los Angeles, Charlotte, and Salt Lake City have agreed to tax themselves to fund these improvements. But meanwhile, Pittsburgh is facing one of the greatest transit operational budget crises the nation has ever seen. If we cannot take care of – and leverage – our existing transit resources, we stand to lose out on key opportunities for our workers, attracting and retaining young professionals, supporting our elderly, and serving families of all income levels, many of which are outlined in this report. Transit-oriented development is just one strategy we can use to preserve and promote our transit network, but it is an important one that requires us to pay attention and work together.