Wednesday, April 8, 2009

That's Disconcerting

This post fits in well with my post about "My Dirty Transit Secret". It's indicative of the struggles that I have personnally had in trying to find a job, even in a mid sized city (approx 300,000) as Pittsburgh is.

Mass Transit Magazine had an article from USA today talking about job migration to the suburbs. It's not a new problem, but it's disconcerting that it doesn't seem to be going away. It talks about several contributing factors, mainly taxes and overall labor expenses. When you give a strong incentive for companies to move to the suburbs, combine that with municipal authorities who have a weak incentive for any transit friendly planning, and you get the modern American office park (like the one I work in), with sprawling green lawns, parking lots that have a bigger footprint than the building they serve and no access or logical connection with any form of transit.

The one caveat (and perhaps silver lining) to this story is that the data was collected between 1998 and 2006. As the article states, this trend bucked the "DotCom Bubble Burst". However, I imagine that changed when the real estate bubble burst, because unlike the popping of many other economic bubbles in the past, the recession has hit the very heart of suburbia. It no longer makes financial sense for many people to live in the suburbs and drive absolutely everywhere (especially for people who were living beyond their means in suburban "dream homes"). Pittsburgh has gotten a lot of attention recently for a reverse migration. Check out this article.

If this trend of suburban migration is reversed (and I hope it is), we need a long term incentive that will keep people in Pittsburgh long after the bursting of the real estate bubble. In my mind, a key incentive is mobility.

How do you manufacture mobility you ask?

No, not by making cars and building highways.

Why by expending transit options of course. Additionally, as I have said before, sometimes you have to bring the transit to the people, other than the people to the transit. Build a supporting infrastructure (T.O.D.) that will allow people to have a desirable level of mobility using transit.

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