Transit-Oriented Development in PGH (Pittsburgh, York: condo, house, neighborhoods)
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While my tenure in Northern Virginia was by no means a pleasant one I must admit I was always quite enamored by Arlington County, VA, which was a haven for those who wished to live sans car. Directly across the Potomac River from NW DC, Arlington County is often cited by urban planners as being a poster child for responsible long-range urban planning due to its heavy emphasis upon transit-oriented design (TOD). Essentially, Arlington is blessed by having the Orange Line, Blue Line, and Yellow Line of the Metrorail servicing various parts of the jurisdiction. Arlington's response to accommodate growth in a responsible manner was to build densely---very densely---within a close radius (perhaps 1/2-mile?) of various Metrorail stations so that more people could live within walking distance of the rail lines and eschew their vehicles. Today's Arlington County, while being one of the most expensive counties in the nation in which to reside, is also one of the most prosperous economically.
My question? Could Pittsburgh conceivably emulate Arlington's success? We have a lot of members on here (BrianTH, JEB77, Caladium, etc.) who are very familiar with Northern Virginia, so I'll let them make corrections wherever I err, but Arlington's East/West Orange Line Corridor, to me, could easily happen in Pittsburgh. Ballston serves as Arlington's unofficial "Downtown" of sorts. It is currently home to a dense smattering of office towers, a few condo towers, and very little street life. On the far west end of the corridor is Ballston, which is increasingly becoming a destination for shopping, dining, and living. In between you have Clarendon and Court House, both of which are younger, trendier, "hipper" neighborhoods with a lot of nightlife, restaurants, pubs, as well as living options. In Pittsburgh I could see Downtown being our Rosslyn, Oakland being our Court House/Clarendon, and East Liberty being our Ballston---all linked by commuter rail. The Blue Line and Yellow Line run parallel through Arlington on a North/South basis from the Pentagon through Crystal City and then on into Old Town Alexandria and beyond. I could see the "T" serving as Pittsburgh's version of this with Mt. Lebanon, Dormont, and South Hills Junction all becoming denser nucleii of urban development.
What obstacles would have to be overcome to super-impose Arlington County's successes with TOD onto Pittsburgh and its inner suburban areas? Would a new rail line between Downtown and East Liberty be necessary, or could TOD based around the East Busway be just as successful? In my opinion there still will always be a social stigma associated with taking the bus for many people that doesn't exist with trains. Would it be easier to eliminate that stigma or upgrade the East Busway to commuter rail?
I'd say there already is something like the Orange Line in the form of the East Busway. It won't exactly map onto the Orange Line, but the idea is similar: a string of "urban villages" clustered along Busway stops. Downtown would be Downtown DC, not something in Virginia. Shadyside/Friendship is already there, and East Liberty is rapidly getting there. Wilkinsburg is a little bit there, and has a ton of potential to follow in East Liberty's footsteps. Homewood also has a lot of potential, and the City is starting to look in that direction.
Two of the more problematic areas are the Strip and Swissvale--not because those neighborhoods inherently lack potential, but because the Busway stops are not in ideal locations. There are also potentially "missing" stops like one in the Bloomfield area, which again would not necessarily be in an ideal location.
Nonetheless, the overall concept is a good fit, and already happening in significant ways. I don't agree bus versus rail is a fundamental problem. I suspect SCR may be put off by the current clientele on the main East Busway routes. Personally, I have no problem as it stands, but the fact is that if you look at some of other buses that use the East Busway, like our commuter route from Regent Square, you will see a different mix. Similarly, if you pay attention to who gets on at each Busway stop, you can see things like a stereotypical mix of Shadyside people getting on at the Shadyside stop. So I expect the mix of people riding the East Busway buses to simply reflect the changes along the corridor itself, which for good or ill is likely to be changing in coming years.
Oh, Oakland and Squirrel Hill are a different "line". Right now there is no rapid transit along that line, which is an obvious defect in the local transit system. Rapid Bus could help, and maybe more in the future (e.g., a Spine Line, potentially all the way to Wilkinsburg, or urban gondolas).
But as it stands, Oakland and Squirrel Hill are obviously already developed. So such a line may be most relevant to Uptown and/or the Hill from a TOD perspective.
You might want to look further than Northern Virginia to get your answer. Several cities have transit; yet very few have successful TOD. It might be useful to figure out why it succeeds in some places and fails in others. It's been successful in both Dallas and Houston. In Houston's case, the government planned and built the line but didn't do any special planning or zoning to encourage TOD; developers simply began building. I'm pretty sure the same thing happened in Dallas. From what you describe this is different than Arlington, where the city built the developments. But one thing all those systems have in common is that they're new-ish. However, Chicago doesn't fit that pattern; its system is ancient and there's a lot of TOD. The only thing those cities have in common is that they're all a lot bigger than Pittsburgh - maybe that's what you need is a big metropolitan area. So if Pittsburgh grew big, TOD would develop? But Portland is relatively small...
There's something seriously wrong with that last part - very little street life.
Granted I don't know Ballston, but why is that? You'd think there would be business opportunity galore and all kinds of people profiting with business location and events and everything else.
Are there some zoning restrictions, or other factors in play that prevent it from having street life?
I'm sorry. That was a typo. Rosslyn serves as Arlington's "Downtown" of sorts. It is strategically positioned within walking distance of Georgetown in NW DC (which isn't served by Metrorail) and the Clarendon/Court House areas, though, so it's not like all hope is lost for Rosslyn. That neighborhood seems to be making strides in the right direction, but even when I lived there people never really deemed Rosslyn to be a "hot spot".
Dallas is not a good TOD model , infact its one of the worst systems...DART is built badly and the zoning laws still in many cases favor sprawl then dense development. Houston is slightly better but only slightly. New Jersey was the first state to have statewide TOD policy back in the late 80s which started a suburban Urban Renewal craze which hasn't stopped to this day , the Urban Areas were brought into the spotlight early 90s with Jersey City , Hoboken and New Brunswick being redeveloped , and in recent years that has finally reached Paterson , Elizabeth , Bayonne , The Amboys and The Oranges.....I might aswell post some Jersey TOD pictures... White Plains in Westchester has also done superb job with TOD.
DSCN1411 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42178139@N06/5671458080/ - broken link) by Nexis4Jersey09 (http://www.flickr.com/people/42178139@N06/ - broken link), on Flickr
DSCN1441 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42178139@N06/5670895749/ - broken link) by Nexis4Jersey09 (http://www.flickr.com/people/42178139@N06/ - broken link), on Flickr
DSCN1399 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42178139@N06/5670888049/ - broken link) by Nexis4Jersey09 (http://www.flickr.com/people/42178139@N06/ - broken link), on Flickr
DSCN0431 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42178139@N06/5414901788/ - broken link) by Nexis4Jersey09 (http://www.flickr.com/people/42178139@N06/ - broken link), on Flickr
100_0616 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42178139@N06/4752963991/ - broken link) by Nexis4Jersey09 (http://www.flickr.com/people/42178139@N06/ - broken link), on Flickr
100_1668 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42178139@N06/4867040767/ - broken link) by Nexis4Jersey09 (http://www.flickr.com/people/42178139@N06/ - broken link), on Flickr
Downtown South Orange (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42178139@N06/5983678065/ - broken link) by Nexis4Jersey09 (http://www.flickr.com/people/42178139@N06/ - broken link), on Flickr
East Orange (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42178139@N06/5795308650/ - broken link) by Nexis4Jersey09 (http://www.flickr.com/people/42178139@N06/ - broken link), on Flickr
Downtown White Plains, New York (http://www.flickr.com/photos/chocolatedisco/2832400568/ - broken link) by Intiaz Rahim (http://www.flickr.com/people/chocolatedisco/ - broken link), on Flickr
Downtown White Plains (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42178139@N06/5890813884/ - broken link) by Nexis4Jersey09 (http://www.flickr.com/people/42178139@N06/ - broken link), on Flickr
Downtown White Plains (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42178139@N06/5890796846/ - broken link) by Nexis4Jersey09 (http://www.flickr.com/people/42178139@N06/ - broken link), on Flickr
Downtown White Plains (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42178139@N06/5890818336/ - broken link) by Nexis4Jersey09 (http://www.flickr.com/people/42178139@N06/ - broken link), on Flickr
I suspect he meant Rosslyn (edit: yep), where I actually lived, in part because I could take the Metro to work and my wife and son could use the Metro from National airport, and it was also pretty easy to drive out to Pittsburgh.
Anyway, Rosslyn had some decent places to go scattered around, but it really got the Modernist treatment with a non-intuitive street system and not particularly pleasant street-level design. I loved it for the convenience, and it provided a needed highrise area for Washington, but other stops on the Orange Line definitely had more charm.
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