Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Youngstown Disconnect

I WILL SHOUT YOUNGSTOWN poses two questions:

1 - how to explain the growing divergence between Cleveland and Pittsburgh?

2 - how does this divergence effect Youngstown, the place in the middle of the two?

The above two question are, in part, informed by one article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The City of Champions ranked 18th, which put it in the tier of the 20 economically strongest metropolitan areas.

The city was behind such places as San Antonio (first); Tulsa, Okla. (ninth); and Des Moines, Iowa (14th). It was just behind Harrisburg (17th).

Pittsburgh bested New Haven, Conn., edging out the home of Yale University, which came in 19th.

What the authors of the "MetroMonitor" found is that areas hit by declines in manufacturing and the bursting of the housing bubble are feeling more pain in the current recession than areas that are strong in health care, education and government.

Hence, Detroit (100th); Toledo, Ohio, (92nd); and Youngstown, Ohio, (90th) are mixed in with other of the weakest performing metropolitan areas such as Las Vegas (89th); Fresno, Calif., (94th); and Bradenton, Fla. (99th). Las Vegas and Bradenton and Orlando, Fla., (79th) have each experienced the one-two punch of the bursting of the housing bubble and the weakening of the tourism trade.

I'll augment all of the above with a quote from friend of the show and blogger at The Urbanophile, Aaron Renn:

Richard Florida just issued a call in this month's Atlantic Monthly to build "rail connectivity within the mega-regions. There are the fast trains along the Boston/New York/Washington corridor that have allowed Washington, in effect, to become a commuter suburb of greater New York. But how about a place like Detroit? If Detroit were better connected to Chicago, one could imagine Detroit having a better reason for existing. Or Pittsburgh. If Pittsburgh were better connected to Chicago or even to Washington, D.C.—it’s only a four-hour drive—that could spur growth." I won't use his example cities, but will assume in our example that we've got high speed rail between Chicago and Milwaukee and Chicago and Indy that provides a terminal to terminal journey time of 90 minutes. In the case of Milwaukee, this is actually already true - future rail upgrades will only shave that time down even further.

At issue is not only the economic disparity between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but Youngstown and Pittsburgh. How can Pittsburgh rank 18th and Youngstown 90th when the two cities are practically right on top of each other?

The answer is the lack of connectivity between them. Better passenger rail would help, tremendously. Furthermore, just say yes to Western Reserve Road widening. Lastly, get behind the Regional Visioning project. Mayor Jay Williams is already on board. You should be, too.

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