Saturday, April 19, 2014

Start planning your trip now

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Tracking the revolution

Updating is all.......

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Suburban Burgh

Something from the archives here, but maybe because I posted it a week before December 25 a couple years ago, I think few noticed it. Urbanologists may take note of this remarkable series of articles documenting the emergent suburban population growth that the Pittsburgh Press ran in 1951. Lots of ink on the topic.  So to repeat:

"Each worth reading in itself and ever more interesting now as history. The question is, what would a comparable series like this cover today?

1              May 7    Growing Pains in the Suburbs  - "flash towns shoot up on good roads"    

3              May 8    Penn Township  - ".. with plenty of jobs available, high school students are dropping out"             

4              May 9    Churchill Patton Plum - "virtually a golfing heaven"       

5              May 10 White Oak  - "one of the major ailments is that old debbil politics"          

6              May 11 West Mifflin - "Homestead loses most"  also "Transportation bugaboo"    

7              May 12 Pleasant Hills   - "Rural area and borough still feud"

8              May 13 Baldwin and Whitehall   - "Township officials missed the zero hour for filing their annexation petition..."

9              May 14 Bethel Borough               

10           May 15 Green Tree and Scott    

11           May 16 Mount Lebanon              

12           May 17 Reserve Shaler Hampton             

13           May 18 Dorseyville Middle Road              

14           May 19 North Hills Ross Richland              

15           May 20 Moon Robinson Kennedy          

16           May 21 Metropolitan Area Needs Master Plan  

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Paleofuture Pittsburgh - flying saucer edition

Only 150 years until flying saucers solve our public transit problems.  The bridges must be museums or something.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Speaking of Canada.....

Just because this probably isn't itemized on any tourist brochure, but maybe it should be:

Made me think someone ought to go film and upload a look at what is up in Centralia currently.. but of course someone has done that.  A bit surreal, certainly off-grid, but seemingly not completely abandoned. Maybe someday it will be reincorporated.There just has to be a reality TV show to film in Centralia these days.

Addendum: Some Pittsburghers have reported on the abandoned turnpike spur already it seems.  WashPo (2005): The Pennsylvania Turnbike

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Permits Past

So I know we all can point to examples of new urban infill in Pittsburgh in recent years, some of which is unlike what we have seen in some time.  But this is the time series for new residential building permits within the city of Pittsburgh over the last 18 years.  

For a city of 300K give or take, those numbers are low. Nothing I have added up, but most years are likely not even enough for replacement for the number of demolitions, major structure fires or plain old unplanned house collapses we have every year. Lots of other things going on for sure (new public housing, rehabs), but most housing markets are driven in large part by private sector new construction which will be reflected in these numbers. Just something to keep in mind before over-interpreting any one or more examples in front of us.

Anyway... I'll get into the reason I'm looking at that later in the week.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Midnight encomium

For those who noticed the news that the actor known as Stephen Colbert is jumping over to take over the Late Show once David Letterman retires.

The broadcaster Colbert is jumping over to is, in legal fact, the corporation formerly known as Westinghouse, founded by George W. himself and based in Pittsburgh for more than a century. Note that what most call Westinghouse today is really just what was once the Westinghouse Nuclear subsidiary of the much larger parent company, and today owned by the Toshiba Corporation of Japan. The corporation known as Westinghouse bought whole the CBS Corporation in 1995 in a transaction many thought pure folly. In what became at least a symbolic reverse merger, Westinghouse decided to become CBS, and eventually shed all of its now extraneous industrial divisions. Someone didn't read that stick to the knitting memo and much of Pittsburgh's economic history was incidental and collateral damage.

Thus the question, is Colbert Colbert?  Not far from the question is CBS CBS?

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

King Coal and beyond

More than steel, Pittsburgh was made by coal. Some say energy in the ground is important again? On that note, a tremendous series on NPR's Marketplace on what is happening to the coal economy.

An English village, 30 years after its mine closed

 When England walked away from coal

Coal country starts to ask 'What's after coal?'

Those and more in their ongoing series of Coal Play stories.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

O Canada

With Canada in the news here so much these days, someone ought to mention some history of Pittsburgh-Canada relations. At one point  Adolph Schmidt, long at the center of all things Pittsburgh renaissance, served as the American ambassador to Canada for over 4 years in the early 1970s.

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Ever more economic data to be mapped.....

This may become the biggest time sink for me since Те́трис first came out.  See the BLS' new QCEW (Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages) State and County Map Application.

Just one of potentially zillions of maps you can now generate instantly:

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Few years mean more to Pittsburgh than... 1979?

A year of historic oil prices, industry-sapping inflation fighting, but of course championship baseball, football and not to forget, basketball:

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Friday, April 04, 2014

ObjectIndustry permanence?

I am really unclear if this is a news article or a press release of some kind. But from just a couple weeks ago via CNBC was this headline: US manufacturing is coming back—Thank shale

Now mind you, I have no comment on whether that headline is valid or not for the nation.  But I do note that it has little to do with anything in Pittsburgh. With  data for February now out, the decline in regional manufacturing employment is, if anything, accelerating. The year over year drop in manufacturing employment (-3.1%) is a lot worse even than what I pointed out just last month when manufacturing was the worst performing sector of the regional economy. Note also that what had been a running year over year decline in eds and meds employment has gone away. Has not trended back to growth yet, but absolutely even employment in February compared to year prior.We will have to see what that trend holds in the future.

BTW, while I have no comment on the national trends, the Wall Street Journals certainly does and note their recent list of the 5 things we learned from the economic census. Just don't stop reading after #1 as many are wont to do.

Put another way, the proportion of regional jobs in Pittsburgh that are at manufacturing industries has now dropped to near its all-time low. The manufacturing job count in Pittsburgh has given back virtually all of the bounceback that came after the Great Recession ended. Wasn't there talk of 'reindustrializing' (if that is a word) Pennsylvania. I am pretty sure the various marketing campaigns out there have swamped any news coverage (to say nothing of all the data) on the topic.

If that is not clear enough, I have not yet begun to parse! Here is the proportion of national manufacturing jobs that are located in Pittsburgh. Never has such an unvarying trend said so much. You rarely can find an economic trend that appears so stable.

But the stability may be a bit illusory, at least for the future.  With full disclosure, this is taking the same exact data but way blowing up the scale.  How is Pittsburgh doing in recent months? In recent years? Coming back?

So maybe it is more like the inverse of object permanence? Is there a name for that?

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

A number is a number is a number

So I hate to do this.... but worth deconstructing a recent viral blog post that obviously has made great note here in Pittsburgh.  See this: The Nation's Most Coveted Demographic Has Been Flocking To Pittsburgh. The headline  comes from a straightforward compilation of demographic data from the 2005 American Community Survey (ACS) and comparing with 2012 data from the same source. Census data is census data; so what could be wrong?

But yeah, I hate to say it, but probably does not work out that way.  A number of things going on here, but first and foremost I refer back to my post trying to explain how the American Community Survey is not intended to be a reference for count data. This may be a good example of why.

That in itself is not the issue here.  In this analysis the population change between 2005 and 2012 was compared, using ACS data to make that comparison.  The thing that was a big red flag for me was the result showing that the Pittsburgh MSA had grown by 2% over the 7 years. I recreated the data and indeed if you just pull up 2005 and 2012 1-year ACS total population counts for the Pittsburgh MSA you get 2,314,937 and 2,360,733 respectively. Works out to a +1.97% gain, so 2% as reported.

The problem is no other data says there has been metro growth here over that period.  Decline may have abated in just the last couple of years, but there has not been net +2% growth.  So what is going on, and how does it relate to the result that shows this disproportionate growth in our 'young' population.  As much as I would love to drive the silver stake into Border Guard Bob, this isn't going to do it.

Ready?  The 2005 ACS data did not include ANY group quarters population.  To be precise, here is the Census Bureau's disclaimer on the 2005 data:
Data are limited to the household population and exclude the population living in institutions, college dormitories, and other 
So how big is the group quarters population in the Pittsburgh MSA?  In 2010 you are talking 62,679K people, or roughly 2.7% of the region's population.  So if you net that out, or add it in, you get back to realizing the population change for the region was a decline of something less than 1%, but certainly not +2%.  So from there you can't really make any of the follow-on conclusions about young people moving into the region.

Then there was the bigger point to come out of that which was that population 25-34 jumped 12% over the same 7 years. So I recreated that and indeed the population age 25-34 appears to increase from 257,715 in 2005 to 289,617 in 2012 according to the 1 year ACS estimates. Works out to +12.4%.  But again, the earlier number does not include any group quarters. How much of the +31,905 increase in that age range are coming from group quarters?  In itself about 5K. Take that out and it still works out to a palpable increase (~+10%) in the age group.  Still some other things going on, and you lose half of the increase if you use latest 5-year ACS data. Basically the range of variation of in the various ACS estimates really makes it hard to conclude there is much increase at all in that population, certainly nothing close to +12%, but I'll go through that in more detail later. Nonetheless, I bet I will be forced to refute the +12% factoid for long into the future.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Sic Semper Skybus

Kudos for PG for pulling Skybus photos from their archives.

Skybus, IMHO, is the Rosetta Stone of Pittsburgh's public transit history. If you want to read more on where I get that, read what must be the definitive history: SKYBUS Pittsburgh's Failed Industry Targeting Strategy of the 1960s. by Morton Coleman, the late David Houston and Ted Muller.

The last real vestige of Skybus as public transit (as compared to people movers you see around) is the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) in use on the campus of WVU in Morgantown.  There was some talk of some PRT-like transit system being built for Oakland and environs, but that talk seems to have all faded without any notice by anyone. Made for a good PR at one time I guess.

But I am just catching the most complete Skybus video now on Youtube is a must watch:

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And a bit more good news

Sticking with the good news meme....

With the latest data dump, the February 2014 unemployment rate for Pittsburgh is now 5.8%, down 2/10ths of a percent from January. That puts us at 88 months since the regional unemployment rate was higher than the nation's.  But more significantly, the gap between regional and national unemployment rates is widening again. There had been a convergence that, had it continued, may have ended this streak.  Also likely correlated with lower net migration in recent data.  But with the local unemployment rate now 9/10ths of a percentage point below the national rate, the gap is larger than it has been in 15 months.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Morris Buttermaker reporting

Ponder for a moment a number of stories over the last month.

For years, seemingly a decade at least, the Port Authority was on the verge of an existential budgetary meltdown and continued to make "draconian cuts" just a couple years ago. The word of late is that the very same organization has a "solid financial future." We are talking about the same Port Authority right?

The school district even last month was pushing a story the media was reporting of a potential $18 million dollar deficit this year, yet the final count was a $20+ million surplus. Problems deferred, despite again a fairly dire message oft repeated. That is quite a swing in expectations over just a month.

Also perpetually on the verge of a budgetary calamity, the Carnegie Library is reporting calm waters with new revenues from a library tax (a library tax exempt from anti-windfall provisions governments must abide by) and gambling revenues generated by table games dedicated to the library have all worked in some form to put the on a "solid financial footing."

The city of Pittsburgh... seriously once a financial basket case is now arguing over when to leave Act 47 oversight. Certainly an incredibly different public debate from just over a decade ago. And while I am not a fan of the accounting many know, the city is happy to tout how much better funded it pension system is now than just a few years ago.

Add in the demographic story, remember when the modal story was that out of Forbes decrying how "Pittsburgh is A Pit for singles," a sentiment that would be buttressed by our own opeds even. The local punditry could not be convinced there was any positive story to tell. Even the latest news has flat population growth, but again there are more people moving into the Pittsburgh region than are moving out. Our legacy of demographic decline is a long-lasting legacy of how dire the population loss was a generation ago.

And the Pirates are beginning the season with a fan base which knows there is this thing called a post-season. Nuff said.

Taken in isolation, each of those examples is a feel good story in itself, but taken collectively they really tell a different story. Now the modal media coverage of Pittsburgh is about as hagiographic as it can get. Writers of all ilk are now struggling to write the good news Pittsburgh story fast enough. For those with any memory of how Pittsburgh was ever portrayed by the greater world in the past, it's like some form of the twilight zone.

Somehow over the last 5 years or so, everything has been fixed. Some problems deemed utterly intractable just a few years ago have faded away with only passing notice. I really need a dose of unctuous bafflegab to refill the nabob deficit I am feeling. I also am appreciating how many in the public may discount the most dire or warnings some of us repeat. It seems things will all work themselves out. The first question is whether they really did, and if so, did we learn the right lessons? So no worries, good news or bad, plenty of fodder here.

And since it is April 1, I can't resist adding that our savior is not, nor ever was, the cupcake. Don't get me wrong, plenty of problems out there. But with the sun, we will get to them another day.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014


I'm surprised there has not been more coverage of what may be the bigger energy story impacting Pittsburgh these days, namely the unprecedented flows of oil by rail through the city center. But PG/PublicSource has this today.1960s-era rail cars hauling crude oil badly need makeover as accidents multiply. The thing is, we really have no idea how much oil is traveling through Pittsburgh by rail. Rail data, as I've mentioned in the past, is highly proprietary unlike much other transportation data.  In the article there is an explanation for the lack of public information:
Railway officials don't reveal their routes for hazardous materials for security reasons, and aren't required to by law. However, a state official said Bakken crude does come through Pittsburgh on the way to Philadelphia.
So we have a confirmation that there exists oil traveling by rail through Pittsburgh. About the limit of the disclosure there it seems.

But that explanation does not prevent more data being available elsewhere. The story does not mention that per PlanPhilly: Philadelphia to gain access to real-time CSX freight data. Thus the obvious question. Is anyone in Western Pennsylvania able to access the same real-time data.  I bet if we had cursory information on the flow of oil by rail through Pittsburgh, it would more than compare to the flow through Philadelphia. This all may be a bigger issue here than in Philly when you think about it, especially when you look at all the rail lines through out city center (if you are ever at Eastside look over the fence to see just how close.)

Think I am worrying about low probability events. How low is low? We are coming up on an anniversary of a rail accident that once forced the evacuation of much of Pittsburgh's East End. Really is something to at least plan for in the here and now.

But back to the data Philadelphia is (going to?) get.  When the same data is needed here, it won't be the time to figure out the best way to get it.  That adage to plan now applies to data as much as everything else, maybe more so.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Not voting with their feet

Just in case you doubt Pittsburgh's continuing demographic exceptionalism, this one figure pretty much says it all. The important point is that much, if not all of that, is a legacy in the making over several decades, if not longer.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Voting with their feet

No, not done yet, but let's look beyond Pittsburgh.

It has been more than a decade since the Renz Well began the Marcellus Shale play in Pennsylvania. It is at least marginally fair to start asking what the long term impacts of shale development will be on Pennsylvania.

Many have been expecting this seminal shift in long term growth for the regions supporting the bulk of shale development in Pennsylvania.  Folks have been studying the potential impacts on everything from school enrollments, to housing, infrastructure and more that were all anticipated to come from the population gains. But what are the current population trends in the areas of Pennsylvania where shale development has been the most intense?

Looking at the latest data, here is the net domestic migration over most recent three years for the 10 counties. that are most active in the Marcellus Shale play in Pennsylvania.  For sure, correlation does not imply causality.  The shift toward more negative migration in most every county in this list is on par with statewide trends in Pennsylvania. Still, compared to the rapid and migration-driven population gains of other energy plays in the U.S., the latest data is sure lacking any evidence of similar trends in Pennsylvania. This is at least one datapoint saying that all this shale development does not insulate these counties from broader statewide trends.For most of these counties the turnaround has been dramatic. Migration gains in Bradford, Tioga, Lycoming and Fayette counties have become losses, while net migration decreased in 5 other counties among the top 10 shale counties. Only Armstrong county on this list had a higher net migration estimate in 2012-3 than it had two years earlier.

Finally, I'll point out many of these counties are not the largest of places. It would not take a large flow of new folks moving in to be noticeable in the numbers immediately.

Net Domestic Migration by County,  2011-2012 compared to 2012-2013
10 Top Counties in the Pennsylvania Shale Play (Source)

2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
Bradford County 359 -263 -552
Washington County 790 750 235
Tioga County 375 174 -134
Susquehanna County -252 -337 -356
Lycoming County 555 548 -639
Greene County -141 -307 -203
Westmoreland County 728 -96 220
Fayette County 101 -15 -261
Butler County 625 357 254
Armstrong County -123 -95 -39

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

To Parse

A minor, but not completely inconsequential point.  Net migration for the Pittsburgh MSA was revised up a bit for the previous two years.  I've made the incremental change the darker green in the updated graphic below. +276 for the 2011-2012 period and +174 for the 2010-2011 period. 

But the trend in net migration (international+domestic) for the region works out to this:

The breakout for the +3,368 net migration for the MSA is +590 net domestic migration (movement within US) and +2,778 net international migration.  So you can say in a sense that international immigration is responsible for most of our ability to bring in more people than are leaving.

But here is a factoid to ponder. Only 11 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties had positive net domestic migration estimated for the most recent year (2012-2013).  Of those 11 counties, 4 were in the Pittsburgh MSA. Here are all the counties in PA with net positive domestic migration and the estimate.  Beaver County doing almost as well as Butler, which is worth looking at some more. But at the end of the day, only Cumberland County in south central PA is really attracting a palpable flow of folks moving in from elsewhere in the US. Is this surprising?

Beaver County +210
Butler County +254
Cumberland County +922
Chester County +355
Clinton County +124
Franklin County +57
Forest County  +20
Jefferson County +74
Snyder County +76
Washington County +235
Westmoreland County +220

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So here is what I said on Monday
Whether the region's total population is increasing is another story.  Natural population decline continues and will offset any small positive net migration into the region.  So the overall population change is going to be awfully close to zero. 
Drumroll...   the Pittsburgh region's population decreased between 2012 and 2013, but by a total of....   152.   Works out to 0.00005% of the region's total population of 2.36 million. Remember this is an estimate, so within any reasonable range of error, just about as close to zero as is meaningful.

Now is that good or bad? No growth = bad to some for sure. A classic half full or half empty kind of argument for Pittsburgh in context. No growth is still a relatively positive story for a region that has declined in population virtually every year since forever. The real positive angle on this is that net migration for the region was again positive. So we have made it to at least a 6th straight year of positive net migration into the region. That must be some kind of record for the region over the last century give or take. And with the population decline coming from the excess of deaths over births over the most recent year, and gains in new folks moving here, we are in a sense getting 'younger,' albeit pretty slowly.

Also, and more importantly. Don't overinterpret the low net migration number. It does not mean there is nobody moving into the region. It means the flows in and the flows out are nearly balanced.  There still are likely on the order of 40K more people moving into the region every year, just as there are a slightly lower number moving out. So still plenty of new folks around every year.

Note the Census Bureau's own press release on this describes the data just released with this lede: Energy Boom Fuels Rapid Population Growth in Parts of Great Plains.  Is there a comparable population boom across Pennsylvania because of shale development here? Look at the map of growth across the nation and you just can't draw any comparison between Pennsylvania and any of the other energy-driven economies in the US. Seems to me there is a story for someone to look into more. You can look at the data yourself and draw some conclusions.

More to follow, of course. And next week I may put out my guess on what to expect for the city of Pittsburgh's population estimate for 2013 which we will not learn for a couple more months.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wikipedia Journalists

I'm surprised nobody has done this yet. I've create a Wikipedia category for Journalists from Pennsylvania.  Just a start, but go add the appropriate tag ("[Journalists from Pennsylvania]") to all the other folks who should be included and the category page will update automatically. I've started with just a few. Maybe a homework assignment @andrewconte can give his students.  Really I wanted to create a category for [Journalists from Pittsburgh], but I am not sure the Wikipedia gnomes would allow that, yet.

Just checking in on one of the last Wikipedia pages I created. I bet there is more to be added to the Steps of Pittsburgh. Maybe some categories? Longest steps?

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Remember transit Tuesday?

A regular Tuesday post on transit was once a staple here, have not had much to say in awhile..  But back  when I did have a regular Transit Tuesday post, the transit vision for the county was still semi-officially embodied in the illustration below. So not that long ago really. Is any of this vision left? With the exception on one spur of BRT being worked on, is any of this vision even being mentioned in passing. Seriously, any of it?

But we have moved on past Maglev.. I think? That only took 30 years of $$$  This reminds me it is about time for an AVRR story in the news. 

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Monday, March 24, 2014

En entendant data

We are waiting on county and MSA level data for 2013 to be released later this week.  So the big question is whether net migration into the Pittsburgh region is going to be positive for one more year.  Maybe not.  We have already learned the estimates at the state level and that trend looks like this.

So you see that net domestic outmigration from Pennsylvania nearly doubled between the 2011-12 period and 2012-2013 period. That is by definition a number that includes what is happening here. If I had to speculate, net domestic migration for the Pittsburgh region is going to awfully close to zero, or balanced flows in vs. flows out, but would not be surprised by a small negative number.  With small but positive net international migration (net international migration is virtually always positive) we might keep with the trend and be able to say more folks are moving in than moving out, but it will be close. Whether the region's total population is increasing is another story.  Natural population decline continues and will offset any small positive net migration into the region.  So the overall population change is going to be awfully close to zero. We might talk more about whether migration or population change is positive or negative, but really I suspect the overall characterization for both will be pretty even.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fracking the lede

So here is a headline from yesterday: Pennsylvania a leader in manufacturing job growth, mayors report findsNo reason to let any inconvenient data get it the way of that, at least as it regards to Pittsburgh. Here is the Pittsburgh trend in manufacturing employment.

The actual article is not as disingenuous as the title. The reporting is all about a report on "energy-intensive" industries with only a loose extrapolation to what is going on here. One line is this:
"Sectors showing potential for growth in Pittsburgh include fabricated metals manufacturing, with jobs expected to grow 1.4 percent annually to 16,606 by 2020," (emphasis added)

So that word 'potential' is awfully important in context there. Look again at the latest data, not a sign of any of that growth yet, at least not here. I know folks so want to believe, but we have not yet taken the big hits on that time series to be caused by the full and final layoffs at Horseheads among others. So the real headline in the very same article relevant to Pittsburgh is the line that says this:
"Employment in iron and steel is forecast to contract by 0.9 percent annually in Pittsburgh through 2020." (again emphasis added)
So the very report being reported on is saying that Pittsburgh's core manufacturing industry is predicted to decline steadily into the future is almost written off. That pessimistic forecast is likely even taking into account the positive and indirect impact being anticipated because of energy costs. Never has such a dour prediction been so lost in a headline. I think that is called burying the lede?

In fact... if you really need to see how unsupportable the jump is from growth in shale development to (local at the very least) manufacturing prognostication.  The very latest data dump has this for the recent employment trends by industry in Pittsburgh.  Check out the bookends of this chart, but at least note that local manufacturing employment is by far the laggard and at -2.3% job decline over the year, plummeting like a rock despite the relatively rapid growth in mining employment.  Pittsburgh manufacturing would have to expand by 25+% just to get back to the level of employment it had when the Renz well was first dropped. 

And to not be misled by the percentages.  The high % growth in mining and logging employment represents +600 jobs over the year. The manufacturing job loss in the region is -2,100 jobs over the same time.  So if you were a mfg worker looking to jump over to mining, there are a lot more of you than there are net new jobs, even if that is what is happening within the labor force.  I have a hypothesis that a lot of local jobs showing up in mining and logging are not exactly blue collar jobs, but a story for another day. 

By the way... was there any resolution to the debate over whether it is spelled fracking or fracing

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

One ping only please

Three folks who understand the miasmic nexus of health care, business and politics (and apparently socks) in Pittsburgh far better than the rest of us are Kris Mamula, Bill Toland and Jon Delano and all three were cavorting for a whole hour on PCN on Friday. You can watch a full hour of their discussion online.Probably the most complete (and calmest) primer you can get on the state of all such things presently.

Of course people will often ask me similar questions over what I think of all that is happening in the local heath care biz. It really is an unanswerable question. If forced, the only answer I have is that long ago provided by the genius of John Cleese and co.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Not carless 'burgh

Reading this story on carless households in the Wall Street Journal yesterday: Detroit's Broken Buses Vex a Broke City - Bankruptcy Means Cold Waits, Hot Tempers for Residents in Need of a Ride

My obvious compulsions forced me to look up comparable data for the city of Pittsburgh on carless households.  Unlike most of the cities cited in the WSJ article, the city of Pittsburgh appears to have had a decrease both in the total number of carless households, and also in the proportion of total households that are carless.  Goes against a lot of narratives I suppose, but what I compile from two years of data from the ACS:

Total households = 130,504
Carless households = 33,521
or 25.8%

Total households = 131,513
Carless households = 31,409
or 23.9%

Of course, the other counterintuitive factoid is that the household count is up.  Not by much, and probably not a significant difference.  The decrease in carless households is just a bit more than the margin or error and probably should not be written off. Impact of Port Authority route cuts? Big story across the nation is how much transit ridership has been going up over the last several years.  Here?

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Smart fellow that Fred Rogers

On this, the anniversary of Fred Rogers' birth in 1928, I just realized that he was smart enough to never himself infringe on the copyright of the Happy Birthday song.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Migration on my mind

Since going back like forever* in Pittsburgh there has been an annual wonkish obsession in this town.  I used to fight it and argue against over-interpreting each annual update of data, but let's go with the flow this cycle. The Census gnomes have recently announced when they will next release the latest round of population estimates for counties and metro areas and counties across the nation.  When? That will be a week from tomorrow when we learn data for 2013.

So break out your slide rules and strap in. It invariably generates a round of gnashing or guffawing , depending on what the data says. But what has the data been saying of late? I still encounter folks who just can't believe the basic factoid that more people are moving into the Pittsburgh region than are moving out. To be precise, net migration into the region is positive. We will the latest annual stats on estimated net migration, but also annual births and deaths, which if you add it all up gives an estimate for regional (and county) population growth or decline.

The thing that really is hard to believe for most is that we have already recorded 5** straight years of positive migration. We will learn next week is that trend has extended to a sixth straight year. That extend the streak to the middle of 2013.  If the trend extended to the present, we are almost through our 7th straight year.  I honestly have tried to parse  this out, but can't figure how far you have to go back in history for such an extended period of positive migration for Pittsburgh. Even when the region was last

Here is what the census has said about the trend in population migration impacting the Pittsburgh metro region. 

So Thursday next week.....  BRACE FOR COLLISION!


* 1997 is like forever for millennials, which I presume make up the modal readership here.

** There was no comparable data released for the 2009-2010 period which lead into the 2010 Census.  At one point the census folks briefly released a dataset which included all the intercensal years between 2000 and 2010, but it was retracted. Nonetheless, based on the trend and other data I infer that net migration for the missing year was positive as were the years both prior and subsequent.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

87 months... and counting

With the latest dump of regional labor force data today, the unemployment rate for the Pittsburgh region has dropped to 3/10ths of a percent to 6.0% for January 2014. We are now 87 months since the local unemployment rate has been higher than the national unemployment rate. So my relative unemployment metric now looks like this.

addendum. If you want another parse to the data today. Over last two months the regional unemployment rate has dropped 6/10ths of a percent.  That has not happened in 16 years.  If the answer is people dropping out of the labor force, then why is local labor force participation so high?

But as happens at the beginning of the year, lots of benchmark revisions of past data as well.

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