Friday, July 06, 2007


Down in Richmond Virginia they are asking: What is the Richmond 'region'? Do we have an answer for ourselves? Just recently, Sam at Antirust points to a recent editorial from Cleveland on the general topic of regionalism. While I may be in agreement with Sam that there are some difficult issues, he boils it all down to a zero-sum redistribution question. I don't really think that is is the point. But the Cleveland editorial does something that we do here a lot, i.e. talk about regionalism in some vague ethereal way. We can learn a lot by what regionalism means by at least asking the question: What is the Pittsburgh Region?

A news blurb last week from the Wheeling News Register highlights how hard the question is here. The story mentions the impact of people moving towards them from Pittsburgh. They have a quote mentioning how it's actually a shorter commute from Wheeling into Pittsburgh than from many communities in the Pittsburgh region. That is true, yet we rarely talk about Weirton or Weirton as being part of the Pittsburgh Region. It is not part of the seven county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area(MSA), nor is it part of the 10 county Southwestern Pennsylvania region that is often used as a benchmark.

I am by far not the first person to ask what defines the Pittsburgh region? The Bureau of Economic Analysis has for some time defined the Pittsburgh Economic area as 19 counties. Some know that John Craig, former editor of the Post-Gazette, focuses on this question. His vision is a Pittsburgh region defined as 22 counties and stretching into both Ohio and West Virginia. (that requires an obligatory plug for the PittsburghToday project that is attempting to operationalize that definition.)

Are their further connection even further afield? I will not even begin to address the Pittsburgh Manifesto/Diaspora concept that thinks of a virtual Pittsburgh everywhere. How about Pittsburgh's connection to Washington, DC? That may be far away, but I am pretty sure there are already at least some impacts of Washington, DC regional growth beginning to push up against the southwestern edges of the Pittsburgh region. The Pittsburgh-DC connection may sound far fetched but I actually thought of this post by noticing in the logs for this site that someone actually found this recent post via a google search "commuting between Pittsburgh and DC". Less talked about, but the interconnections with Cleveland (aka Cleveburgh) are already real enough.

Likewise, connections into West Virgina, including the Weirton/Wheeling/Steubenville areas, but also into Morgantown, which is one of the faster growing areas near Pittsburgh. If you take an even bigger view, it has come into vogue again to talk about the broad Great Lakes region, although some have realized it's importance for some time.

Other definitions of the region: Nature does not feel obliged to respect artificial political boundaries, and the Pittsburgh region's watershed has its own ideas of what defines the region. Finally, something that has always puzzled me. Why do we never mention Canada, in particular our immediate neighbor Ontario to the north, when discussing these types of broad regional issues? A different country for sure, but it is only a few hours north of here. If there is no other connection, I know more than a few Pittsburghers who have gone to college in Canada. But Canada is also one of the largest trading partners with Pennsylvania. It seems like we should pay attention a little more to the Great White North. We once did. Not long ago Pittsburgher Adolph Schmidt was actually the ambassador to Canada.

Even if we come up with a definition, it will not be a static definition. Even the most commonly used Pittsburgh MSA definition is not static. Currently the MSA is made up of seven counties, but has been fewer counties in the past and will likely soon be refined to include Indiana County as number 8.

So my answer is of course a non-answer. There is no one definition that meets all needs, but we need to talk more about what the different versions of the region could be if we ever want to move from vague generalities to practical decisionmaking.


Blogger Schultz said...

Sid - two things. First, I think a Cleveland - Pittsburgh alliance would be a good thing for both cities but because of NFL football it would never work. Isn't that sad?

Also, regarding Pittsburgh to DC commute. I did that one day a week when I worked down in Northern VA for a year. Talk about a long work day. I think MAGLEV trains would make commuting to DC and other nearby cities such as Columbus, Cleveland, and Philadelphia reasonable. It will also boost the growth prospects of places like Pittsburgh since those who have to relocate to DC or Philly for jobs could work those jobs while staying put in the burgh. Unfortunately our government is in love with highways which means by the time we see a network of MAGLEV rails we will be about 50 to 100 years behind other nations that use high speed trains.

Friday, July 06, 2007 9:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen a few people mention the imminent inclusion of Indiana County into the PGH MSA... but I find it to be far-fetched as this 90k person county is far removed from the heavily-populated portions of the metro and its population and economy are centered in and around the City of Indiana, located in the middle of the county... with poor transportation connections to the City of Pittsburgh or most other major nodes within the MSA. Do you have any data (commuting trends) that would suggest why Indiana County would enter the MSA? I would think Weirton-Steubenville would join our CSA before Indiana County would join our MSA (or CSA). Consolidated Metro Area is a slightly broader defination that can include neighboring MSAs or Micropolitans. Pittsburgh's CSA includes Lawrence County (New Castle).

Monday, July 09, 2007 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think pretty much all of West Virgina north of Charleston is part of the Pittsburgh region or at least the overall economic and cultural sphere of the city. I grew up in Beaver County PA and we always considered WV part of the Pittsburgh area. We were always shopping there and going to the doctor there and such.

Saturday, October 13, 2007 1:09:00 AM  
Blogger john b said...

Great post, I am a ex-burgher who feels that what my now neighbors have done in the sunbelt (west and south) is what Pittsburgh should do. Maybe not with Cleveland just yet. Please all check out the "Pittsburgh Tri-State" article on Wikipedia, I created it after reading how big ad guys and money managers on the coasts never thought that Pittsburgh had anything to do with Ohio, West Virginia or Maryland always thinking of us as something like Scranton or something on the coast.

One thing you left out is followed by Wall Street, telcom, and media buys is the DESIGNATED MARKET AREA defined by Neilsen. You would be amazed how many either directly or by proxy rely on this antiquatedly defined info to rank a city's region.

Would love all here to contribute to the wiki page as well!

Saturday, February 02, 2008 1:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would think at least Hancock, Brooke, and Ohio Counties in West Virginia would be considered part of Pittsburgh Metro area. Many people from these Counties commute to Allegheny County.

Saturday, March 28, 2015 11:01:00 AM  
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