Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Turnpike Runs Through It

Other than I don't think my suggested title (above) fit their space, the PG has again humored my inkified pontification. 

I give you...... Cleveburgh!  If you have problems with the name, it could also be considered the Greater Youngstown Metropolitan Area.

For today though.....  In a world of perfect information, I would love to see the turpike traffic on days the Steelers play in Cleveland and compare it to other Sundays.


Anonymous BrianTH said...

I agree Cleveburgh already exists in some sense--so I guess the interesting question is what is it, and what should it aspire to be.

To geek out on definitions for a moment: it likely isn't and can't be (for the forseeable future) a metropolitan area--metropolitan areas have a single core urbanized area with the outlying areas commuting into that central area.

But a "combined statistical area" is a better potential fit: adjacent metropolitan/micropolitan areas can be combined together if there is enough employment interchange between them--and I don't think that has to be to the core urbanized areas in question. Baltimore and Washington are a notable nearby example of two MSAs that share a CSA. Interestingly, with over 25% employment interchange, adjacent MSAs are automatically formed into a CSA, but with 15-25% interchange, I believe it is up to the relevant congressional delegations.

The Pittsburgh MSA and Cleveland MSA are already part of CSAs--Pittsburgh adds New Castle, and Cleveland adds Akron and Ashtabula. In between is the Youngstown CSA, which adds Columbiana to the Youngstown MSA. That is pretty much all of Cleveburgh, and forms a continuous chain of three CSAs. So one way to put the question is what would it take to collapse this all into one big CSA.

Partially that is a definitional question--if Youngstown could qualify for inclusion in both the Pittsburgh and Cleveland CSAs, would that be enough to combine them all into one big CSA? Partially it may be a matter of employment facts--what is the current employment interchange between these CSAs? What are the trends? How would they be affected by, say, a faster train from Cleveland to Pittsburgh via Youngstown?

And finally, there may be a political question--would the respective congressional delegations sign onto a mega-CSA designation if it was in the 15-25 range?

Anyway, that is one way to frame some of these questions.

Sunday, January 02, 2011 8:50:00 AM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

I'm offended first of all on William Pitt's behalf, as would be his descendants. Burgh just means "town" and everyone knows it (even with the H). It sounds like Moses Cleaveland led an interesting life, but he didn't preside over the organized colonization and wresting of a continent from several competing cultures. That's where Pittsburgh came in; Cleaveland found his to be an okay spot for a city (and it turned out to be famously insalubrious at that) whereas Washington here encountered all the lavishings of nature but also a must-FORTIFY situation.

I'm all for pooling together resources and energies with Cleveland for jointly attracting adventures and investments to our shared "region" -- because anyone responding to that message (provided they have half a brain) will wind up respectfully throwing in on the Pittsburgh half.

The ideal name of this collaborative entity would connote that inevitable Batman-and-Robin relationship -- only in a way that Clevelanders would be too dumb to notice at first.

Sunday, January 02, 2011 8:51:00 AM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

In other words, Pittsland.

Sunday, January 02, 2011 8:55:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Incidentally, I've got the hypothetical Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh CSA at about 6 million people--it would be roughly on a par with the current #9 (Houston) and #10 (Atlanta).

Sunday, January 02, 2011 9:09:00 AM  
Blogger The Urbanophile said...

Nice article, Chris.

Sunday, January 02, 2011 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Yes, good article. I propose Erie-Pitts for the region's name.

Sunday, January 02, 2011 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

I like the inclusion of Youngstown, OH (as a nod all the more modest units) and think just calling it "CYP" or "the CYP" has some panache.

Sunday, January 02, 2011 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

Sounds to to me that Cleveburgh or Pittsland is actually the urban core of the state of Gaseous. Add in Buffalo and Charleston as satellite communities within that state.

That would encompass a state with all the same history and concerns. They are all old industrial centers that were based on steel, coal, limestone, and heavy industry that are now transiting to "the new economy."

Good to see my idea gaining traction!

Sunday, January 02, 2011 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Urbanophile.. thx.

BrianTH: 6,027,952

Bram: just consider what fodder it would open up for blogging. Didn't they just indict a Cuyahoga County commissioner?

and Wiz is by far the most consistent blogger in the entire world. Something to be said for that. I swear you pretty much just suggested naming the region Gasland though. The PR folks might find a little problem with that.

Sunday, January 02, 2011 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

If I could see just one major city named "Gaseous Pitts," I'd feel at lot better about our society.

Sunday, January 02, 2011 3:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just curious: Why does Cleveburgh not include Erie?

Sunday, January 02, 2011 3:42:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

parsimony I suppose

Sunday, January 02, 2011 4:03:00 PM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...


Did your article also run the the Cleveburgh Plain Dealer? Or the Plain-Gazette...or the Post-Dealer. If not, submit it to the Plain Dealer editors as it is very good for all to consider.

And I see that you mentioned the Power of 32 group in the paper version in the PG. I attended one of their seminars and suggested they go for the Power of 150 and add in all of West Virginia, western New York, and a bit of western Maryland.

That entire region has all the same history and interests and each area is overshadowed by larger parts of their states. Combining their efforts could be very helpful.

And gaseous State was the original as Gasland has a bit of a bad reputation.

Sunday, January 02, 2011 4:14:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

You know.. when I first thought of the oped I wanted to get some folks I know in Cleveland and Youngstown to co-write something that we would then place simultaneously in the PD and Vindy as well as the PG... but just not something I had time to work out and then the timing with the Browns game caught up so I figured it was a 2nd best outcome to have it run as it did. So we think alike eh Wiz?

Sunday, January 02, 2011 4:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve H said...

No offense Chris but this would just double down on the failed policies that have run all of these regions into the ground. Scale only works if it comes with some momentum and creativity and let's be honest - none of these regions have claim to this. We need to find sme way to get joined at the hip with Charlotte or Houston or Atlanta - they could steer us in the right direction.

The fix for Pittsburgh has not changed - we need a pro-business, low regulatory approach to governing. If successful, this leads to an increase in the tax base and population and some breathing room to work our way out of 75+ years of really poor leadershp. This will take time and I'm currently not bullish there is leadership out there who can get us over the hump. One needs faith though that better days are ahead...

Monday, January 03, 2011 9:02:00 AM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

After yesterday, I doubt anyone in Cleveland will take your calls for a month. But I bet the Vindy would run it as it places them in the center of that semi-metropolis and would benfit them greatly. Perhaps you should contact Bertram D'Souza.

Personally, I would also contact the media in Buffalo and Charleston. Imagine the power if we get that whole area working together. I'll have to do some research and see how many Congressional districts that would entail.

I know my dream of the Gaseous state or West Sylvania is unrealistic. In fact, I would propose it only as leverage to get more attention to the issues they face. But that area joined in a working partnership could have dramatic impact.

Monday, January 03, 2011 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

joined at the hip with Charlotte or Houston or Atlanta

I always wonder about folks who argue Houston as a model for Pittsburgh, especially on these scale issue. Houston has plenipotentiary rights to absorb its own suburbs at will, no need to ask what the suburbs think. and they have some extraterritorial rights over their suburbs for land use as well. Both have a large impact on how successful Houston has been able to manage it's finances compared to Pittsburgh. Are you suggesting similar capacity for Pittsburgh (or Cleveland?).

As for Charlotte... beyond the fact that it really is not a great comparison for a host of reasons.. have you seen the economy down there of late?

Monday, January 03, 2011 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Even in Ohio, the city you work in gets part of your income tax, even if you live in the suburbs. At least Columbus worked like that, so I'd guess Cleveland works the same.

Monday, January 03, 2011 1:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve H said...


I lived in Houston for many years and yes, annexation is a tool for the city's growth. That said, the mindset is first and foremost on creating a dynamic business environment that drives job creation and ultimately more population growth. It is not a coincidence that the state's and cities with the most job and income growth also have the lowest taxes and regulations. Annexation may add to a city's population growth, but it can't fix a regional problem which is what we have here. The Houston MSA is booming, with or without annexation.

And yes, though Charlotte may be a bit down currently, does anyone really think in 3 years it won't be cleaning our clock again in both job and population growth? It is not weighed down by decades of high tax and regulatory oversight and will thus pivot quite nicely back to its long term growth model. It (and also Houston and Atlanta) enjoy effective leadership in city/regonal government which remains key to long term success. We don't have any of the above.

Monday, January 03, 2011 2:11:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

you can't really make light of Houston's annexation power like that.. liberally used over the last 70 years that Pittsburgh has not been able to grow except for some minute exceptions. Consider that all of Pittsburgh's current financial problems would be gone if it could say take over Fox Chapel tomorrow...

I'm not suggesting it makes sense, but Houston's sounder financial shape compared to Pittsburgh is far more a result of that than ranting against amorphous leadership. Maybe we could use Houston's more effective leadership (as you say) to merge everything around here and see where we stand? I don't think anyone at all around here wants that.

Atlanta? Mike M. points out an editorial today on the sorry state of Atlanta's public pension system. and they didn't see their basic industry disappear anywhere near the extent as here.

Monday, January 03, 2011 2:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve H said...

But at least Atlanta's mayor is driving to change their broken pension system - I did see that article. Has Luke ever once recommended we move to Defined Contributions for all new hires or in any way work to reduce the currently unsustainable pension levels? I don't think so. He showed zero leadership with the recent pension parking fiasco which only kicks the can down the road. At least the Atlanta mayor is thinking outside the box. Ravenstahl is too beholden to the public sector and he simply lacks the ability to honestly broker a deal that's best for the community, not just the special interests.

Folks might not like Atlanta (I'm no big fan) but you've got to credit what they have built down there over the past 50 years - pretty amazing.

Monday, January 03, 2011 3:29:00 PM  
Anonymous johnnyg said...

I honestly think that it is easy for suburbanites like myself who enter and leave the city every day for work to go "tsk, tsk" about the city's problems, yet not really have to deal with them. Not living in the city divorces one, I feel, from a sense of shared responsiblity for its successes and failures.

I don't like the idea of a commuter tax because it is the essence of taxation without representation--though, for all intents and purposes, that *is* what the parking tax is. Plus, look at how well it has worked out for Ohio!

And I'm not sure that annexation is the right answer, either. But Chris is right that annexation has certainly allowed places like Dallas, Houston, and Phoenix to grow exponentially. Without that growth, "old" Phoenix, Dallas and Houston would likely be on life support.

I wouldn't want to be Charlotte right now. Both its major industries--banking and auto racing--are hurting big time right now. Both were due more to the ambitions of a few just-crazy-enough individualistic business leaders than any careful regional planning or tax policy. And ask any Carolinian about the textile and furniture industries--key pre-recession drivers of growth, too. That said, in addition to perceived lower taxes, Charlotte also enjoys strong regional government and a weak mayor/strong city manager form of government. It may be something to look at.

Atlanta. Geez. Combine good climate, the economic, cultural and educational heart of the "new" South, significant federal spending thanks to the CDC and Georgia Tech, and the lack of any significant industrial collapse with no urban planning and you have the daily 24/7 traffic jam called the Atlanta metro area. I have friends who transferred to NYC and LA to escape Atlanta traffic!

Anyway, pretty much everyone cares deeply about our sports teams--especially the Steelers. Too bad we don't care equally about the shared success of our region.

Monday, January 03, 2011 3:34:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

For sake of argument I plugged in 'ravenstahl and "defined benefit"' into the PG search engine... if I could ever get anything meaningful back from the trib search engine I would try there as well.

No comment on the "enron by the sea" article today:

SD.. 7 of last 40 years in R hands in a pretty strong mayor system.

These problems are just not as simple as most like to believe. or what I think is going on is folks confusing cause and effect.

Monday, January 03, 2011 3:39:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

whoops.. except for 7 of last 40 years is what that should read.

Monday, January 03, 2011 3:41:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

and it turns out.. Cleveland Plain-Dealer is likely to run the piece as well. Must have been that note from the Wiz that got them interested.

Monday, January 03, 2011 6:56:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

All.. I've decided that Steve H. is really just here to bait me or others. Turns out the Houston public pension system is far more lucrative than anything any City of Pittsburgh pensioner gets, by far. Something like 90% of salary at 25 years of work PLUS (and this is the real difference) 4% annual cost of living increases.

So he is really here to prod me to point that out. So I did. I won't mention the 2 Billion dollar unfunded liability in Houston either. Not as big as our proportionally.. but hey, when you are talking billions who cares.

Monday, January 03, 2011 8:33:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Since I am also subject to prodding . . .

As many before me have noted, other cities supposedly being destroyed by high taxes and overly intrusive regulations actually have much higher per capita income and per capita productivity than cities like Houston. Cities like Houston do in fact have relatively rapid population growth, but it turns out that is almost entirely attributable to the availablity of cheap land suitable for cheap developments.

So should Pittsburgh seek to follow the Houston model? I say a definitive "no". Why should we favor quantity over quality? Who, besides perhaps real estate developers, actually benefits from that?

To be sure, Pittsburgh has recently been on a no-growth model, which is probably not sustainable. But a slow-growth model that is associated with higher per capita incomes and higher per capita productivity seems to me like the way to go.

Monday, January 03, 2011 9:55:00 PM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

Houston's lower per capita stats may be a function of continuously annexing out lying parcels of land. Some of these cities sprawl all the way out to the country side.

But I do agree with Chris that being able to annex new areas gives other cities a huge advantage. Not only does it expand their tax base but also allows for better planning and land use. But the biggest advantage may be in the reduction of the number of municipalities reduces redundancies in government like having twelve Chiefs of Police, and it greatly reduces red tape and its inherent delays to development.

Imagine wanting to expand a business or build a major office development near Pittsburgh. How many municipalities and authorities do you need to get permission to expand water, sewer, access roads, power lines, communications, and more. It takes a couple of years to get through all the red tape in Pa but often just six months in southern cities.

And Chris; my fee for getting the Plain Dealer to run your piece is equal to the percentage of my gas lease you wanted.

Strange how that worked out!

Monday, January 03, 2011 10:24:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

The per capita statistics I was thinking of are for metro areas, so the boundaries of the central city shouldn't have any direct impact. But the hypothesis that annexation has led to regulatory and subsidy policies that have encouraged rapid, cheap development in the Houston area strikes me as plausible. Again, though, I don't see that as a desirable model for Pittsburgh.

That said, I wouldn't be opposed to some streamlining of relevant policy-making in the PIttsburgh area. But City-County merger may be thinking too small. I'd suggest looking instead at the Metro model used in the Portland area (Metro is a directly-elected regional body with authority over regional land-use and transportation policy).

Tuesday, January 04, 2011 8:27:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Oh, by the way, I was just reading about the massive state budget crisis in Texas. Because the legislature has committed itself to no revenue increases, it looks like Texas may have to slash its education and health spending (the only major categories left in the state budget), and may even eliminate Medicaid. Given how Texas has performed in education and health measures, this strikes me as terrible news for the state.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011 8:29:00 AM  
Anonymous johnnyg said...

The Wiz said . . .

Imagine wanting to expand a business or build a major office development near Pittsburgh. How many municipalities and authorities do you need to get permission to expand water, sewer, access roads, power lines, communications, and more.


Wiz, you perhaps inadvertently just made Chris' point. Where has such development occurred in Pittsburgh? Why, at the fringes of the metro area called Cranberry, North Fayette, Southpointe, et cetera, where local land use regulation is limited and land is cheap.

What is the difference between here and Houston, Phoenix, et al?

In those cities, state law allows the city to annex the new fringe development and obtain the benefit of the new tax revenues generated by the improved land. Here, the benefits of that development inure to the local government (municipality and county). That is a huge advantage those cities have.

Don't believe it? Once, just for fun, I figured that the city of Phoenix geographically covers a land area roughly the size of the distance from Zelienople to Washington, and Moon to Murrysville--and it continues to grow! Imagine that municipality in Western PA under one central government.

And, to add insult to injury, I the state taxpayer subsidize such development in Pennsylvania with, at a minimum, new roads and interchange projects.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011 9:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Steve H said...


I'm probably not going to win a debate with you on the goodness of pension plans and government policy - that's your domain. My point regarding successful sunbelt cities is that they have created an environment and expectation of success. This success breeds more success.

Simply joining two "low to no" growth metro areas together as you recommend will do nothing to change the mind-set and attitude of "Cleveburgh". It will still be a metro area weighed down by a burdensone regulatory environment and heavy handed government that believes its role is to "solve our problems". I simply don't subscribe to that philosophy. Government's in more dynamic, newer cities tend to take a back seat to business and commerce. Those that don't (NY, LA, Chicago, etc.) have the scale and world class perception to get away with it (at least for now). I have seen nothing of the governing class in this region that leads me to believe it can lead this region out of its long term holding pattern. At what stage do you say "let's change our tune and try something significantly different?" - to me ~50 years is long enough. We're so beholden to our established way of doing things here that we only trim around the edges. Why not go long?

And on that Houston penison plan issue you brought up, I would wager that per capita headcount per city employee is 2x what it is here. If correct, what's keeping us from being that efficient?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...


not inadvertent, that was my point and I thought of using Cranberry et al as examples but I opted to be concise.

Cranberry has succeeded partly because it is out of Allegheny Co and has lower taxes but also because it is a township without 15 or 20 municipalities to muddy the picture. Makes it much easier, cheaper, and quicker to get approvals. And any reasonable proposal gets approvals whereas the success rate of proposals within Allegheny Co is probably substantially lower.

Though as Cranberry has grown it is losing some of those advantages.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

I couldn't find employment numbers, but I did find out that the City of Houston had a 2010 budget of about $4.1 billion, which works out to around $1800 per resident. The City of Pittsburgh had about a $450 million budget, which works out to around $1500 per resident.

And again, cities like Houston are particularly "dynamic" only in the sense of population growth. What exactly is so great about a rapidly growing population, if it isn't associated with better per capita numbers?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011 1:01:00 PM  
Anonymous johnnyg said...

Come on, Wiz, that's apples and oranges. Point me to systematic, successful developments in inner Houston or Phoenix that weren't complex or didn't require subsidies. Development on greenfields where government hasn't dealt with it before is always cheaper that brownfields with possible legacy costs. Your comparison just isn't fair.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011 1:13:00 PM  

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