Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pittsburgh is doomed

h/t to Jim R. for catching this intense bit of dismalness on the future of Pittsburgh from the Washington Monthly article Terminal Sickness, subtitled (How a thirty-year-old policy of deregulation is slowly killing America’s airline system—and taking down Cincinnati, Memphis, and St. Louis with it.).  The money quote is below. 

Before you read I will pose my leading question up front in case you don't get to the end of this. Isn't the real lesson in all of this that the past promised economic impact of the airport on regional economic growth wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I mean, the future is not dismal now that flights are declining any more than the future was assured because of the flights USAirways once put in place. There was once a time not long ago that all economic development stories in the region were centered around rationalizing the massive investment in the airport's new terminal in the 1990's. It was all airport or bust and no talking point was left behind for more than a decade.

In fact, things are picking up for Pittsburgh ever more as the actual number of flights originating at the Pittsburgh international airport has plummeted... a trend that does not seem to be turning around at all. Realize that most of the USAirways flights we lost went away almost a decade ago. So that isn't to imply loss of flights is good in any causal way, but it sure disputes the argument literally everyone in town agreed worked the other way.. even though that argument was always based on minimal (or no) research backing it up anyway.

Anyway. You have to read this snippet (emphasis added):
Pittsburgh is another example of a major city whose culture and economy is increasingly determined not by its underlying fundamentals but by the dictates of an ever more concentrated, yet failing, airline industry. After it lost most of its steel industry in the 1970s, the city did everything the apostles of the so-called new economy said must be done to compete in the emerging global economy. When the city played host to the G-20 Summit in 2009, President Obama hailed Pittsburgh’s transformation “from a city of steel to a center for high-tech innovation—including green technology, education and training, and research and development.” That same year Forbes named Pittsburgh one of America’s best cities for job growth, while the Economist lauded its cosmopolitan cultural amenities, such as the topflight Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Opera.

But Pittsburgh’s renewal as a vibrant, creative, international city is now in doubt, due to the downscaling of its international airport, which now stands largely empty. Pittsburgh International was able to offer more than 600 daily nonstop flights after the city went deeply into debt to turn it into a showcase during the 1990s. But when US Airways merged with America West and concentrated its hub operations in Philadelphia and Charlotte, Pittsburgh service tumbled. US Airways’s daily flights have plunged from 542 to sixty-eight, causing the shuttering of half the gates at the airport as well as sections of two concourses.

I still say the solution here is to lease one of those unused concourses to the Mattress Factory. I bet they could retain some aspiring Christo with some ideas on how to use the space. See. problem solved. Take that creative class!

Wait.. wait..  Let's be fair.  A competition.  One concourse to the Mattess Factory.  One for the Warhol.  Still leaves one for the Carnegie  (let's be honest, there is only enough business out there to use one of the concourses as it is.  They spread it out some just because it would look bad otherwise.).


Blogger Vannevar said...

On the same topic:

And as a special treat, extra NS points for those who hover their mouse over the * character to see the alt-text.

Saturday, March 17, 2012 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who researched the Washington Monthly article? They say 2 daily PIT to Washington flights. I count 5 USAirways flights to DCA; 4 United flights to IAD; and 4 Southwest flights to BWI.

Saturday, March 17, 2012 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

and points for referencing Kondratiev waves>>>

Saturday, March 17, 2012 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex B. said...

The concept of the midfield airport and the runways were designed much earlier. When working on a "what will the Airport do for me" study for Beaver county I read the designs in a study dated 1978.

The runways were put into place long before the midfield terminal was built. Federal dollars mostly, but the other shoe didn't drop till the the terminal itself was built.

Saturday, March 17, 2012 10:06:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I think I mentioned this at Vannevar's, but my first conference paper was on Kondratiev waves on how they relate to US foreign policy. Kondratiev got the gulag for some reason or other.

Saturday, March 17, 2012 10:38:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

He's been rehabilitated since the 80's, if anybody is worried that I crossed the Central Committee.

Saturday, March 17, 2012 10:57:00 PM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

But if we start branding / re-purposing the concourses, can we still track down the voice actress who recorded our original, "This transport is departing for concourses A, B, C, D ... and E." I feel badly she has never yet had anything more illuminating to say.

Saturday, March 17, 2012 11:07:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

The moving-walkway-is-coming-to-an-end guy has it worse. That might be at O'Hare, not here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

on midfield terminal.. I think the concept may go back further than that.. But as a focus of economic development policy in the region you have to go look at all the public effort to get it funded from the early 1980's (I did say 90s there, but we are talking mid 80s for that) through when it was built. There is a reason it is named for Foerester because he pushed the case for the Federal and State money that made it happen and prioritized that effort over a lot of other things. I've been cataloging all the promises made over that period with regards to the economic development that would happen as a result of that investment. That was a theme and priority through the 1990s. It is quite a long story.

Sunday, March 18, 2012 7:16:00 AM  
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