On several other blogs I have been involved in some barfights relating urban issues like plans for downtown development, transportation and sprawl as they relate to Pittsburgh. I am sort of a newcomer, but am struck by how little evidence is presented for positions. And, I have to admit that I am not going to be providing massive charts here either. I think that I am close enough to having my facts straight and am eager for good data. This January 2006, PG article gives at least a decent backround for discussion. ( and also this article) Some of this data comes from the 2000 census so it is a bit stale ( In NY , which has changed so fast that data is pretty worthless ) but unless there have been some big changes it helps frame the conversation.
Most of the debate on the blogs is coming from people who endlessly repeat that Pittsburgh's big problem is jobs, jobs, jobs, and that the problems the city has been having relate to job losses. That article shows that this is not too accurate. The city of Pittsburgh, remains a major employment center in the region and in fact seems to have actually gained jobs during the 1990's owing to a large extent from strong growth in the medical and educational sector. What it has lost primarily is residents. I think that the article says that the city's population drop accounts for 98% of the loss in regional population.
This reinforces my point that the city of Pittsburgh has been acting as a non profit provider of jobs and amenities to a population that now increasingly lives out of the city limits. This is not something that can be sustained without some major changes- either in repopulating the city or somehow changing the distribution of funds/ taxes in the region.
The most extreme example of this type of urban model would be Washington D.C.-- a city that ( is forced ) to act as the central employment hub in the region and yet seems to get so little for it. It is not a pretty or sustainable road to be on. Change has to start happening fast. Many of the largest employers in town are hospitals or universities that are not likely to move much, but the other employers may start to be pressured by these population trends. They know where thier employees live and office space is often cheaper out of town.