Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Get on the bus, Gus

I think Millcraft Industries should stick to Washington County, because they obviously have no respect for cities, nor any idea how they work:

Washington County developer would like to remove hundreds of Port Authority buses from Fifth Avenue as part of its plan to revitalize the Fifth and Forbes retail corridor Downtown.

Millcraft Industries Inc. fears that smog from the buses, loitering in front of buildings, and traffic congestion could hinder its plans for residential and retail development on Fifth, one of the main bus corridors through Downtown.

"It seems to be kind of a dangerous situation right now, especially since we're going to have more people, more shoppers, on the street," said Lucas Piatt, Millcraft vice president of real estate.

Most of the reasons why this is a horrible idea are spelled out in the article. Let me add that city neighborhoods need a diversity of people, present for different purposes, at different times of the day, using the streets and sidewalks, in order to thrive. Bus riders add to this diversity.

But Millcraft apparently has about as much regard for diversity as a country club. And speaking of diversity, banning buses from the Fifth and Forbes corridor would make it less convenient for the residents of the Hill District to shop there. Hey, wait, aren't a majority of Hill residents black? I don't mean to suggest this proposal is racist, but--Oh, wait, actually, that's exactly what I mean to suggest.

Actually, racist probably is the wrong word. Elitist is a better one. Millcraft, and its supporters in City Hall, want a Downtown populated by rich people sipping lattes and shopping at Crate and Barrel or whatever upscale chain they can bamboozle or bribe into coming here. As for the rest of us, we can pretty much pound sand.


Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

hey, i agree with you. i grew up here when fifth avenue was crowded with cars, trucks, buses, and streetcars from dawn to dusk. and, oh yeah, there were throngs of people on the street too (well, the sidewalks). i was just trying to say that why not ban all noxious smells by taking a silly idea to its silly conclusion. what millcraft is trying to do is what so many suburban plans do when they make rules about everything about what type of mailbox you can have, whether you can ever park a car in your driveway, where you can put a kid's trampoline, how often you must mow your lawn. sure, i'd like to never encounter anything unpleasant. but unless those annoyances or unsightly people pose a threat to others, i don't think there's much that can be done about it. all millcraft has to do is to make sure that its property and those around it sell fabrege instead of fubu — if that's the "element" the company might be referring to. All that being said, most of the merchants on fifth avenue do seem a bit on the shaky side. Also, i have no problem with building owners forcing out retailers that don't seem to "fit" with what will be an upscale residential set. After all, no one complained when the Cultural Trust bought out or raised the rents to the extreme for the porn places on liberty and penn.

i don't agree with the "smog is part of city life," because then so is littering, graffiti and pissing on the sides of buildings. yes, i know that those things are the result of bad behavior and smog isn't. but it would probably be easier to get rid of bus smells than the people who have no regard for others property.

but as i said, it's a silly idea. I'm amazed it saw the light of day.

9:02 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...


I know you're a sincere guy and want to see what's best for the city. so do i. but if downtown ends up being an "elitist" place "populated by rich people sipping lattes and shopping at Crate and Barrel or whatever upscale chain they can bamboozle or bribe into coming here....(and) the rest of us, we can pretty much pound sand..." does it matter?

I can't afford to live in any of the $400,000 pre-fab boxes in the developments near my neighborhood. Likewise, I've never seen anything close to "affordable" housing in Sewickley Heights. And that's fine. I can't afford a Jaguar either. That's why I live in Avalon and drive a Toyota.

At one time, I really wanted to go to Columbia or NYU, but guess what? I coudn't afford it. So a combination of CCAC and Pitt worked out fine.

If I really thought about it, I'd think they were elitist subdivisions and schools that didn't want my ilk.

Yes, i know that Millcraft will probably get some tax breaks or subsidies, but so do the McMansion plans near me...and everyone knows the story on universities and their paltry contributions to the tax coffers. (while school presidents and coaches make salaries in the hundreds of thousand and even millions of dollars).

If a developer can sell out a downtown building full of lofts and condos for $300,000 to $1 million or more, why should the company sell the same units for $100,000 or less?

There are no laws or even moral obligations on the part of anyone requiring downtown to be socioeconomically diverse. If rich people are living in the Golden Triangle, the businesses that cater to their tastes will open. If/when the condos go empty, prices will come down. And more middle of the income road operations will serve the less upscale crowd that moves in. Personally, I'm tired of seeing every other storefront on 5th with a cellphone/nail and tanning salon/convenience store/urban wear operation in it. Not to mention the empty spaces. I agree that all Crate and Barrel and A&F outlets is boring. But when was the last time you had any desire or reason to shop on Fifth Avenue?

Maybe the Millcraft attitude reeks of elitism. But you can pick up that scent in Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair, Fox Chapel and a couple other neighborhoods and unversities around here. We'll have to learn to live with — or outside of — that socially rarified stench.

12:16 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

As someone who does drink lattes--I may have slipped into cliche, but the dog was bugging me and "American Idol" was on--I have no problem with neighborhoods that become wealthy enclaves. I used to live in Mt. Lebanon and greatly enjoyed it. I enjoy spending time in Shadyside and would happily live there. I'm not one to get worked up about gentrification.

I do have a problem, however, when government uses its powers to exclude a certain class of individuals from living in a neighborhood or usings its assets. This is particularly odious because Downtown is a neighborhood that serves many different constituencies--currently, thousands of people work there everyday (and use it as a transfer point to going to jobs in other parts of town) and their lives would be made more difficult, under this proposal, in order to please hypothetical shoppers and residents who at this point do not exist.

I also think that this is a recipe for failure. I'd like to think I'm a pragmatist, and if I believed the likelihood of success was great, I'd be more sympathetic.

No, I don't have much desire to shop on Fifth Avenue. But I believe that this city's intervention has hastened the decline of the Downtown shopping district, and while the current spate of plans are better than what we were treated under the Murphy administration, I still worry we are heading in the wrong direction.

1:00 PM

Blogger Sherry Pasquarello said...


7:46 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Wow, I didn't catch that. I'm not one for political correctness, and I'd like to think I have a pretty healthy--sometimes sick--sense of humor, but I'm going to have to delete that comment Sean. My name is on this blog, and I bear responsibility for what appears on it.

10:16 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

Ah, my first and last names don't reveal it....but i'm 50 percent Italian...my mother's maiden name was ghiradotti. didn't mean to slander anyone. my middle name is domenic. sherry please accept my apologies. same for you JP.

12:15 AM

Blogger Maria said...

Even the Upper East Side of Manhattan has bus stops -- how else are the maids and nannies expected to get to work?

Seriously, either no traffic or all traffic should be allowed.

We cannot have a gated community in the middle of this city or any other -- move out to the suburbs if you want that.

5:56 AM

Blogger Sherry Pasquarello said...

hi, that's ok, i thought maybe you were watching too much HBO. i'm 1/2 as well, but raised with my gradparents, saw them every day of my life. they were calbrese. my grandfather came here at 15 worked 50 years in the steel mill. they were very special, especially my grandfather. the other 1/2 of me is english in origin, cornwall.
i just pick up on small things. you'd be surpised that even now people will say things about italians, irish, polish. not in a teasing friendy way. friendly doesn't bother me and everyone makes a mistake now and then. i do, so not problem, just wanted to point it out before someone might read and get the wrong idea. thanks much. ; )

7:55 AM

Blogger Mark Rauterkus said...

I looked at the silver in the clouds that was being blown by the Washington County developer (want-a-be).

The downtown bus schedule and lines SUCK. I think we need to overhaul all bus transportation in the county.

Mass transit around here needs a major public process to start so we can put all the ideas on the table and do a conceptual overhaul.

I'd like to see some bus terminals on the edge of the downtown proper -- and a number of back and forth buses for town working single streets, frequently, wide doors.

Keep the suburban bus to an edge destination / market place. We'll need to build up these points.

Buses choke downtown. They need to be zipping to outside destinations. Buses should not make turns downtown.

Hard to describe in a blog comment. But, let's "think again" about bus and mass transit throughout the region.

8:18 PM

Blogger Jonathan Barnes said...

I agree with Mark. Get the buses out of the middle of downtown, anyway. They clog up traffic. Elitism aside, bus traffic sucks because it's slow, halting, and often unmindful of other traffic, and in the closed spaces of downtown's center city, there's no room for that.
Also, please get rid of the urine stench from the back doors of the bus. Stop that smelly little situation, and it will increase ridership.
I am not in favor of a rich people only downtown. I'm not sure what can be done to stop it, though, since mostly rich people own the property downtown. Not giving tax breaks would be one way.
America and Pittsburgh have become more service-oriented economies. Maybe part of downtown Pittsburgh's future is meant to be in providing luxuries and comforts for the rich. Sure beats the Smoky City, eh?

11:49 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

you know something? the city's kept its messy little fingers out of downtown for a few y ears now. sure the lazarus and L&T handouts were foolhardy. but what's filled in the gaps? the freemarket ain't showing its hand there.

maybe i'm missing some irony (or sarcasm) but who says downtown traffic needs to be speedy. hell you can walk from the 9th street bridge to the smithfield street bridge in about 12 mintues. so, maybe we make all the bus stops on the outskirts. who cares if the elderly or handicapped can't handle the distance?

wait, here's an idea. let's just build 40 high rise parking garages downtown so that every person who lives, shops, works, dines, and goes to a show there doesn't have to trouble him or herself with walking more than 12 steps from their cars to whatever destination.

as always, a lot of naysayers, but never anyone offering a positive alternative.

NYC, Philadelphia, Chicago and other cities seem to do just fine with buses inching along their streets. then again, those are real cities compared to our humble blue collar burg.

as for downtown being a rich enclave...if someone could make money providing "affordable housing" (what's your definition of that, by the way?) downtown, they'd be doing it. and for all the glorification of S. Side as the right way of revitalizing a neighborhood, how much real estate is affordable there these days?

come on...money talks. if you don't like what it's saying, move to allentown or homewood. I hear you can stretch the real estate dollars pretty far in those places. let me know if you need an agent.

5:51 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

The Urban Redevelopment Authority owns about 20 buildings Downtown, and rather than sell them off piecemeal, they've been looking for one developer with a master plan, which, in my opinion, is a good way to ensure mind-numbing comformity. The local papers have reported once or twice about smaller developers chased away from individual buildings, like the GC Murphy building. Maybe there's no other market for those buildings. But we'll never know, because that's now how the URA does business. Clearly, no one has given the free market a try.

Let's also remember that Mayor Murphy never took eminent domain off the table while he was in office, and Bob O'Connor clearly hasn't either--otherwise he wouldn't be talking about bulldozing buildings for greenspace. (Of course, given how many buildings the city owns, maybe he knows he can just bulldoze some of those.) So what's the incentive for property owners to make improvments?

City planners from the '60 have defended their awful work by asking us to imagine what would have happened to neighborhoods like East Liberty if the city had done nothing. Well, I say we give nothing a shot for once.

As for buses, I just don't see that buses are that much of a problem. And Mark, putting bus terminals even on the outskirts of Downtown is just going to create dead zones--no one is going to be anywhere near them. Your proposal, it seems, would just add more traffic.

6:28 PM


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