Transportation Top Concern for Pittsburgh, Says Regional Study by PittsburghTODAY and Pitt’s UCSUR

Issue Date: 
March 4, 2013

By B. Rose Huber
Although Pittsburgh is at or near the top of numerous quality-of-life rankings, transportation remains a key concern for the region until a stable funding solution is found, according to a report released Feb. 24 by PittsburghTODAY, a regional indicators program based at the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR).

Pittsburgh Today & Tomorrow 2013 draws a comprehensive profile of how Pittsburgh is faring compared with 14 other benchmark regions nationwide in 11 key quality-of-life categories: the arts, demographics, the economy, education, the environment, government, health, housing, public safety, sustainability, and transportation. The other benchmark regions are: Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, Richmond, and St. Louis. 

While most of the news is positive, there are several areas of concern for the region in addition to transportation, according to the report, among them the environment, government, health, and building sustainable communities. 

Pittsburgh Today & Tomorrow is simply a must-read for Greater Pittsburgh’s leaders and citizens who want the facts on how the region is doing and what the most critical issues are for its future,” said Douglas Heuck, director of PittsburghTODAY. “The report looks at the key categories of regional quality of life, showing how Pittsburgh compares with regions across the country. We get behind the numbers through interviews with regional leaders in a broad range of sectors who weigh in on the key challenges and opportunities facing Pittsburgh.”

Findings are based on PittsburghTODAY’s reporting and UCSUR data. The report’s key findings follow. 

Arts: Groups and organizations are finding ways to flourish despite challenging economic times. The seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area is home to 486 arts and cultural organizations.

Demographics: The region is getting decidedly younger. The population of 20-to-34 year-olds grew by seven percent over the past five years and is expected to grow another eight percent by 2020. 

Economy: Pittsburgh is one of the most affordable places to live for moderate-income families. It’s also one of only three U.S. cities that have recovered from the recession that began in 2007. 

Education: The region remains among the nation’s leaders in terms of the percentage of the population that has a high school degree or its equivalent—or better. Graduation rates have improved or stayed the same in 70 percent of schools in the area. 

Environment: The air is the cleanest it has been since the Industrial Revolution, but a chronic sewage overflow problem continues to plague the region’s streams and rivers. 

Government: The region currently has an overabundance of governments, making consolidation a popular topic. People residing in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area are ruled by more than 900 distinct government entities.

Health: Despite the region’s broad health care network, the region has higher-than-average rates of diabetes, obesity, and deaths from cardiac arrest. Pittsburgh also ranks poorly in health-related behaviors, with comparatively low levels of physical activity and high rates of smoking.

Housing: The area remains in the midst of a solid housing recovery, and the appreciation of home values in the region is the envy of most of the benchmark regions. Third-quarter home prices appreciated 5.8 percent from 2007 to 2012. 

Public Safety: Few regions can boast lower crime rates than Pittsburgh, as burglaries and thefts have steadily declined since 2006.

Sustainability: Social equity is key to sustainable communities, and Pittsburgh has work to do. Sharp racial disparities in quality-of-life measures ranging from household income to health insurance exist throughout the region. 

Transportation: Funding for transportation has been a significant problem for the Pittsburgh region in the past several years. Despite Governor Tom Corbett’s recent transportation funding proposal, the fate of public transit in Allegheny County remains unclear. The steep cuts in transit service the Port Authority avoided at the last moment in 2012 remain a possibility until a stable funding solution is found. Data show the cuts could add an extra 11 minutes to a daily commute. Additionally, a national report on structurally deficient bridges identified 1,133 such structures in the region.

The report and additional information are available at in the special reports section. Print copies may be requested by contacting Emily Craig at