What do my favorite Mexican tienda and my favorite 50s style diner have in common? They're in blighted neighborhoods along light-rail tracks. Between tax dollars for transit-area development, the drink tax, and a general scare of gasoline prices, public transportation and these potentially vibrant areas are getting even more attention.
Not surprisingly, people are discovering it's fun to break the yoke of the car. Even if they have to commute to work during the week, they're excited to walk to their quaint neighborhood market on the weekend and not deal with the evil demon of Penn DOT road-closings. Or maybe after sitting in rush hour traffic to get home, they just want to walk over to the neighborhood bar for happy hour. Personally, I learned this lesson after a month of driving in NYC-area traffic.
Up until now, the transit-center focus in Pittsburgh has been on East Liberty. Target, Whole Foods, and the East Busway are proving to be a sound marriage. Now is the time to learn from our lessons and expand. The money is flowing and our neighborhoods need help. Our love affair with strip malls and McMansions can come to an end or at least learn to co-habitate with pedestrian-friendly fun urban environments where going for a walk doesn't have to be on a treadmill and where going out for a night-on-the-town doesn't involve any parking headaches or traffic and where buying a house still can cost less than $50,000.
On second thought, don't redevelop these neighborhoods. I don't want my favorite businesses driven out from high rent prices or over-run with band-wagoners. (Yes, that was a joke.)