Friday, July 28, 2006
After reading Chris Briem's guest post on Pittsblog, I've got region on the brain. When we think of a region, we usually use political boundaries to delimit that space. Typically, the Pittsburgh region is defined as 10 counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania. That may make sense politically, but social and economic regional boundaries aren't so neat.
Where does the Pittsburgh region end and the Cleveland one begin? Where is the tipping point for Pittsburgh's sphere of influence and Washington, DC's (see above map)?
Economically, you look at cities and towns in the area that are more tied to Pittsburgh than Cleveland or DC. Socially, you might map the territory of Browns, Steelers, and Redskins/Ravens fans.
Regional boundaries are dynamic, particularly for economic and social regions. Over time, we might see Pittsburgh invade Cleveland territory or DC infringe on traditional Steeler Country. The DC/Baltimore urban hierarchy is currently marching westward, already well into the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.
Given the physical geography, Pittsburgh could easily continue stretching to the west itself, creating a mega-region spanning the Midwest all the way to Chicago. But as Briem's Pittsblog post demonstrates, you needn't pursue an interregional relationship with you neighbor.
Given the migrant exchange between Pittsburgh and DC, a place sitting at the interregional "watershed" could prove to be strategic. I think Pittsburgh should encourage DC's westward advance while encouraging growth to the southeast of Allegheny County. Of course, the bike path is a wonderful start, but rail would be even better.
My point is that in some sense there is already a Pittsburgh-DC region, if anyone cares to discover its geography.