Friday, July 03, 2009

Secondary Migration and Shrinking Cities

Thanks to Chris Briem, Greater Youngstown 2.0 has mapped the Steel Valley Diaspora. One of the curiosities is the lack of out-migration to the DC area. My suspicion is that talent leaps to Pittsburgh first and DC second. I'm hoping to do a follow up study, but that will depend on the funding. I bring up this relocation tale regarding a comment on Aaron Renn's latest article at New Geography:

The Eastern Great Lakes region has some nice old neighborhoods, but I agree that it's time to break out the bulldozer. Interesting how Grand Rapids is attracting more immigrants proportionally than Detroit. Over 10% of Grand Rapids is foreign born, compared to less than 5% of Detroit. Similarly, Milwaukee is attracting more immigrants than Cleveland.

Grand Rapids and Milwaukee attract more immigrants than Detroit or Cleveland. I'm fairly certain I can explain the disparity. Chicago is an established gateway city, as well as a prominent global metropolis. Chicagoland receives the spillover migration (i.e. secondary migration). One could map the reach of Chicago's influence in terms of immigration rates. We could understand the Three Rust Belts through this lens. The eastern third benefits from immigration thanks to New York City. The middle is emerging as a wasteland without the energy injection from the foreign-born. The western third treads the population waters on the back of Chicago's success.

The "missing link" in the population numbers is immigration, which can buy a city considerable time to deal with the looming demographic crisis. The above commentary is nothing new to my blog. Considering just domestic migration puts a lot of cities in a bad light. Which sets up my reaction to this comment from Politics and Place:

I'm probably a little more fixated on population growth and loss than some of my brethren, but that's likely because a lot of the issues I focus on (transportation, land use, retail) are historically tied to population, while others (economic development, innovation) are not.

Given the expressed dichotomy, I see plenty of common ground. Density and connectivity are instrumental to fostering economic development and innovation. I think I come off as lukewarm about public transit when we debate intra-regional infrastructure. We are in an era of inter-regional transit, vibrant city center to vibrant city center. If you want to benefit from globalization, then you need to think downtown. Efficiently moving people across Greater Pittsburgh won't help much when dealing with macro-economic forces. It's Pittsburgh density and the dynamic economic core that will carry the region as Chicago does for Chicagoland.

1 comment:

JRoth said...

The reason public/mass transit is important in this context is that, when people get off the train or bus Downtown, they need to feel that they can get where they need to go (without resorting to costly taxis or big-commitment rentals).

As far as I know, it is still the case that, to get from the Greyhound station or Amtrak in Pittsburgh to CMU or Pitt, you need to walk across Downtown to 5th Ave., where you can get a 61 bus (possibly the MIghty 54C comes by, but it would route you via Polish Hill, Bloomfield, etc. - an interesting, but long route).

In contrast, arriving in Union Station in DC or whatever the train station is in Boston, you have instant connections to trains, which are more comfortable for outsiders (inflexible routing - you know for certain where the train will take you).

I would note that the 28X bus runs from the airport, through Downtown, and out to Oakland - a great route for getting newcomers to the places they most likely need to go.