Pittsburgh is doomed

h/t to Jim R. for catching this intense bit of dismalness on the future of Pittsburgh from the Washington Monthly article Terminal Sickness, subtitled (How a thirty-year-old policy of deregulation is slowly killing America’s airline system—and taking down Cincinnati, Memphis, and St. Louis with it.).  The money quote is below.

Before you read I will pose my leading question up front in case you don’t get to the end of this. Isn’t the real lesson in all of this that the past promised economic impact of the airport on regional economic growth wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I mean, the future is not dismal now that flights are declining any more than the future was assured because of the flights USAirways once put in place. There was once a time not long ago that all economic growth stories in the region pointed toward the investment in the airports new terminal in the 1990’s.  In fact, things are picking up for Pittsburgh ever more as the actual number of flights originating at the Pittsburgh international airport has plummeted… a trend that does not seem to be turning around at all. Realize that most of the USAirways flights we lost went away almost a decade ago. So that isn’t to imply loss of flights is good in any causal way, but it sure disputes the argument literally everyone in town agreed worked the other way.. even though that argument was always based on minimal (or no) research backing it up anyway.

Anyway. You have to read this snippet (emphasis added):

Pittsburgh is another example of a major city whose culture and economy is increasingly determined not by its underlying fundamentals but by the dictates of an ever more concentrated, yet failing, airline industry. After it lost most of its steel industry in the 1970s, the city did everything the apostles of the so-called new economy said must be done to compete in the emerging global economy. When the city played host to the G-20 Summit in 2009, President Obama hailed Pittsburgh’s transformation “from a city of steel to a center for high-tech innovation—including green technology, education and training, and research and development.” That same year Forbes named Pittsburgh one of America’s best cities for job growth, while the Economist lauded its cosmopolitan cultural amenities, such as the topflight Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Opera.

But Pittsburgh’s renewal as a vibrant, creative, international city is now in doubt, due to the downscaling of its international airport, which now stands largely empty. Pittsburgh International was able to offer more than 600 daily nonstop flights after the city went deeply into debt to turn it into a showcase during the 1990s. But when US Airways merged with America West and concentrated its hub operations in Philadelphia and Charlotte, Pittsburgh service tumbled. US Airways’s daily flights have plunged from 542 to sixty-eight, causing the shuttering of half the gates at the airport as well as sections of two concourses.

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