Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Population and Activity Grow Downtown

More people live downtown and more workers are using the bus to get there. Those are among the findings released Monday by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership as part of its regular surveys of downtown activity. In 2000 there were about 3,000 people calling the Golden Triangle, the North Shore, the Strip District and the Bluff home. That number jumped to 7,200 in 2010. PDP President and CEO Michael Edwards says the economy slowed the growth, “we had, in the pipeline, when the economy crashed, about 4,500 more units of housing… that were scheduled to be built in the area that we are talking about, and those have been delayed or not gone forward. If they had gone forward there would be another 5,000 people living downtown.”

The study finds the average household size increased to 1.5 people and one-third of residents have annual incomes of more than $100,000. Edwards says that is reflective of the relatively high cost of housing in the Golden Triangle but he notes there is some very affordable housing in the Strip and other places. The study also finds that the “peak age group” downtown is 25-29 and 4% of households include children.

The study also looks at those who come downtown on a regular basis but do not live there. Edwards says the average commute to downtown is 13 miles or 36-39 minutes, 4 in 10 commuters are age 35 or younger and 53% of commuters use public transportation. In 2003 the number was 48%. Edwards notes that the increase comes, “despite all the busing cut backs over the last few years.” He says, “I think it is really reflective of the increased cost of gasoline, the increased cost of parking, the more efficient bus system that people can get their heads around and understand.”

The study asked weekend users why they come downtown and among the top reasons was a never before seen response, “to work out and to exercise.” “Its because of the plethora of new biking trails and running trails and parks and things that have been delivered by RiverLife, the foundation community and others,” says Edwards. The PDP has started to use those amenities as it tries to attract residents and new businesses.

Other interesting fact in the study:
• Weekly average spending at Downtown restaurants/retailers by downtown residents: $183
• Two-thirds of Downtown workers are employed in Service or Finance industries
• Downtown employee count by industry class and census track: 126,370
• Liberty and Penn Avenue are heavily populated with workers, while the Boulevard of the Allies is mostly traveled by students
• Market Square and Fifth Avenue are seeing increased traffic and are among the busiest pedestrian areas due to recent revitalization
• Weekday foot traffic peaks at 8:15 a.m.; 12:15 – 12:45 p.m. and from 4:45 – 5:15 p.m. Largest peak is during the “lunch hour”

Download a PDP published summary sheet on the finding here.

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