The Steel City can learn from the Queen City: Putting love into Pittsburgh

Zoe Stratos | opinions editor. Of Pittsburgh’s approximate population of 300,000 people, 20.5% of the city population is living under the poverty line.

Peter Boettger | staff columnist

Jan. 27, 2022

In April of 2020, my dad decided to move us out of my childhood home in Wilmington, Del., to Charlotte, N.C.. While I was upset about moving out of the house I grew up in, after spending time in Charlotte, I began to love the place.

Then, I moved to Pittsburgh for college and while I love Pittsburgh, compared to Charlotte, this city can improve.

It’s clear that Pittsburgh isn’t a growing city like Charlotte. The 2020 U.S. Census showed that the population of Pittsburgh decreased from 305,704 to 302,971. From public transit, to the simple cost of living, the Steel City can learn from a lot of places, including the Queen City.

As for public transportation, in Charlotte, the light rail line — called The Lynx or The Blue Line — is a free public transportation system, no matter the destination or location. The Pittsburgh metro, or the T, on the other hand, is only free for Downtown and North Side travel, despite having other stops around the region.

According to the American Public Transportation Association quarterly report, the monthly average of Charlotteans that used the Lynx in the 3rd Quarter of 2021 was 2,190. But it’s not only Charlotte; transit is also completely free in Salt Lake City and the average during the quarter there was 5,886.  The T averaged only 1,393. But free transit may come at a cost, Charlottean, and Utahns pay more than Yinzers in both income and sales tax.

While cost could be a factor, another way to increase usage of the T in Pittsburgh is expanding the system east toward the Bluff, Oakland and South Side. Unlike Charlotte, Pittsburgh is the home of multiple colleges, so having a free rail line that can move students between the aforementioned locations would be a big hit. Instead of having to walk, Uber or pay for a car and its extra expenditures, students could just take the train.

Not only is this about the cost of living, but it is about the less adequate quality of life in Pittsburgh compared to other fast-growing communities.

According to the 2020 US Census, Pittsburgh has a population of approximately 300,000 people, but it has the highest poverty rate, at 20.5% of the city population living under the poverty line. Charlotte has a population just under 900,000, and the second-lowest poverty rate at 12.8%. Charlotte is behind Seattle, a city with a population of 700,000, which has a poverty rate of 11%.

What Charlotte has done to decrease the amount of poverty is invest in the community through their education system and public housing. As for the cost of living, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the fourth quarter of 2021, Pittsburgh spends $4,000 more than the American average in housing expenditures alone. Meanwhile, Charlotte spends $2,000 less than the American average.

While Pittsburgh still has its charm, there’s no doubt that the city is losing its population and therefore a slowly dwindling local economy. But to change that, we have to look to other growing communities to see what they’ve done to bring people in, and keep them in an active and vibrant community that’s worth staying in.

Whether it’s free public transit, investing more into public housing, constructing affordable housing that won’t hurt the budgets of young workers or changing the rent of people in poor neighborhoods, Pittsburgh needs work, despite how great this city is.