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  #101  
Old Posted Nov 29, 2022, 5:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Yuri View Post
For my surprise, Fayette was the 5th county included, before Butler, in 1983. Which is very weird as it would be perfectly natural for Butler to be included even in 1950, as the growth curve suggests.

And the inclusion of Butler would have delayed Pittsburgh peak to 1970 (like Buffalo), instead of 1960, by using definitions from that time.
The vast majority of Butler County is not "suburban Pittsburgh" now and certainly wasn't back in 1950. Today, the portion that could be considered Pittsburgh suburbs/exurbs is basically only the southwestern corner centered around Cranberry Township, where I-79, PA Turnpike, and US-19 come together... and that has mainly all developed since the 1980s. Most of Butler county is decidedly rural, with the northern border of the county being 50 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.

Fayette County had greater historical ties to Pittsburgh than Butler County did, as the settled areas south of Pittsburgh are significantly older and developed into major coal and coke centers (Uniontown, Connellsville)... though I still think that the inclusion of Fayette County in Pittsburgh's MSA is kinda ridiculous.
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  #102  
Old Posted Nov 29, 2022, 5:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
i don't think columbus, indy, the twin cities, or KC had metro wide popualtion dips either, unless you're using different definitions that i don't know about.
And correct me if I'm wrong but would the deciding factor be that these cities all have near endless expanses of flat, cheap cornfield buildable land surrounding them?

I think Pittsburgh would have substantially more vinyl subdivisions if they didn't have to dynamite the top of a hill off and do heavy excavating just to build 40 new mid range homes every time.
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  #103  
Old Posted Nov 29, 2022, 5:20 PM
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Originally Posted by pj3000 View Post
The vast majority of Butler County is not "suburban Pittsburgh" now and certainly wasn't back in 1950. Today, the portion that could be considered Pittsburgh suburbs/exurbs is basically only the southwestern corner centered around Cranberry Township, where I-79, PA Turnpike, and US-19 come together... and that has mainly all developed since the 1980s. Most of Butler county is decidedly rural, with the northern border of the county being 50 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.

Fayette County had greater historical ties to Pittsburgh than Butler County did, as the settled areas south of Pittsburgh are significantly older and developed into major coal and coke centers (Uniontown, Connellsville)... though I still think that the inclusion of Fayette County in Pittsburgh's MSA is kinda ridiculous.
And in your opinion what’s the reason for such robust growth of Butler since ever? Look at post #78. To me, this kind of growth matches perfectly with a suburb.
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  #104  
Old Posted Nov 29, 2022, 6:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Yuri View Post
And in your opinion what’s the reason for such robust growth of Butler since ever? Look at post #78. To me, this kind of growth matches perfectly with a suburb.

Butler County's population growth has been in its southwest corner, just over the Allegheny County line. In the map below, this area is suburban sprawl from the SW corner, which is Cranberry Township (where it shows "Fernway" on the map -- I've actually never even heard of Fernway ... it's definitely not a commonly-used name at all) and some of adjacent Adams Township up along US-19 and I-79 to just south of Zelienople.

There was patchy development right along US-19 (which was the pre-interstate highway going through rural areas), but the robust growth you're talking about in the area started in the 80s after I-79 was completed and I-76 (PA Turnpike) was re-routed to the area in the late 1970s. It's basically just a crossroads of major highways where sprawly development has happened in the past 40 years; especially in the past 20.

It's just a very small portion that could be considered suburban/exurban Pittsburgh of what is a relatively large, rural county. The rest of Butler County is NOT suburban Pittsburgh. The northern portions of Butler are an hour and a half drive away through farmland and forest.



Last edited by pj3000; Nov 29, 2022 at 7:40 PM.
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  #105  
Old Posted Nov 29, 2022, 7:07 PM
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Looking at the map, Butler (city) and Beaver (city) seem to be the same distance from Pittsburgh. And I gather most of Butler's population will be in the southern half anyway. What really caught me was Butler's fast growth contrasting with decline everywhere. And of course, they share a border with Allegheny as the other "old three".
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  #106  
Old Posted Nov 29, 2022, 8:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Yuri View Post
Looking at the map, Butler (city) and Beaver (city) seem to be the same distance from Pittsburgh. And I gather most of Butler's population will be in the southern half anyway. What really caught me was Butler's fast growth contrasting with decline everywhere. And of course, they share a border with Allegheny as the other "old three".
The borough of Beaver is one of the Ohio River valley towns, and about 6 miles closer to downtown Pittsburgh than Butler (city). There is un-interrupted and heavily-industrialized development from downtown Pittsburgh down the Ohio in the river valley. Due to the extremely, non-uniform topography of the region, this is just how development patterns play out, i.e., where the only flat land exists.

Butler (city), on the other hand, was and is disconnected from Pittsburgh by rural lands. There is probably still around 10 miles of farmland between the city of Butler and the northern reaches of what can really be considered Pittsburgh exurbs. Historically, Butler was more connected with smaller steel and factory cities like Zelienople, New Castle, Grove City, Ellwood City, which all had strong connections to Youngstown/Mahoning Valley area across the border in OH.

The "greater Pittsburgh" region is really defined by its industrial river valleys: the Allegheny, the Monongahela, the Ohio, the Chartiers, the Beaver, the Kiskiminetas, and the Youghiogheny. There is no river valley like these to the north of Pittsburgh... and that is precisely why the north hills suburban areas are much less extensive (and newer) than the south hills suburban areas.

Butler County growth is only due to much more recent sprawl pushing up from Allegheny County over the county line along highway corridors. The growth is basically in a few townships, that's it, and mainly at the expense of Allegheny and Beaver counties.
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  #107  
Old Posted Nov 29, 2022, 8:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Austinlee View Post
And correct me if I'm wrong but would the deciding factor be that these cities all have near endless expanses of flat, cheap cornfield buildable land surrounding them?
Kansas City isn't anywhere near as hilly as Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, but its downtown sits in a river valley and is surprisingly hilly for a city/metro bordering on the great plains.
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  #108  
Old Posted Nov 29, 2022, 9:11 PM
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Originally Posted by pj3000 View Post
The borough of Beaver is one of the Ohio River valley towns, and about 6 miles closer to downtown Pittsburgh than Butler (city). There is un-interrupted and heavily-industrialized development from downtown Pittsburgh down the Ohio in the river valley. Due to the extremely, non-uniform topography of the region, this is just how development patterns play out, i.e., where the only flat land exists.

Butler (city), on the other hand, was and is disconnected from Pittsburgh by rural lands. There is probably still around 10 miles of farmland between the city of Butler and the northern reaches of what can really be considered Pittsburgh exurbs. Historically, Butler was more connected with smaller steel and factory cities like Zelienople, New Castle, Grove City, Ellwood City, which all had strong connections to Youngstown/Mahoning Valley area across the border in OH.

The "greater Pittsburgh" region is really defined by its industrial river valleys: the Allegheny, the Monongahela, the Ohio, the Chartiers, the Beaver, the Kiskiminetas, and the Youghiogheny. There is no river valley like these to the north of Pittsburgh... and that is precisely why the north hills suburban areas are much less extensive (and newer) than the south hills suburban areas.

Butler County growth is only due to much more recent sprawl pushing up from Allegheny County over the county line along highway corridors. The growth is basically in a few townships, that's it, and mainly at the expense of Allegheny and Beaver counties.
But the thing is this growth dates 1950 (post #78). It's by far the fastest growth county on the western half of PA for the past 70 years. If it's not Pittsburgh sprawl, something else must be driven their growth. Maybe they're some kind of farming boomtown contrasting with shrinking coal cities, a bit like Grand Rapids, I don't know.
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  #109  
Old Posted Nov 29, 2022, 9:36 PM
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Buffalo



Area: 4,054 km²

Population
1890: - 385,472
1900: - 508,647 --- 32.0%
1910: - 621,021 --- 22.1%
1920: - 753,393 --- 21.3%
1930: - 911,737 --- 21.0%
1940: - 958,487 ---- 5.1%
1950: 1,089,230 --- 13.6%
1960: 1,306,957 --- 20.0%
1970: 1,349,211 ---- 3.2%
1980: 1,242,826 --- -7.9%
1990: 1,189,288 --- -4.3%
2000: 1,170,111 --- -1.6%
2010: 1,135,509 --- -3.0%
2020: 1,166,902 ---- 2.8%

Population peak: 1970

Decline from the peak: -13.5%

Biggest decline: -15.8% (1970-2000)

Buffalo was already discussed a lot on the first pages. As Pittsburgh, had the distinction of posting decline every single Census since 1970 (Pittsburgh 1960, in most definitions) and also recovered in 2020.

Their growth pattern is also more similar to Pittsburgh, predating Cleveland and specially Detroit. Its collapse also came early: Buffalo with anemic growth in the 1960's, Pittsburgh zero/negative while Cleveland and Detroit still posting healthy rates.
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  #110  
Old Posted Nov 29, 2022, 11:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Yuri View Post
But the thing is this growth dates 1950 (post #78). It's by far the fastest growth county on the western half of PA for the past 70 years. If it's not Pittsburgh sprawl, something else must be driven their growth. Maybe they're some kind of farming boomtown contrasting with shrinking coal cities, a bit like Grand Rapids, I don't know.
I'm not really sure what answers you're looking for here.

Butler County grew in population until the 1960s/70s just like all the counties in the region grew. Postwar manufacturing jobs were plentiful throughout western PA. And yes, it did continue to grow while other counties in the southwestern PA region started to decline in population with the decline in the steel industry.

But you have to remember, in the 1950s, Butler County only had around 100k in population. It was approximately 2x to 3.5x smaller than Beaver, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland counties back then, and 16x times smaller than Allegheny County. So even though Butler grew by significant percentages (12%, 16%, 14%) in the 60s, 70s, and 90s, we're not talking about all that many people.

It has only gained around 100k (or less) people over the past 70 years, so let's not act like it's some booming sunbelt suburban county.

As I said previously, in the 70s, the southwestern corner of the county became a crossroads for the new I-79 and I-76 highways, and development ensued. So yes, the growth in that area of Butler County could be considered "Pittsburgh sprawl"... but we're only talking about 1/10 of Butler County's land area. Roughly 80 square miles in the southwestern corner of an 800 square mile county -- so saying that Butler County is "suburban Pittsburgh" is really pretty silly, when we're basically talking about that red township and the one to its right in the map below only.

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  #111  
Old Posted Nov 30, 2022, 12:19 AM
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4-county Pittsburgh growth (2020-1950):
+0,81% -3,39% -2,93% -7,35% -5,72% -0,17% +8,68%

Butler County growth (2020-1950):
+5,39% +5,62% +14,52% +2,77% +15,61% +11,60% +17,80%

That's a massive difference, one of the most extreme you can find in any metro area. And size alone doesn't explain it. There are plenty of very small counties in the western half of PA posting negative growth since the 1930's or earlier. The neighbouring Armstrong County, for instance: peaked in 1940 (!!!) and with less people in 2020 than it had in 1910 (!!!).

Or Butler had/has a very good reason for being growing on its own (a farming powerhouse centered in Butler city, I don't know) or it's indeed Pittsburgh spilling over it since 1950.
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  #112  
Old Posted Nov 30, 2022, 12:31 AM
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Originally Posted by pj3000 View Post
I'm not really sure what answers you're looking for here.
Yeah, even looking at Google Maps, it's clear there isn't a ton of suburban sprawl in Butler County. In fact, it's pretty hard to find much recent sprawl at all around Pittsburgh. You really have to search to find stuff like this in the Pittsburgh area, whereas it's rampant in cities like Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, etc. It's definitely a quirk about Pittsburgh that it doesn't have nearly as much suburban sprawl as other cities. But it also makes the region feel dated in a way that I don't get from those other cities. Topography certainly plays a major role here, as even other stagnant regions still have rampant modern sprawl.
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  #113  
Old Posted Nov 30, 2022, 12:48 AM
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Yeah, even looking at Google Maps, it's clear there isn't a ton of suburban sprawl in Butler County. In fact, it's pretty hard to find much recent sprawl at all around Pittsburgh. You really have to search to find stuff like this in the Pittsburgh area, whereas it's rampant in cities like Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, etc. It's definitely a quirk about Pittsburgh that it doesn't have nearly as much suburban sprawl as other cities. But it also makes the region feel dated in a way that I don't get from those other cities. Topography certainly plays a major role here, as even other stagnant regions still have rampant modern sprawl.
Maybe not, but over 1/3 of the population of the county lives in the I-79 corridor, not Butler the town or its surrounding area, and an additional 15k off of PA-28. All of these people live within 45 minutes (typical commute distances) of downtown Pittsburgh.

Much of the population growth is likely, then, due to the particular dynamics of population replacement here rather any economic reason to do with Butler itself:

As folks in Butler die off, their old homes (being in safe communities) are bought up and maybe renovated by new families - or flipped by other for them - looking to raise their children outside of the city, but still within reasonable distance. Thus, a single old person is replaced by four or five new people, even in the absence of new build construction. This alone can marginally affect commuter patterns, and with a 25% threshold for an outlying county to be considered part of a metropolitan area, 1/3 of the population living within a reasonable distance to commute to Allegheny County (not JUST Pittsburgh) can easily shift those numbers above 25%.
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BIGD: 1304k (+9%) + MSA div. suburbs: 3826k (+26%) + adj. CSA exurbs: 394k (+8%)
FTW: 919k (+24%) + MSA div. suburbs: 1589k (+14%) + adj. CSA exurbs: 90k (+12%)
SATX: 1435k (+8%) + MSA suburbs: 1124k (+38%) + CSA exurbs: 18k (+11%)
ATX: 962k (+22%) + MSA suburbs: 1322k (+43%)
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  #114  
Old Posted Nov 30, 2022, 1:16 AM
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from the context of the thread, it was pretty clear to me that Wigs was talking about major metro areas when he said "cities".

so using a cut-off of 1M+ MSAs, the first major US metro areas that experienced population decline were detroit, cleveland, pittsburgh, and buffalo, all whom experienced their first decade of metro area loss in the '70s.
Exactly.
And the whole point of this thread was declining metros.
Buffalo-Niagara is no longer declining. Both the city of Buffalo and Erie county posted impressive gains after decades of decline.

Niagara Falls and Niagara county still need work but most of the Metro is growing again.
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  #115  
Old Posted Nov 30, 2022, 3:38 AM
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Exactly.
And the whole point of this thread was declining metros.
Buffalo-Niagara is no longer declining. Both the city of Buffalo and Erie county posted impressive gains after decades of decline.

Niagara Falls and Niagara county still need work but most of the Metro is growing again.
Every US Metro area of over 1M people showed a population gain between 2010 and 2020. Obviously the discussions are more about historic declines from peak population, rather than continued decline at this point (or why have this thread at all?)
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  #116  
Old Posted Nov 30, 2022, 12:18 PM
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Yeah, even looking at Google Maps, it's clear there isn't a ton of suburban sprawl in Butler County. In fact, it's pretty hard to find much recent sprawl at all around Pittsburgh. You really have to search to find stuff like this in the Pittsburgh area, whereas it's rampant in cities like Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, etc. It's definitely a quirk about Pittsburgh that it doesn't have nearly as much suburban sprawl as other cities. But it also makes the region feel dated in a way that I don't get from those other cities. Topography certainly plays a major role here, as even other stagnant regions still have rampant modern sprawl.
That's the same for every single non-core county in any US metro area. Take a look at Livingston County (Detroit) or Kendall (Chicago) or Geauga (Cleveland) just to mention Great Lakes examples. No one would argue they're not part of those areas and those type of counties are in fact the fast-growing areas everywhere.

As there is no evidence showing the opposite, it's clear that's Pittsburgh is the main driver of Butler County since 1950. There's no question about it.
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  #117  
Old Posted Nov 30, 2022, 12:44 PM
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Maybe not, but over 1/3 of the population of the county lives in the I-79 corridor, not Butler the town or its surrounding area, and an additional 15k off of PA-28. All of these people live within 45 minutes (typical commute distances) of downtown Pittsburgh.

Much of the population growth is likely, then, due to the particular dynamics of population replacement here rather any economic reason to do with Butler itself:

As folks in Butler die off, their old homes (being in safe communities) are bought up and maybe renovated by new families - or flipped by other for them - looking to raise their children outside of the city, but still within reasonable distance. Thus, a single old person is replaced by four or five new people, even in the absence of new build construction. This alone can marginally affect commuter patterns, and with a 25% threshold for an outlying county to be considered part of a metropolitan area, 1/3 of the population living within a reasonable distance to commute to Allegheny County (not JUST Pittsburgh) can easily shift those numbers above 25%.
Let's take a look to Venango County a rural county neighbouring Butler and which has nothing to do with Pittsburgh. Let's also examine Fayette County, a collection of coal communities that developed independently from Pittsburgh.

1950
Butler: 97,320
Fayette: 189,899
Venango: 65,328

2020
Butler: 193,763
Fayette: 128,804
Venango: 50,454

The pattern couldn't be more clear: Butler growth curve is the most typical example of a post-war suburb county.


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Every US Metro area of over 1M people showed a population gain between 2010 and 2020. Obviously the discussions are more about historic declines from peak population, rather than continued decline at this point (or why have this thread at all?)
Indeed. Specially as we just learn that Pittsburgh and Buffalo are growing again after 5, 6 decades of continuous decline. Or the British metro areas that kinda plateaued in the 1930's already, declined badly till the 1990's but now are posting very robust growth.
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  #118  
Old Posted Nov 30, 2022, 1:14 PM
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If you guys want to see, here's a map of the PA population change by municipality from 2010-2020.

In the western part of the state, high-growth is mostly restricted to a fringe of areas to the Northwest and Southwest of Pittsburgh. The northwest growth is at this point mostly in Butler County (since the North Hills suburbs are mostly built out) while the southwest growth has spread into Washington County. All of these areas are close to 79, which makes driving commutes fairly easy.

Outer Butler County is indeed shrinking, other than the township surrounding Slippery Rock. Arguably the decline isn't quite as bad as in some of the other exurban counties.

You can also see here that the exurban growth spilling into Westmoreland is much slower growth, which is why that county is in much worse shape. The basic reason is shitty commutes, as 376 is perpetually congested, largely due to being routed through an undersized former rail tunnel in the city. This is part of what pushed suburbanization in Pittsburgh to the north of the city, even though if you turn back to the mid 20th century the eastern suburbs were by far the most prominent and the North Hills was very underdeveloped.
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  #119  
Old Posted Nov 30, 2022, 2:31 PM
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That's the same for every single non-core county in any US metro area. Take a look at.... Kendall (Chicago)
Kendall county is a perfect illustration of why "county" is the wrong unit of measurement to delineate "metropolitan areas".

Yes, there is some Chicagoland sprawl spilling over into the NE corner of Kendall County, and Oswego and Yorkville are old little fox river towns that have now spawned some of their own sprawl, but 75% of the county is still literally cornfields.

Counties are too big, and doing the census tract "urban area" thing can be too tedious. A nice middle ground would've been the old way the CB used to do it with townships.
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  #120  
Old Posted Nov 30, 2022, 2:55 PM
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Kendall county is a perfect illustration of why "county" is the wrong unit of measurement to delineate "metropolitan areas".

Yes, there is some Chicagoland sprawl spilling over into the NE corner of Kendall County, and Oswego and Yorkville are old little fox river towns that have now spawned some of their own sprawl, but 75% of the county is still literally cornfields.

Counties are too big, and doing the census tract "urban area" thing can be too tedious. A nice middle ground would've been the old way the CB used to do it with townships.
When I mentioned it, I knew you would complain.

Kendall
1990: 39,413
2000: 54,544
2010: 114,736
2020: 131,869

It puts the Sun Belt to shame.

But if we want to look closer, Kendall is a square divided in other 9 squares. The 3 on the opposite corner (the cornfields) put together went like this:

1990: 3,384
2020: 4,050

They make no difference population wise. And note the entire growth are on the centre-west square, that's already getting some exurb spill over. The other two, one is decline (centre-south) and the other barely growing (south-west).
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