Brian Tucker-Hill 
Member since Jan 29, 2014



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Re: “This was the year that everyone realized Pittsburgh has a food scene

In my view, craft cocktails and innovative American/fusion cuisine fit right into Pittsburgh's deeper roots, specifically the "Golden Era" Pittsburgh which generated great wealth, and also attracted ethnically-diverse immigrants, and created great fine art, and great pop art, and so on.

I agree not every drink in this town should cost $10 or more. But I think Pittsburgh is blossoming in this era in part because there really is a natural fit between Pittsburgh and the ever-growing number of people who are now craving cultural connection to history and stability blended with humanism and optimism, all loosely covered by words like "authentic," and in fact words like "craft" and "innovative."

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Posted by Brian Tucker-Hill on 01/07/2016 at 10:46 AM

Re: “Hunt Armory deal might be bad for Pittsburgh’s affordable-housing fund

I think it is important to keep the bigger picture in mind. Public amenities are important both because of the value they provide directly, and also because they tend to increase the value of the other properties around them. Looking at just how creating a new public amenity may fail to maximize the tax value of that particular property is therefore taking too narrow and atomized a view of what it takes to grow a tax base overall.

That does not mean every project should be a public amenity, but some should, and this seems like a good fit between the property in question and the public's interest in adding a particular sort of amenity. In that context, the fact they did not choose the project that would do the most to grow the tax base directly was a reasonable decision.

Meanwhile, I very much support the new affordable housing fund. But it is just one of many purposes that would be served by increases in the tax base in the area, and I do not think the public is necessarily bound to discuss all of those consequences in individual detail each time these issues come up. Rather, I think it is usually fine for the public to understand there are going to be many such tax base tradeoffs involved when evaluating projects like these, and then to decide whether the specific project at hand is worth doing in light of those tradeoffs.

In other words, this is really a broad issue, and I think it was fine for the public to view it that way. Of course it would also be fine if someone had wanted to call specific attention to some of the specific implications, but I don't think the public is bound to go line by line through each of the implications each time when discussing these issues.

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Posted by Brian Tucker-Hill on 01/07/2016 at 10:29 AM

Re: “Are new plans for the Lower Hill for building, or for show?

So a couple points. First, McCormack Baron Salazar and the Penguins actually jointly hired BIG, and they are saying they intend to start building on the plan next year.

Second, BIG specifically addressed the "this looks too expensive for Pittsburgh" observation. They consulted with a bunch of construction, landscaping, and so on firms (they listed west 8, atelier ten, massaro, graves design group, la quatra bonci associates, mongalo-winston consulting, michael baker international, and sota construction services), and they explicitly said they knew it looked ambitious but that they had designed it to be deliverable on the budget given.

Together, all this implies to me that BIG's plan is at the minimum a serious proposal for the initial residential phase, which McCormack Baron Salazar has contracted to develop. The lower portion is probably more speculative, but that is OK with me--it actually has some questionable elements, and in any event it might well be best in the long run for someone else to put a different spin on the lower portions.

So yes, maybe this will stop in the middle--but it may well get that far first.

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Brian Tucker-Hill on 12/09/2015 at 2:28 PM

Re: “The expanded East Liberty state store might augur further improvements

The political coalition against privatization includes more than just allies of the union. For example, it also includes representatives of rural areas where private entities either would not locate a store at all, or would only locate a store with less selection and higher prices. In that sense the state store system is subsidizing those rural areas, and their local representatives do not want to give up those subsidies.

Giant Eagle and other grocery stores can use a certain type of license to sell beer and wine in an attached cafe. I believe all of Wegmans, Weis, Giant, and Sheetz have also done that in one or more stores, and more are looking at it. I believe the main problem, though, is that you have to allow in-store consumption, and that raises all sorts of cost and liability issues which serve as a practical barrier to more grocery stores wanting to do it.

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Posted by Brian Tucker-Hill on 09/24/2014 at 1:03 PM

Re: “Istanbul Sofra

We have really enjoyed this place since it opened, including the excellent service. And do not miss the rice pudding!

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Posted by Brian Tucker-Hill on 09/03/2014 at 5:09 PM

Re: “Port Authority board to hold special Bus Rapid Transit meeting

We had a pretty lively and interesting discussion of the reasoning behind this project in the comments to the prior thread linked above. Rather than repeating all that, I'll just note that I think the key to understanding the transit benefits this project could bring is realizing the large number of riders that funnel through that corridor every day, heading not just between Oakland and Downtown but also to points all along the corridor from a variety of other points outside the corridor.

0 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Brian Tucker-Hill on 07/02/2014 at 10:44 AM

Re: “Future Travel: Is $200 million for Downtown-Oakland BRT the best public-transit investment?

Audrey, if you haven't already, you might want to check out this presentation:

It certainly doesn't answer all your questions, but Pages 18-25 in particular go into some of the things we have been discussing here. Page 19 has a chart of origins/destinations for the 61s and 71s which is pretty interesting. It doesn't really address how many of the Downtown/Oakland specific people are transferring in Downtown from other routes (like you, I assume that is a big part of story there), but it does show there are a lot of people funneling into this corridor from a bunch of other locations. Typically the biggest destination is Oakland itself, but there are also people looking to get through Oakland to Downtown, and even some looking to get to Uptown.

Anyway, for topographic and cost reasons it is going to be very hard to provide rapid, direct service to Oakland/Uptown from a lot of places where there is potential demand (unless perhaps we look into aerial gondolas, which is a whole other subject). That's a large part of why the Spine Line and this proposal have always scored well in project comparisons--not just because of Downtown/Oakland specifically being an important pair, but also because topography dictates that it will continue to be a shared route for many other riders.

Speaking of the Spine Line, the presentation goes on to look at three sorts of configurations. What they call "Main Corridor BRT", discussed on Pages 20-21, would be the closest to a Spine Line-type plan. But as is sort of implied by the next few slides, that approach would be missing out on what BRT can actually do better than LRT, which is allow a variety of bus routes to share the same rapid transit infrastructure without transfers. So Pages 22-23 discuss an "Overlay Corridor BRT" approach, in which a very large portion of the service in the corridor would be provided by through-routes very similar to what exist today. Finally the "Modified Collector BRT" on Pages 24-25 does a bit of both, with some routes serving the full corridor and also extending out much farther, and some just using it for service through Oakland. That Modified Collector approach appears to me most similar to Nelson/Nygaard's Rapid Bus plan, and you can see how it is being tailored to the origin/destination map on Page 19.

Anyway, that is all interesting material if you are trying to get some sense of how they perceive transit demand, and some different options for trying to serve it.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Brian Tucker-Hill on 01/30/2014 at 3:58 PM

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