Pittsburgh Named Most Livable City Again

Tuesday, May 04, 2010
By Sally Kalson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Once again, Pittsburgh has been named the country's Most Livable City, this time by Forbes.com.

The business publication ranked the metropolitan area as No. 1, based on its arts and leisure scene, job prospects, safety and affordability -- but not, obviously, on its baseball team.

This is the second-year running that the city has picked up a Most Livable distinction. Last year, British magazine The Economist named Pittsburgh No. 1 in the United States, and 29th worldwide. But it's a big jump from where Forbes ranked Pittsburgh in 2009, when it came in at No. 10.

Reiterating the description that has won high marks from other ratings mavens as well, Forbes reporter Francesca Levy wrote of the city's rebound from its manufacturing past, with "disused steel mills" transformed into multimedia art centers.

In addition to the Rust Belt renaissance, the article cited the city's strong university presence with more than a dozen campuses, noting that college towns in general have a younger, more educated and consumer-oriented population.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl pounced on the news, sending out a statement that "Our city has come a long way and I'm thrilled that Forbes.com has once again recognized Pittsburgh's unique position as a city that truly has it all -- entertainment and affordability, but most importantly, safety and jobs."

If people are guffawing at the honor the way they did in 1985, when the city won its first Most Livable distinction, from the Places Rated Almanac, they're woefully out of date, said Joe McGrath, president of Visit Pittsburgh, the official tourist promotion agency of Allegheny County.

"This is more validation that our product is as good as we say it is," he said.

So why is the region still losing population?

"It takes a while to steer a new course and change directions," Mr. McGrath said. "But it is happening."

The methodology looked at five measures in the 200 largest Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

Economically, cities were ranked both by their five-year income growth and current unemployment rate, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The stronger the income growth and the lower the unemployment, the higher each city ranked.

"Jobs don't mean everything, though," the article said. "A city is more livable if a family's income goes further. Using cost of living data from Moody's Economy.com, we ranked cities higher that had lower costs for everyday goods."

Inexpensive is not always desirable, however, so the ranking included crimes per 100,000 residents, using data from the FBI and Sperling's Best Places. Also considered was a thriving local culture crucial to livability, based on an index from Sperling's Best Places.

Each city's final score was an average of all the factors. Looking at Pittsburgh's numbers, it appears that low crime rate, active arts scene and high income growth put the city over the top. The city's score card:

Low unemployment: 73

Low crime: 15

Income growth: 20

Low cost of living: 52

Arts and leisure: 26

After Pittsburgh in the top slot, Forbes.com ranked these cities: 2) Ogden-Clearfield, Utah; 3) Provo-Orem, Utah; 4) Ann Arbor, Mich.; 5) Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.; 6) Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa; 7) Manchester-Nashua, N.H.; 8) Trenton-Ewing N.J.; 9) a tie, with Lincoln, Neb., and Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.

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