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More workers in the Pittsburgh region crossing county lines for jobs

| Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Part of downtown Pittsburgh Monday, December 3, 2012. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Western Pennsylvanians increasingly work outside the counties they call home, Census Bureau data released Tuesday show.

“People are more likely than ever to cross county lines for work,” said Harold D. Miller, president of Future Strategies, a Downtown management and policy consulting firm.

Although most commute to Allegheny County from one of nine surrounding counties, a growing number of Allegheny County residents go elsewhere for work, particularly Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

The American Community Survey found 23.9 percent of the 1.2 million workers in the 10-county region surrounding Pittsburgh held jobs outside their home counties between 2006 and 2010, up from 22.7 percent in the 2000 Census.

Nationally, about 27.4 percent of all workers traveled outside their home counties for jobs, compared with 26.7 percent in 2000.

Rebecca Miller, 27, of New Brighton uses her car and a mix of Port Authority of Allegheny County routes to get to and from her job in the University of Pittsburgh's registrar's office.

“It's a much lower-stress commute,” she said of using transit between Port Authority's Ambridge park-and-ride lot and the Oakland campus. The commute takes about 90 minutes, but she said, “I think it's worth it.”

The census said 8.1 percent of workers have commutes of at least one hour. About 23 percent of them use public transportation, while 61.1 percent drive alone, data show.

“People have been moving farther and farther out (of Pittsburgh) for decades, to get more property and access to lower taxes,” said Harold Miller.

Allegheny County residents are the least likely Western Pennsylvanians to cross a county line for a job. About 9.3 percent of the county's 582,386 workers did so between 2006 and 2010, compared with 7.8 percent in 2000.

The census shows that 11,125 Allegheny County residents commuted to Butler County for work, a 41 percent jump over 2000. Since the last census, business development soared in Butler County, particularly its southern half.

Although Harold Miller said “manufacturing jobs tend to be disproportionately based outside Allegheny County,” much of Butler County's growth occurred in business and professional services sectors, punctuated most notably by Westinghouse Electric Co.'s decision to move its corporate headquarters to Cranberry from Monroeville. Today, Westinghouse employs about 4,300 people in Cranberry.

The survey found that 12,529 people from Allegheny County commuted to Washington County, a 36 percent increase from 2000; 14,011 commuted to Westmoreland County, a 16 percent jump.

About 38.1 percent of workers from the other nine counties crossed county lines for work between 2006 and 2010, up 1 percentage point from 2000.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the figures strengthen his case for creating a regional public transit agency to replace at least some of the 10 agencies that operate in the region.

“Many people no longer live in the county where they work, and transit needs to reflect that,” Fitzgerald said.

Gov. Tom Corbett's 2013 budget proposal would require transit agencies to complete consolidation studies if they want more money from Harrisburg.

Corbett's administration said consolidations could cut transit costs up to $25 million statewide, whether they combine entire agencies or share purchasing or services.

Staff writer Brian Bowling contributed to this report. Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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