I've only been to Pittsburgh, but I had a really good time. It definitely fulfills the Tourism Department's slogan, "Pittsburgh: It's Not as Bad as it Used to Be!" Seriously, though, I experienced no noticeable pollution, it was mostly compact and walkable, the trolleys were cool, and it was visually just a fascinating place to explore. They don't need helped much there!
So I don't think the latest weirdness is Pittsburgh-specific. Here it is, anyway: next month Pittsburgh is hosting the G20 summit, which is expected to bring in lots of money from all the delegations and protesters. And plans are still being worked out, but it seems like the city intends to, well, shut itself down for three days.
At first I thought it was some crappy anti-transit security theater stuff, since a number of these restrictions will affect transit: Amtrak trains will pass through the city without stopping, trolleys may not be allowed into the Downtown subway tunnel, and buses may be turned back or not run at all. A modern-day Apocryphal Marie Antoinette might have said, "Can't get to work? Let them drive the Lexus." But this will apparently also affect schools, universities, nonprofits and businesses.
I have to wonder whether the hit to the economy from closing the downtown for three days might be more expensive than the gain from hosting the summit, and apparently I'm not the only one. I think there's a good case to be made for reasonable security to protect diplomats and heads of state, but if you have to go this far, you've clearly got big problems on your hands.
But if the Port Authority of Allegheny County really is channeling Apocryphal Marie Antoinette, they might want to keep in mind what happened to the real one - despite her security arrangements.