Jeffery Fraser

Jeffery is Pittsburgh Today's senior editor, a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to Pittsburgh Quarterly. In his past life, he was a reporter and editor for newspapers large and small, only one of which is still in business. His magazine and newspaper reporting has won numerous awards.

Could the Coronavirus Kill the Gasoline Tax?

A crisis in how to pay for roads and bridges with a gasoline tax had been worsening for decades. With Americans traveling less, the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating it. Fifty years ago, when the miles Americans traveled in their cars were soaring, a tax on every gallon of gasoline sold worked as a way pay …

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Breathing Bad Air

Air pollution from traffic and industrial stacks finds its way to most places in Allegheny County. But minority and low-income neighborhoods are more likely to endure the highest levels and the health risks that come with not being able to find respite from bad air, a University of Pittsburgh study reports. Researchers mapped black carbon …

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Billions Ride on Pandemic-Hampered Census

COVID-19 is quietly threatening southwestern Pennsylvania’s share of billions of federal dollars that will be critical if the region is to recover from the pandemic with hopes for a future of growth and vitality intact. For months, the pandemic has disrupted the decennial census, putting at risk efforts to get a complete count of the …

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Who’s Less Likely to Stay in Pittsburgh?

In southwestern Pennsylvania, where population has steadily been shrinking, the people least likely to see a future in the region include those under the age of 30, African Americans and residents with higher levels of education, a regional survey suggests. More than 8 in 10 Allegheny County residents overall plan on being in the region …

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Pitt Study: Soaring Municipal Failures Loom

More than 100 southwestern Pennsylvania municipalities will be in financial distress next year if the economy can’t shake free from the grip of the coronavirus and prevent budget reserves from being drained and tax revenues from drying up, a new study suggests. Municipal officials, uncertain of the duration of the outbreak and severity of the …

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“Historic Low Levels of Pollution”

Pittsburgh and surrounding neighborhoods received a respite from air pollution in the weeks after nonessential businesses were closed and residents were urged to stay at home and off the streets to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Fine particulate pollution and smog-making gases fell to levels rarely seen in Allegheny County from March 15 to …

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Now That the Money’s Gone

As regional banks brace for another wave of small business loan applications, questions surrounding the emergency federal program are front and center after the first $349 billion quickly ran out. Congress and the White House were reportedly near a deal late Monday that would add more than $300 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program, which …

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Shale Gas Was in Trouble, Then Came the Coronavirus

Shale gas produced by Appalachian region wells slipped 1.8 percent during the last three months. But what seems like a slight decline warns of a coming storm for an industry that has seen production rise consistently—and sometimes dramatically—every year since the gas-rich Marcellus play drew companies to southwestern Pennsylvania in droves more than a decade …

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Coronavirus May Strengthen Pittsburgh’s Ties to Wuhan

Jim Wolf set about retooling Pittsburgh’s flagging Sisters Cities program two years ago at the request of city Mayor Bill Peduto. He guided its reorganization. He watched it secure non-profit status, raise enough money to hire an executive director and begin to restore relationships with several international cities that had gone fallow. To signal its …

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Cleveland 11,000 – Pittsburgh 1

The housing bubble had burst and the nation was reeling from recession. The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County were feeling the pain more than most places in 2009. Foreclosures were mounting by the thousands, and Fannie Mae and other lenders were desperate for a way to off-load the abandoned properties filling their books. They …

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Gauging K–12 Education Quality

Allegheny County residents are tough graders when assessing the performance of the public schools that educate 115,000 county children in grades kindergarten through 12, a far-ranging survey of their views on education suggests. Fewer than half give schools a better-than-fair rating for their class size, funding, student preparedness, parental involvement and diversity of the student …

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An Answer from Abroad

If southwestern Pennsylvania is going to pull out of its long population slump, it’s likely going to happen with people like Khara Timsina. He arrived in Pittsburgh 10 years ago, one of fewer than 300 Bhutanese refugees resettled from camps in Nepal, where they had lived after being driven from their homeland during a period …

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The Economics of Population

Last spring, the U.S. Census Bureau released data showing that the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County once again lost population. In what has become a ritual, public officials were pressed by reporters to respond. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald suggested not reading too much into the latest of a long string of down years. Pittsburgh …

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Wolf Wants Pot Legalized, Most Local Residents Agree

When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced his support for legalizing recreational use of marijuana among adults, he echoed the sentiments of the majority of people living in the most populous county in southwestern Pennsylvania. Medical marijuana dispensaries began opening across southwestern Pennsylvania last year after Pennsylvania joined nearly two thirds of U.S. states by …

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How Age Colors Views About the Environment

The air seems cleaner and the water fresher to middle-aged residents and seniors in Allegheny County, the urban center of southwestern Pennsylvania that has had its share of environmental struggles. A pronounced age gap separates the perspectives of residents across a spectrum of environmental issues ranging from air and water quality and the impact of …

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A Slow But Continuing Decline

Gavriel Popper-Keizer was living in sun-swept Santa Barbara when he decided to leave coastal California, where he’d spent most of his life. His girlfriend, Alison, also a lifelong Californian, was on board. The sense of adventure was appealing. Neither had a dream job they would regret leaving. And they had come to grips with the …

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Pittsburgh Air Pollution Report: Particulates Drop, Ozone Rises

Levels of fine particulate air pollution, long an issue in southwestern Pennsylvania, fell in 2018, while ground-level ozone, whose concentrations had been waning in recent years, ticked upward amid concerns that natural gas drilling may be contributing to the rise. Fine particulates, also know as PM2.5, are microscopic airborne particles that can penetrate deep into …

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On the Water

The sun shines more often. Valleys are greening. Summer is on the horizon. And southwestern Pennsylvanians are taking to the region’s abundant streams, rivers and lakes for recreation, as they do each season in impressive numbers. More than 66 percent of residents head to a stream, river or lake for a little recreation. And 37 …

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Survival of the Fittest

Fran and Steve are hiding in the Monroeville Mall, spying on its creepy patrons—gray-skinned zombies who’d once been suburbanites, judging from their apparel. One of the walking dead, a woman, staggers from an appliance store mindlessly dragging a new toaster by the cord. “What are they doing? Why do they come here?” Fran says. “Some …

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Jobs Grow Slowly

Jobs edged up in southwestern Pennsylvania in April compared to the previous year, but the rate of growth was slower than in most of its peer regions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area saw nonfarm jobs increase 0.62 percent from April 2018 to April 2019, which is …

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Could Uber/Lyft Replace Paratransit Vans?

Paratransit vans can be spotted in almost any neighborhood picking up patients whose means, health, or proximity to public transit makes getting to their doctor appointment or medical treatment a hardship. The government-funded vans have done the job for years. But, in a growing number of U.S. counties, the expansion of ride-hailing services has provoked …

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A Greener View

People in the heart of southwestern Pennsylvania have adopted a rosier view of the region’s environment in recent years. In the minds of half of Allegheny County residents, the overall environment found in the region is improving. Seven years earlier, only 39 percent felt the same way, according to surveys done by Pittsburgh Today and …

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