Car Free Journey Columns

Pittsburgh

Car Free Journey Pittsburgh, PA

By Steve Atlas

Are you looking for a car free getaway in a city that isn’t overcrowded or very expensive to visit?  Then, we have a great idea for you. Visit the city that we are spotlighting this month.

Our car free journey this month (and next month) is Pittsburgh, Pa. The city is very walkable, with protected bike lanes on several major streets and a public transportation system that includes buses and light rail. It has also been rated as one of the most livable cities in the United States. When you add cultural attractions, performing arts, and several professional sports teams, you find a world class city worth an extended visit. Join me as we begin our car-free journey to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh, PA

What’s Special about Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh is a wonderfully walkable city. The downtown business center – which is actually Pittsburgh’s fastest-growing residential neighborhood – is relatively flat, and can be walked from beginning to end in less than 20 minutes. Take time to enjoy the city’s unique architecture. While you are strolling through downtown Pittsburgh, look up to view the beautifully restored buildings and new skyscrapers.

Pittsburgh offers many transportation options, so cars aren’t a necessity! Most of Pittsburgh’s bridges have sidewalks. Some bridges are closed to automobile traffic when certain city-wide events take place.

Pittsburgh was rated as one of the safest metropolitan areas for walking in America by the Dangerous by Design 2014 Study. It was also featured in America’s Most Walkable Cities by MSN City Guides in 2009. Most pedestrians in Pittsburgh find that using a mixture of public transportation and walking works best, and with public transportation so accessible—it’s easy to see why!

Commuters and visitors alike appreciate the clean, safe light rail system (the “T”) which extends from the North Shore, through Downtown, to Pittsburgh’s South Hills.

Who said there’s no such thing as a free ride? The Port Authority’s Free Fare Zone exists for both the light-rail subway (a.k.a. the “T”) and the bus system, and includes all stops within Pittsburgh’s “Golden Triangle.” Aboard the T, the North Shore and Downtown are included in the free fare zone. Stops between Downtown and the North Shore include: Allegheny, North Side, Gateway, Wood Street, Steel Plaza and First Avenue.

Take time to explore one or more of Pittsburgh’s unique neighborhoods. Enjoy a walk along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. Or you can base your visit around one neighborhood where you can stay and walk to many attractions and restaurants. Downtown, Oakland, the North Side, South Side, and the Strip District come to mind.

For avid bikers, Downtown recently installed a protected bike lane throughout various streets, allowing cyclists to ride throughout the city stress-free. The main artery for East to West biking is Penn Avenue, which runs from Stanwix Street Downtown to 16th Street in the Strip District. The Roberto Clemente Bridge also has protected bike lanes, making it safe and easy to get to and from the North Shore.

Other fun ways to get around are via Green Gears Pedicabs a bike taxi service, or Autopod, a unique fleet of electric pedicabs.

During our Car Free Journey to Pittsburgh, you will learn about some interesting walks, neighborhoods to explore, attractions that meet a variety of special interests and needs, places to eat, and entertainment you can enjoy while you are here.

Getting Here

  • By Air: The following airlines serve Pittsburgh International Airport: Air Canada, Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, Interjet and Swift Air, One Jet, Porter, Southwest, Sun Air Express, United Airlines, US Airways, Xtra Airways (includes Apple Vacations).

After You Arrive at the Airport

Local and regional public transportation is provided by Port Authority of Allegheny County. For detailed schedules and fares, visit www.portauthority.org, or call (412) 442-2000.

  • Port Authority route 28X AIRPORT FLYER operates every half hour, and provides direct service to Oakland, Downtown, and the West Busway stations (and links to most other Port Authority routes.) One-way fare to or from the airport is $3.75 Port Authority provides the following information about the 28 AIRPORT FLYER:
  • Vehicle operators do not carry change. Exact change is required when paying your fare. Fares are paid upon boarding.
  • Passengers have priority over luggage for the use of bus seating. If there are people standing, kindly place your luggage on your lap or the floor to allow others to sit.
  • You are responsible for handling your bags both on and off the vehicle. Because this is public transportation, tipping operators is not permitted.
  • When traveling toward the airport, stops in Oakland and Downtown as well as along West Carson Street and the West Busway are for boarding only. When traveling toward Pittsburgh, stops along West Carson Street and in Downtown and Oakland are discharge only.

You can make transfers between the 28X and most other Port Authority bus or T routes in Downtown Pittsburgh. A transfer costs $1.00 and is good for three hours for a one-zone ride in any direction. You must request a transfer from the operator before paying your fare. Use Port Authority’s online Trip Planner to get directions and fare information, or contact Customer Service for assistance.

  • By Bus: Two intercity bus companies serve Pittsburgh:

     Greyhound: 55 11th St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, (412) 392-6526    

     Megabus: Under the David L. Lawrence Convention Center: 10th and Penn Ave., 1-877-462-6342

  • By Train: Amtrak is located at Union Station at Grant St. and Liberty Ave.

 The Megabus stop is in downtown Pittsburgh, and is near most downtown bus routes. Call Port Authority customer service (412) 442-2000 to find the nearest bus stop and route to get you to your hotel or other destination.

The Amtrak station and Greyhound bus terminal are across the street from each other. Both stations are located downtown, so it is virtually walkable from any bus stop. However, the bus routes that stop directly in front of both the Amtrak station and the Greyhound Bus Terminal are: 86, 87, 88 and 91.

If you want to stay near either the Amtrak or Greyhound stations, all downtown hotels are within walking distance. The hotels that are most convenient include:

  • Courtyard Pittsburgh Downtown
  • Westin Convention Center
  • Hotel Monaco
  • Omni William Penn
  • Doubletree by Hilton
  • Hampton Inn & Suites

Welcome to Pittsburgh  

Pittsburgh is the second largest city in Pennsylvania with a population of 305,842 and the county seat of Allegheny County. Pittsburgh has a total area of 58.3 square miles (151 km2), of which 55.6 square miles (144 km2) is land and 2.8 square miles (7.3 km2) (or 4.75%) is water. The warmest month of the year in Pittsburgh is July, with a 24-hour average of 72.6 °F (22.6 °C). Conditions are often humid, and combined with highs reaching 90 °F (32 °C) on an average 9.5 days a year, a considerable heat index arises. The coldest month is January, when the 24-hour average is 28.4 °F (−2.0 °C), and lows of 0 °F (−18 °C) or below can be expected on an average 2.6 nights per year.

Pittsburgh was named in 1758 by General John Forbes, in honor of British statesman William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. It is known as both “the Steel City” for its more than 300 steel-related businesses, and “the City of Bridges” for its 446 bridges.

Pittsburgh has been named America’s Most Livable City by Places Rated Almanac, Forbes, and The Economist. National Geographic. The CBS Today morning show named the city a top world destination.

The city has some 712 sets of outdoor pedestrian stairs with 44,645 treads and 24,090 vertical feet including hundreds of streets composed entirely of stairs and many other steep streets with stairs for sidewalks. Many provide vistas of the Pittsburgh area while attracting hikers and fitness walkers.

Bike and walking trails border many of the city’s rivers and hollows, but steep hills and variable weather can make biking a challenge. The Great Allegheny Passage and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath connect the city directly to downtown Washington, D.C., about 334 miles away with a continuous bike/ and hiking trail.

Cityscape                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           The city consists of the Downtown area, called the Golden Triangle,] and four main areas surrounding it. These surrounding areas are further subdivided into distinct neighborhoods (in total, Pittsburgh contains 90 neighborhoods) These areas, relative to downtown, are known as the North Side, South Side/South Hills, East End, and West End.

Golden Triangle         

Downtown Pittsburgh has 31skyscrapers, 10 of which top 500 feet (150 m). U.S. Steel Tower is the tallest at 841 ft (256 m). The Cultural District includes a 14-block area of downtown near the Allegheny River. It is packed with theaters and arts venues, and is seeing a growing residential segment. The Firstside portion of downtown borders the Monongahela River and the historic Mon Wharf, and is home to the distinctive PPG Place Gothic glass skyscraper complex. This area also is seeing a growing residential sector, as new condo towers are constructed and historic office towers are converted to residential use. Downtown is serviced by the Port Authority’s subway and many north/south bridges. It is home to Point Park University, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and nearby Duquesne University.

North Side

The North Side is home to various neighborhoods in transition. What is known today as Pittsburgh’s North Side was once known as Allegheny City, and operated as a city independently of Pittsburgh. Allegheny City merged with Pittsburgh, despite great protest from its citizens. The North Side consists primarily of residential neighborhoods and is noteworthy for well-constructed and architecturally interesting homes. Many buildings date from the 19th century and are constructed of brick or stone and adorned with decorative woodwork, ceramic tile, slate roofs and stained glass. The North Side is home to many popular attractions such as Heinz Field, PNC Park, Carnegie Science Center, Highmark SportsWorks, National Aviary, the Andy Warhol Museum, Mattress Factory installation art museum, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Penn Brewery, and Allegheny Observatory. It is also home to Allegheny General Hospital.

South Side  

The South Side was once composed primarily of dense inexpensive housing for mill workers, but has in recent years become a local destination. It is one of the most popular neighborhoods in which to own a home in Pittsburgh. The value of homes in the South Side has increased in value by more than 10% annually for the past 10 years. The South Side’s East Carson Street is one of the city’s most vibrant areas. It is packed with diverse shopping, ethnic eateries, pulsing nightlife and live music venues. In 1993 the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh purchased the South Side Works steel mill property, and worked together with the community and various developers to create a master plan for a mixed-use development including a riverfront park, office space, housing, health-care facilities, and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Panthers indoor practice fields. Construction began in 1998, and the South Side Works is a great place to visit with many store, restaurants, offices, and the world headquarters for American Eagle Outfitters.

East End

The East End is home to the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Carlow University, Chatham University, the Carnegie Institute’s Museums of Art and Natural History, Frick Art & Historical Center, Phipps conservatory, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, and the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. The neighborhoods of Shadyside and Squirrel Hill are large, wealthy neighborhoods featuring big shopping/business districts. Oakland, heavily populated by undergraduate and graduate students, is home to most of the universities, Schenley Park and the Petersen Events Center. Bloomfield, Pittsburgh’s Little Italy, is known for its Italian restaurants and grocers. Lawrenceville is a revitalized row-house neighborhood that is home to some of the city’s best restaurants and unique shops. The Strip District is an open-air marketplace by day and a clubbing destination by night.

West End    

The West End includes Mt Washington, with its famous view of the Downtown skyline and other residential neighborhoods like Sheraden and Elliott.

Arts and culture      

Pittsburgh has a rich history in arts and culture dating from 19th century industrialists commissioning and donating public works, such as Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts: home to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the Benedum Center: home to the Pittsburgh Opera.

Travel and Leisure magazine named Pittsburgh as one of the United States’ most cultured cities.

Pittsburgh has a long tradition of jazz, blues and ethnic music. The National Negro Opera Company was founded in the city as the United States’ first all-African-American opera company. Pittsburgh has a number of small and mid-size arts organizations including the Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, Quantum Theatre, Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburgh, the early music ensemble Chatham Baroque, Pittsburgh Dance Council and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Polka, folk, square and round dancing have a long history here and are celebrated by the world famous Duquesne University Tamburitzans: a multicultural academy dedicated to preserving and presenting folk songs and dance.

Pittsburgh’s major art museums (some of which have already been listed under the neighborhoods where they are located) include the Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art, Frick Art & Historical Center, and the Mattress Factory. The ToonSeum, one of three museums in the U.S. dedicated to cartoon art, is located downtown. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the fourth ranked natural history museum in the U.S., has extensive dinosaur, mineral, animal, and Egyptian collections. The Carnegie Science Center and associated Sportsworks feature interactive technology and science exhibits.

The Senator John Heinz History Center and Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum is a Smithsonian affiliated regional history museum located in the Strip District. Its Fort Pitt Museum is located in Point State Park. Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland houses Western Pennsylvania military exhibits from the Civil War to present. The award-winning Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh on the North Side features a planetarium and interactive exhibits for children.

The eclectic Bavernhof Music Museum, six miles from Downtown, houses a large collection of music boxes and other fascinating automatic musical instruments, as well as many other interesting items.

The Clemente Museum is located in the city’s Lawrenceville section. The Cathedral of Learning’s Nationality Room showcase pre-19th century learning environments from around the world. The American Jewish Museum is located downtown. Pittsburgh is also home to the popular amusement park, Kennywood.

Pittsburgh is home to the Rivers Casino: one of the several state licensed casinos, located on the North Shore along the Ohio River just west of Carnegie Science Center and Heinz Field.

The city has a wide and diverse selection of theatre companies. You can enjoy contemporary and classical theatre, musical comedy and operetta. Go to www.VisitPittsburgh.com for more information.

The birthplace of Gertrude Stein and Rachel Carson is here. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, David McCullough, was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Annie Dillard, a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer, was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Much of her memoir An American Childhood takes place in post-World War II Pittsburgh.

Sports                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Pittsburgh’s dedication to sports has a long history with its major professional sports teams: the Steelers of the National Football League, the Penguins of the National Hockey League, and the Pirates of Major League Baseball’s National League. All three teams share the same team colors, the official city colors of black and gold. Rails to Trails has converted miles of former rail tracks to recreational trails.

Ballpark Digest readers voted PNC Park to be the best ballpark in the United States. According to WalletHub, Pittsburgh is the 2nd best city for baseball hubs.

Several mountain biking trails are located within the city and suburbs, Frick Park has biking trails and Hartwood Acres Park has many miles of single-track trails

Livability                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Livability rankings typically consider factors such as cost of living, crime, and cultural opportunities. Pittsburgh has a low cost of living compared to other northeastern U.S. cities. It often places high in lists of the nation’s most livable cities. Simple Dollar has named Pittsburgh as one of the most affordable big cities in the United States.

Metropolis Magazine named Pittsburgh one of the World’s Most Livable Cities because of its preservation of historic buildings and landmarks. Earlier this year, Pittsburgh was ranked the 13th overall Best City to Live In by WalletHub, based on livability, education, health, and local economy and taxes.

Pittsburgh has been rated as one of America’s safest metropolitan areas for walking says the Dangerous by Design 2014 study. It is also #7 of the friendliest cities in America, according to

Travel + Leisure.

Pittsburgh Ranks High as a Vacation Choice   

In 2014, Conde Nast Traveler ranks Pittsburgh as one of the most underrated American cities.

Earlier this year, The Toronto Star named Pittsburgh as one of the best travel spots for family travel. USA Today’s 10Best.com ranked Pittsburgh as one of the top 10 romantic holiday getaways. Travel + Leisure ranks Pittsburgh #19 among America’s most charming cities, and—according to BedandBreakfast.com—is among the most popular new destinations for bed & breakfast travelers.

Where to Stay

Downtown Pittsburgh is the most convenient area to stay without a car as over 80% of Port Authority’s routes travel through there. Oakland, North Shore, South Side, and East Liberty are other areas with excellent connectivity. If you stay on the North Shore, you can ride the T light rail system for free to downtown. There, you can connect to nearly all Port Authority bus routes.

Here are three neighborhoods where you can settle in and walk to attractions, along with suggested places to stay and nearby attractions:

Oakland

Where to stay in Oakland:

  • Hampton Inn-University Center
  • Hilton Garden Inn-Pittsburgh University Place
  • Holiday Inn University Center
  • Quality Inn University Center
  • Residence Inn by Marriott Pittsburgh

 Places to visit:

  • Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History
  • Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Garden
  • Nationality Room in the Cathedral of Learning
  • Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum
  • Oakland business district (great shopping)

South Side

Where to stay on the South Side:

  • Springhill Suites Pittsburgh Southside Works,
  • Hyatt House Pittsburgh-South Side,
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Pittsburgh-South Side,
  • Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square

 Places to visit:

  • City Theatre Company
  • Station Square
  • Just Ducky Tours (amphibious tours)
  • Gateway Clipper (river tours)
  • South Side Works
  • South Shore Riverfront Park

North Side

Where to stay on the North Shore:

  • Hyatt Place Pittsburgh-North Shore
  • The Inn on the Mexican War Streets
  • The Priory Hotel
  • Residence Inn by Marriott North Shore
  • Springhill Suites Pittsburgh North Shore

 Places to visit:

  • PNC Park (home of the Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Heinz Field (home of the Pittsburgh Steelers)
  • Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
  • The Andy Warhol Museum
  • National Aviary
  • Carnegie Science Center
  • Bicycle Heaven

Getting Around

Local and regional public transportation is provided by the Port Authority of Allegheny County. For detailed schedules and fares, visit www.portauthority.org, or call (412) 442-2000.

If you are 65 or older, public transportation is free. Simply show your Medicare card, and you can ride Port Authority buses and the T light rail system FREE.

For Area Residents: Leave Your Car at a Park and Ride Lot and use Public Transportation

If you live in the Pittsburgh area, the cost of parking and gasoline, when combined with traffic congestions, can make driving downtown a challenge. Now, there’s a better choice: Simply leave

your car at a local park and ride lot, and ride a Port Authority bus downtown.

Port Authority has several park-and-ride lots where you can park free and take a bus downtown. The following list gives locations, what bus or T route serves each lot, and the nearest transit station to the park and ride:     Free park-and-ride lots (operating seven days a week)include:

  • East Busway at Wilkinsburg, Hamnett and Swissvale Stations (bus route P1)
  • West Busway at Carnegie, Crafton and Sheraden stations (bus route G2);
  • South Hills rail system at Library and Lytle Stations (BLUE LINE-LIBRARY),
  • South Hills rail system at Washington Junction (BLUE and RED LINES), and
  • Castle Shannon Station (RED LINE)

A map of all park and rides is online: http://www.portauthority.org/paac/RiderServices/ParkandRideLots.aspx

How Much does it cost to ride Port Authority and the “T” Light Rail?

The Port Authority’s Free Fare Zone exists for both the light-rail subway (a.k.a. the “T”) and the bus system, and includes all stops within Pittsburgh’s “Golden Triangle,” plus T rides from downtown to the North Shore. Aboard the T, the North Shore and Downtown are included in the free fare zone, with these stops: Allegheny, North Side, Gateway, Wood Street, Steel Plaza and First Avenue.

From there, fares are based on whether the stop you’re searching for is in Zone 1 or Zone 2. Zone 1 includes the city of Pittsburgh and many “inner-ring suburbs” with a standard cost of $2.50. Zone 2 includes everywhere else, or neighborhoods considered to be “outer-ring.” Travel between all three zones (Fare Free Zone, Zone 1, and Zone 2) costs $3.75. The Port Authority website tries to make planning your trip as easy as possible, and it’s definitely recommended for first-time riders to plan their bus trip ahead of time using this link: http://www.portauthority.org/paac/

  • Senior citizens age 65 and older ride free with a Medicare card.
  • Riders with disabilities and children ages 6-11 pay half of the regular fare.
  • Transfers cost $1 and must be used within 3 hours

For a complete list of fares (including surcharges to ride the T light rail), and special passes, go to http://www.portauthority.org/paac/FareInfo/FareInformation.aspx. Unfortunately, there is no one-day pass. A weekly pass costs $25 (1/2 price for persons with disabilities and children ages 6-11. However, weekly passes start on a Sunday and end at 12 midnight the following Saturday. For that reason, they generally don’t make sense for most weekend visitors and other vacationers.

If you don’t want to carry a lot of cash, you can buy a Connect Card at any Giant Eagle Supermarket. Just go to the Customer Service desk and say that you want to purchase a Connect Card, and the amount of cash you want to put on the card (up to $200). Then every time, you take a trip on a Port Authority bus or train, the amount of the fare is deducted from your Connect Card.

Another option, if you are flying into Pittsburgh International Airport is the Connect Tickets machine, located at Baggage Pickup, near Door 6. For $25.00 you get a card with 10 $2.50 trips. That should be enough for your visit. If not, you can always use one of your rides to get to a Giant Eagle supermarket and purchase a Connect Card. For a list of where you can purchase passes, go to http://www.portauthority.org/paac/FareInfo/FareInformation/WhereToBuy.aspx

Here is a Different Way to Explore Pittsburgh

Port Authority operates an inclined plane or funicular (simply known here as “the incline”) from the south end of the Smithfield Street Bridge to the top of the ridge of Mt. Washington.  The Monongahela Incline is accessible on foot from Downtown or by taking the “T” from any Downtown subway station.  Use the RED LINE or BLUE LINE rail routes to Station Square.

A second incline, called The Duquesne Incline, which is operated privately, is near the south end of the Fort Pitt Bridge.  It is accessible on foot via a bridge sidewalk that starts in Point State Park or via bus route G2 WEST BUSWAY. Take the G2 to the first stop after crossing the bridge.  The Duquesne Incline offers a historical museum at its top station.

You can ride both inclines on one excursion by walking Grandview Avenue on the ridge of Mt. Washington between the two. This walk offers a stunning view of Pittsburgh’s skyline and is about one mile long.

As a service to Car Free Journey readers, Port Authority staff members have prepared two lists that can help you enjoy your visit to Pittsburgh.

List 1: Major attractions and shopping areas that are served by Port Authority

(to find out the best route and closest stop for each attraction, call Port Authority Customer Service: (412) 442-2000)

North Side and North Shore

  • PNC Park
  • Heinz Field
  • National Aviary
  • Andy Warhol Museum
  • Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
  • Carnegie Science Center

Phipps Conservatory

Mt. Washington

  • Mon Incline
  • Duquesne Incline

Oakland

  • Carnegie Museum of Natural History
  • Carnegie Museum of Art
  • Cathedral of Learning (and The Nationality Rooms)
  • Heinz Memorial Chapel

The Strip

  • Senator John Heinz History Center

Frick Art and Historical Center

Shopping

  • Ross Park Mall (North Hills)
  • Lawrenceville
  • East Liberty area
  • Robinson Town Centre

List 2: Neighborhoods of Interest to Visitors that are served by public transit:

The following list includes a list of neighborhoods, what transit routes serve each neighborhood, and the most convenient stop(s) to each neighborhood:

Routes from Downtown to:

  • Oakland – Bus routes 61A, 61B, 61C, 61D, 71A, 71B, 71C or 71D from eastbound Fifth Avenue stops at Wood, Smithfield and Ross streets in Downtown.
  • The Strip District – Bus routes 86, 88, or 91 from eastbound Liberty Avenue stops at Wood, Smithfield Streets, William Penn Place or opposite 11th Street in Downtown Pittsburgh, or bus route 87 from Smithfield at 6th in Downtown Pittsburgh.
  • Lawrenceville – Bus route 91 from eastbound Liberty Avenue stops at Wood, Smithfield Streets, William Penn Place or opposite 11th Street in Downtown Pittsburgh.
  • Bloomfield – Bus route 86 from eastbound Liberty Avenue stops at Wood, Smithfield Streets, William Penn Place or opposite 11th Street in Downtown Pittsburgh, or bus route 87 from Smithfield at 6th in Downtown Pittsburgh.
  • Shadyside – Bus routes 71B or 71D from eastbound Fifth Avenue stops at Wood, Smithfield and Ross streets in Downtown.
  • East Liberty – Bus route P1 from Smithfield at 6th in Downtown Pittsburgh (fastest) and local routes 71B, 71C, 82, 86 or 88.
  • Squirrel Hill – Bus routes 61A, 61B, 61C or 61D from eastbound Fifth Avenue stops at Wood, Smithfield and Ross streets in Downtown.
  • South Side & South Side Works– Bus routes 48 or 51 from northbound Wood Street at Forbes or Sixth Avenues, eastbound Sixth Avenue near Smithfield Street or southbound Smithfield Street at Fifth, Forbes and Third Avenues in Downtown Pittsburgh.
  • Washington – Bus route 40 from westbound Liberty Avenue near 10th Street or southbound Smithfield Street at Sixth, Fifth, Forbes and Third Avenues in Downtown Pittsburgh, or the INCLINES
  • Mount Lebanon – Southbound rail RED LINE from any Downtown Subway Station.
  • North Shore – Walk across the 6th (Roberto Clemente), 7th (Andy Warhol) or 9th (Rachael Carson) Street Bridges.
  • The Mexican War Streets in Northside– Bus routes 13 or 16 from southbound 7th Street at Penn Avenue, westbound Liberty Avenue at 6th Street or northbound 6th Street at Fort Duquesne Boulevard in Downtown Pittsburgh.
  • Allegheny West in Northside – Northbound rail RED or BLUE LINE from any Downtown Subway Station.
  • Deutschtown in Northside – Bus routes 1, 2, 4, 6, 7 or 12 from westbound Liberty Avenue at 7th Street or bus route 8 from Penn Avenue at 7th Street in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Taxi Companies and Ride Sharing Services

For times when walking or public transportation won’t work for you, here is a list of local taxi companies and ride-sharing services:

  • Yellow Cab Co. 412-321-8100, operates 24/7
  • Classy Cab 412-322-5080, operates 24/7
  • Uber—must have app downloaded, operates 24/7
  • Lyft—must have app downloaded, operates 24/7

Tips for Visitors

Chrysann Panos, a summer intern at VISIT PITTSBURGH who grew up in Pittsburgh’s South Hills area, is currently a student at Syracuse University. She offers these suggestions for any of you who want to visit Pittsburgh without needing to drive during your visit: “Plan ahead and download the necessary apps, e.g. Lyft, Uber or zTrip. And most definitely plan out your public transportation routes in advance. Tiramasu is a great app to let you know when the next buses are planned – but you have to know what bus you want to take in order for it to be helpful. Many bus routes become less frequent after 8 p.m., and some will run just sporadically after 10 or 11 p.m. Rent a bicycle! And while there are a growing number of dedicated bike lanes and “sharrows,” there is a fabulous river trail system here that can keep riders off-road.”

 Chrysann describes how she feels about being a summer intern here without needing to drive: “While I don’t live in the city, I love having access to the T from where I live in Pittsburgh’s South Hills. It’s an affordable and easy way to get to my internship each day, and I find that I prefer to use it when going downtown for other activities as well. It definitely cuts out gas and parking costs! When I’m downtown, it’s so easy to walk to wherever I need to go. My friends and I love grabbing a bite to eat at different restaurants in the area before crossing the bridge to the North Side for a Pirates game at PNC Park or a concert at Stage AE.”

How do you want to experience Pittsburgh while you are here?

  •  Focus on one or more neighborhoods: staying there and exploring attractions and restaurants that are located in or near that neighborhood.
  •  Select one or more of your special interests. Then, plan an outing or weekend around that interest.
  • Check out one or more of the transit or walking self-guided tours recommended here.

Let’s start by spotlighting a few of Pittsburgh’s distinctive neighborhoods that you might visit:

  • Oakland: A thriving commercial and residential area. In fact, Oakland is Pennsylvania’s third largest “Downtown.” Long considered the cultural center of Pittsburgh, Oakland is home to the Carnegie Library Main Branch, Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, Carnegie Music Hall, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden. Oakland is home to world-class educational institutions, including the University of Pittsburgh, where you will find the Cathedral of Learning and the one-of-a-kind Nationality Rooms. In short, Oakland is the cultural, medical, educational, spiritual, and technological center of Pittsburgh, boasting many world-renowned institutions and attractions. This is an easy bus ride or short taxi ride away from downtown. There are many hotels in Oakland, so you can stay right in the heart of the neighborhood!
  •  Lawrenceville: Located just east of Downtown Pittsburgh, this neighborhood is located about two miles from Downtown Pittsburgh and runs along the banks of the Allegheny River. Lawrenceville is fast becoming known as one of the hottest neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, with a large, vibrant community of artisans, and a shopping district full of specialty boutiques, renowned restaurants, yoga studios and cozy neighborhood coffee shops. Despite all the buzz, Lawrenceville has retained its authentic, community feel. Expect to walk into the shops and be greeted by the friendly business owners, who willlikely refer you to other shops in the area if you don’t find what you’re looking for. The   Allegheny Cemetery and The Clemente Museum are located in Lawrenceville.
  • South Side: Divided topographically into the Flats and the Slopes, the South Side is located south of both Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland. Commuters and visitors to the South Side enjoy convenient public transportation in the form of buses and—at the edge of South Side—the Light Rail. The entire length of East Carson Street is designated as an historic district and features unique retail shops, galleries and restaurants.     Pittsburgh’s South Side is a unique mix of residents; older neighbors whose families have lived on the same street for generations and young families or single. The neighborhood has developed a thriving arts and cultural community. Numerous churches stand representative of the area’s varied ethnicity. Row houses dominate the South Side flats, while town homes are available in new developments along the river. Window shop along East Carson Street. You can also shop or dine in the SouthSide Works. The trail along the Monongahela River is part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which will take bike riders from Pittsburgh along the Great Allegheny Passage to Washington, D.C.
  •  Squirrel Hill: Located east of Downtown Pittsburgh, this neighborhood is one of Pittsburgh’s most popular, with a variety of ethnic restaurants, delis, bakeries, old-fashioned grocery stores (which still deliver), and landmark taverns, as well as chic new eateries, trendy boutiques, movie theaters, and upscale shops. Frick Park and Schenley Park border Squirrel Hill, offering residents a wide range of recreational activities including biking (be prepared for hills), walking, rollerblading, ice-skating, tennis, and golf. Homes in Squirrel Hill range from high-rise apartments on Forbes and Murray     Avenues to sprawling brick mansions on Fair Oaks. Whether you’re looking for a quaint apartment, or a contemporary house with a garage, you’ll find it in Squirrel Hill.
  • North Shore: The North Shore boasts great views of Downtown. Most famous for its iconic sports venues – Heinz Field and PNC Park – it’s also home to world-class museums and award-winning attractions. (Think: The Andy Warhol Museum, Mattress Factory, Bicycle Heaven, National Aviary, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.) Walk across any of the “Three Sisters” bridges for spectacular views of downtown. (It’s also one of the best places in the city to watch fireworks.

Port Authority suggests checking out these additional walkable neighborhoods

  • Bloomfield, Shadyside, and East Liberty to the east;
  • Brookline, Mt. Washington and Mount Lebanon to the south; and
  • the Mexican War Streets, Allegheny West and Deutschtown in the North Side. 

Let’s plan a vacation around one or more of your special interests. Here are some ideas:

A Special Welcome to Bicyclists and Walkers

Bicycling: Pittsburgh is bike-friendly! Check out Bike PGH to find bike maps and places to rent-a-bike. Bike travel makes it easy to discover downtown, the North Side, the South Side, Oakland, and nearby attractions.  The City of Pittsburgh recently installed a protected bike lane along Penn Avenue—one of the main thoroughfares—for cyclists and pedicabs to ride throughout the city stress-free.  Renting a bike in Pittsburgh is a great way to explore all the city has to offer.  Bike travel makes it easy to discover downtown, the North Side, the South Side, Oakland, and nearby attractions! Rent a bike from Golden Triangle Bike Rentals and Tours.

Pittsburgh Bike Share recently started the Healthy Ride System in a partnership with Highmark Blue Cross, Blue Shield and the Allegheny Health Network. The Healthy Ride System has placed bike racks all over Pittsburgh to make bike travel an accessible option.

  • Walking: Friends of the Riverfront has great trail maps. Many parks in Pittsburgh are popular spots for anything from a lunch picnic to a bike ride or hike. Different Pittsburgh parks include: the Point, Frick Park, Riverview Park, Schenley Park, and Highland Park. From downtown, it’s easy to reach the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which includes 24 miles of trails along the riverfront.

One of the best walks is from downtown Pittsburgh through the Strip District to Lawrenceville. It’s totally flat, and full of character. If you’re too tired to walk back (about 3 miles to Central Lawrenceville), you can always hop on a bus.

Port Authority staff offer these suggestions for good walks that are close to public transit:

  • Pittsburgh has a well-developed rails-to-trails network with numerous trails radiating from Downtown or just across a river from Downtown.  The Great Allegheny Passage Trail runs from Downtown Pittsburgh and ends in Cumberland, MD. – this is accessible from most of Port Authority’s routes.
  • Most of the City’s urban parks have walking and hiking trails (including Schenley, Frick and Riverview Parks).

Schenley Park, is in the Oakland/Squirrel Hill area and is accessible by bus routes 61A NORTH BRADDOCK, 61B BRADDOCK-SWISSVALE, 61C McKEESPORT-HOMESTEAD and 61D MURRAY.

Frick Park, between Squirrel Hill and Regent Square, is accessible via bus routes 61A NORTH BRADDOCK and 61B BRADDOCK-SWISSVALE.

Riverview Park, north of Downtown in the Observatory Hill neighborhood, is accessible via the 8 PERRYSVILLE.

  • For a unique walk through Pittsburgh’s sloped neighborhoods, visitors can find numerous streets that are not paved for cars but rather consist of sets of public steps, known here as “City Steps.”  Some of these flights contain hundreds of steps.  City Steps are uniquely Pittsburgh and give an unparalleled glimpse at the nooks and crannies of the city.  The various City Steps locations can be located using Google Maps.  The best areas to tour the steps are in the South Side Slopes accessible via bus route 51 CARRICK or on the North Side in the Fineview neighborhood accessible via 11 FINEVIEW.
  • Short Outings You Can enjoy Without a Car: The T, Pittsburgh’s light rail system, makes day outings easy. Both Station Square and South Side are accessible from the Station Square stop just south of the city and have a wide selection of boutiques and restaurants. A few more stops on the T’s Red Line will take you through Dormont and Mt. Lebanon, two suburban areas with their own respective “towns,” little shopping areas and restaurants all lined up in a row. Or take the Blue Line straight to South Hills Village Mall!

Restaurants and other ideas for Eating Out

Visit Pittsburgh offers these tips: “There are plenty of unique and delicious restaurants all over Pittsburgh! First time visitors to Pittsburgh must get a bite at Primanti Bros.: a sandwich shop with locations all over the Pittsburgh area, to try their Almost Famous Sandwich stuffed to the brim with meat, provolone, coleslaw, tomato, and French fries between two slices of fresh Italian bread. A true Pittsburgh experience!

Any of the many restaurants in Market Square make dining a delight. Nola on the Square is a New Orleans jazz brasserie, complete with live jazz music on weekend evenings. There’s also Il Pizzaiolo, Las Velas Mexican Restaurant and the Original Oyster House – each with its own unique charm.

Dream Cream Ice Cream got its start in 2012 as a program aimed at revitalizing downtown neighborhoods. This ice cream shop funds dreams via ice cream sales by having sales of different flavors benefit different causes. In just two short summers Dream Cream has helped 100 individuals and organizations make their dreams come true, raising over $70,000 to repair churches, marry marines, adopt children, research cures, and so much more! Oh, and the ice cream is delicious!

Butcher and the Rye boasts a 350+ whiskey bourbon collection and a creative menu of small plates that combines the familiar with the unique. Two bars, upstairs and downstairs, provide an opportunity to experience different styles of drinks and the craft of bartending. Enjoy a whiskey house, tavern vibe on the main floor, while the upstairs is amazingly designed to the style and class of the supper club and grand cocktail era.

Other favorite downtown restaurants include Meat & Potatoes, Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, Nine on Nine and Habitat Restaurant in the Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel.

Entertainment and Nightlife in Pittsburgh: All of the following are close to public transit:

The Pittsurgh Cultural Trust runs many theatrical events throughout downtown Pittsburgh. You can find information on free jazz concerts, musicals, plays, art galleries, ballet performances, symphony performances and more. Different venues in Pittsburgh include: Heinz Hall, the Byham Theater, Cabaret at Theater Square, the Benedum Center, Trust Arts Education Center, O’Reilly Theater, Arcade Comedy Theater and the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

Row House Cinema is a single screen theater in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood that has a new movie theme each week.

Regent Square Theater and Harris Theater are both owned and operated by the Pittsburgh Filmmakers and offer a variety of alternative films, film series, and events.

Different restaurants throughout the city host Jazz Nights at least once a week. NOLA on the Square has different performers every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Andy’s Wine Bar hosts jazz nights Wednesday through Saturday. BNY Mellon sponsors JazzLive, a year-round free live jazz series at the Cabaret at Theatre Square, Katz Plaza, and the Backstage Bar every Tuesday from 5-11pm.

As for Pittsburgh nightlife, almost everything is within walking distance of a bus stop of T station while downtown. Popular late-night spots include Sienna Mercato’s Biergarten, Blush Gentleman’s Club, Perle, Three River’s Sports Pub, and more!

Consider one or more of these Walking Itineraries to Explore Pittsburgh:

  • Here is a short walk, recommended by Visit Pittsburgh, to capture the unique flavor of Pittsburgh: A walk from downtown to the Strip District will give you an opportunity to really connect with Pittsburgh’s roots. The Strip, as it’s called, is foodie heaven and as authentic as it is fun. Locals love it for its low, low prices and tremendous selections. The one-half square mile shopping district is chock full of ethnic grocers, produce stands, meat and fish markets and sidewalk vendors. Bordering Downtown, this neighborhood is pure Pittsburgh with its gritty and authentic vibe.

Three short walks within or near the Fare Free Zone of Pittsburgh. On these excursions, you won’t spend money using buses or rail.

  • North Shore

 From the Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh Hotel turn left onto Penn Avenue.Walk toward 7th Street and make a right onto the Andy Warhol Bridge (one of the three sister bridges). Walk across the Andy Warhol Bridge and make sure to turn around and take a photo of the incredible skyline! Stop in at the Andy Warhol Museum: one of the largest museums dedicated to a single artist!

After taking a photo with the famous Campbell’s Soup Cans, walk over to PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.If the Pirates aren’t playing, grab a bite to eat at SoHo right across the street from PNC Park. They have a delicious menu with weekly specials and drink specials! http://www.sohopittsburgh.com/index.html 

To walk off that meal from SoHo, walk past the Roberto Clemente Statue (Photo op!) and down to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. Walk alongside the Allegheny River and make sure your camera is ready because there are tons of spectacular views of Downtown Pittsburgh and Point State Park!  Finally, walk over the Roberto Clemente Bridge back into Downtown Pittsburgh and stop in the Wood Street Galleries and SPACE

  • Pointe State Park

 From the Wyndham Grand Downtown Pittsburgh Hotel, walk right across the street to Point State Park.While walking through the park grab a cup of coffee or tea at the Café at the Point. Make sure to take a tour of the Fort Pitt Block House, the oldest authenticated structure west of the Allegheny Mountains!Visit the Fort Pitt Museum and explore the history behind Pittsburgh’s birthplace!

After the Museum, walk down to the confluence of the three rivers! That’s where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers join to form the Ohio River!At this junction, take in the mighty Point State Park Fountain which shoots water 150 feet into the sky.

  • Station Square

 From the Omni William Penn Hotel make a left onto Smithfield Street and walk towards the Monongahela River. Take a stroll across the Smithfield Bridge, the oldest steel bridge in the United States! Once across the bridge, make a right hand turn into Station Square where one can find a plethora of attractions, sporting events, and fine dining establishments!

Three Outings near Public Transportation, recommended by Port Authority Staff

We’ve already learned about several Pittsburgh neighborhoods. The following three outings suggest ways to explore them using public transportation to get there:

  • -From Downtown, take the 91 BUTLER STREET to Lawrenceville (48th Street), walk Butler Street to 34th Street passing mom and pop shops, vintage boutiques and coffee shops and restaurants.  Then from Butler or Penn at 34th Street take the 88 PENN or the 91 BUTLER STREET to the Strip District at 21st Street, walk Penn Avenue through the Strip District for more shops and food back to Downtown.
  • -Take the 48 ARLINGTON to E Carson Street at S 22nd Street, walk the South Side business district, a significant portion of Pittsburgh’s nightlife, to S 10th Street, take bus routes 48 ARLINGTON or 51 CARRICK or walk back to Downtown using the S 10th Street Bridge.-
  • Take the 61A NORTH BRADDOCK, 61B BRADDOCK-SWISSVALE, 61C McKEESPORT-HOMESTEAD or 61D MURRAY to Forbes Avenue in Oakland, walk from Oakland, through Shadyside for more shopping to East Liberty, take the P1 EAST BUSWAY-ALL STOPS from East Liberty Station on the East Busway back to Downtown.

For information about what to do and where to stay:

VisitPITTSBURGH: http://www.visitpittsburgh.com/ 412-281-7711

For Information about Public Transportation and how to get where:

Port Authority: http://www.portauthority.org/paac/default.aspx 412-442-2000

Port Authority also recommends these additional web sites:

Steve Atlas welcomes your comments and suggestions for places and vacation destinations you would like to be featured in an upcoming Car Free Journey column. E-mail steveatlas45@yahoo.com

About the author

Steve Atlas

Steve Atlas

Steve Atlas, author of two published books about parenting, has written newspaper columns and magazine articles about travel, career change, home-based business, parenting, and sales skills. Steve's column, “Single Parent Hotline,” was a weekly feature of Gannett News Service for several years. He has also been a contributing editor to Selling Power magazine. Currently Steve’s primary interest is reducing dependency on private automobiles. In addition to being a public transit advocate and author (since 2008) of Car Free Journey, Steve’s e-book: "Car Free at the Beach", and several reports he has written about Car Free Living can be viewed at www.pubtrantravel.com.

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