Getting around in Pittsburgh is relatively easy thanks to a well-developed public transport system consisting of buses, light rail and inclines. Downtown is a compact area and parts of Pittsburgh are very pedestrian- and cycle-friendly. Anyone living in the city centre is unlikely to need a car, though families and those living in the suburbs might find that driving makes their lives easier.
Pittsburgh's public transport system is run by the Port Authority of Allegheny County, which operates an integrated ticketing system mainly based around the ConnectCard smartcard. It can be loaded with credit and is valid for all three modes of public transport, as well as bicycle rental.
Public transport in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh's fleet of more than 800 buses is a great way to get around. There are both regular and rapid transit bus services. Rapid transit services have their own busways, allowing them to skip traffic. There are currently three operational busways.
It's worth mentioning that most bus routes terminate downtown, so commuters that need to get from one side of Pittsburgh to the other will likely need to make at least one transfer to get there.
Known as 'the T', Pittsburgh's light rail system is clean, efficient and convenient. With three lines and more than 50 stops, the T is fairly comprehensive and is used by many for their commute.
The T can be an affordable mode of transport, given that its downtown route is free of charge from First Avenue to Allegheny.
There are two historical funiculars in operation in Pittsburgh: the Monongahela Incline and the Duquesne Incline, both of which run between different parts of South Shore and Mount Washington. The Monongahela Incline is the oldest continuously operating funicular in the United States.
The inclines are great for experiencing a part of history while enjoying a panoramic view of the city. For those living in the area, they can be a useful form of transport, but are mostly a tourist attraction.
Taxis in Pittsburgh
Hailing a cab in the City of Bridges isn't as simple as one might think. Unless riders are in Downtown, hailing one off the street is unlikely and the better option would be to call for one in advance. Most taxis operating in Downtown, called City Cabs, are black and white and can be hailed off the street, but the city does have hundreds of other cab companies one could call.
Ride-hailing applications such as Uber and Lyft also operate in Pittsburgh.
Driving in Pittsburgh
Most new arrivals will find they don't need a car, especially if they live in the downtown area. Parking is expensive, and gas (petrol) prices in Pittsburgh are some of the highest in the US. In addition, downtown can be difficult to navigate, as streets are not laid out in a grid pattern, consist of hundreds of one-ways, 400 bridges and a busy network of crisscrossing freeways.
However, for expats with children or those who wish to travel outside the city, owning a car can be highly useful. For the first year of residency, those moving to Pittsburgh from abroad will be able to drive on a valid foreign driver's licence. It isn't necessary to have an international driving permit, although this can make things easier. After a year, expats are required to replace their foreign licence with a Pennsylvania licence. This often requires going through theoretical and possibly practical testing.
Cycling in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is a fairly cycle-friendly city, with several dedicated cycling trails and lanes. It's possible to travel with a bicycle on any form of public transport.
Those who don't have their own bicycle can opt to use the city's bicycle-sharing scheme, known as 'Healthy Ride Pittsburgh'. Holders of ConnectCards are entitled to unlimited free 15-minute trips. Any ride over 15 minutes is charged to the ConnectCard.
►To learn about the various neighbourhoods, see Areas and Suburbs in Pittsburgh
Are you an expat living in Pittsburgh?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Pittsburgh. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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