Pittsburgh’s compact downtown area and well-integrated transportation system make the city easy to navigate by public transit. From traditional options like buses and trains, to light rail and Zipcars, you can get where you need to go if you plan ahead.
Pittsburgh: Size and Geography
Pittsburgh is a city of about 312,000 people, and has a metro area population of 2.3 million. Known for its many bridges and tunnels, Pittsburgh sits at the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers flow together to form the Ohio River.
Public transit connects people living outside the city with a downtown area that covers 50 acres. About 230,000 people use public transportation services every week day, according to the Port Authority of Allegheny County, the area’s main public transportation provider. In fact, almost half of the people who work or shop in downtown Pittsburgh use public transit to reach their destinations.
Navigating the city is easiest if you mentally divide it into sections: the North and South sides, the East and West ends, and downtown in the center. The North and South sides have neighborhoods called North Shore and South Shore that are closest to the water. The terrain quickly sprawls steeply upward and leads into neighborhoods with names such as Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights that reflect the city’s terrain. With its rivers and hills, Pittsburgh offers some postcard-worthy views.
Getting Around Pittsburgh
Parking in Pittsburgh is expensive and can be difficult to find during the work week or big events, so the city’s extensive public transportation system fills an important need. Port Authority services link the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods through the use of various public transit options, including more than875 buses, 80 light rail vehicles and two inclines.
The downtown area of Pittsburgh is bordered by Penn Avenue to the north, Grant Street to the east, and Boulevard of the Allies to the south. Pittsburgh’s downtown is pleasant to travel on foot with parks and public spaces located between office towers and retail stores.
How Much Does Pittsburgh Public Transit Cost?
Fares for transportation services managed by Port Authority are based on trip length from downtown Pittsburgh, also known as the Central Business District or the Golden Triangle.
In general,fares range from free to $3.25for adults traveling to neighborhoods in outlying transit zones. Fares are half price for children ages 6-11 and people with disabilities. And senior citizens travel free in all zones.
Pittsburgh’s Fare Free Zone
TheFree Fare Zoneis a great service for getting around downtown Pittsburgh. For more information about the zones and a trip planner, go to PortAuthority.org.
Bicyclists take note – two-wheeled, non-motorized bicycles are allowed on 12 Port Authority bus routes, the “T” and the Monongahela incline for no additional fee.
Pittsburgh Public Transit Options
Traveling By Train
The “T”is the gem of Pittsburgh’s public transit system – itslight rail and subway system, which travels both above and below ground. Built in 1984, it is considered clean and safe. It covers 25 miles and provides service to downtown Pittsburgh and several communities to the south of the city. The “T” travels in a loop below ground through the downtown area. Underground stations are located at Steel Plaza at Grant Street; Wood Street; and Gateway Center Plaza at Liberty Avenue. Three above-ground stations are located at Station Square at the Smithfield Street Bridge at Carson Street; First Avenue and Ross Street; and Penn Park.
One perk of waiting for the subway in Pittsburgh is the soothing sounds ofclassical music pumped through the stations. Selections feature thePittsburgh Symphony Orchestraand other Pittsburgh music makers.
Light rail serviceextends to Pittsburgh’s south suburbs throughfour light rail linesthat take passengers to neighboring South Hills. A 1.2 mile extension of light rail service, the North Shore Connector, was completed in 2012. It connects the city’s North Shore community to downtown and includes a tunnel for the “T” to travel under the Allegheny River.
Traveling By Bus
Port Authority of Alleghany County maintains three bus routes, which it calls “busways.” The busways’ names provide a good idea of what parts of the area they travel.
The Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway provides rapid transit service from Penn Station in downtown Pittsburgh to the Swissvale station in eastern Allegheny County. The West busway travels between western Alleghany County, downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland, which is home to the Carnegie Museum of History and Art and other cultural attractions. There’s also the South busway, which is the oldest operating busway facility in the United States, according to Port Authority. It provides frequent service between downtown Pittsburgh, Station Square and neighborhoods to the south of Pittsburgh.
Traveling By Incline
Pittsburgh offers a fairly unusual mode of public transportation – the incline. Although they are popular tourist attractions, the Monongahela and Duquesne inclines aren’t just novelties. In service since the 1870s, the inclines provide basic transportation for commuters and expansive views of the city below. In 2008, MSN.com ranked the Duquesne Incline as one of the top 10 romantic spots in the United States.
Pittsburgh’s inclines, for those who are unfamiliar, are cable cars that run up the face of Mount Washington. The Monongahela incline, or “the Mon,” travels a length of 635 feet, while the Duquesne Inline has a length of 400 feet.
The inclines provide service to Mount Washington and the Duquesne Heights sections of Pittsburgh.
Adult fares for both inclines are $2 cash each way, or $2.50 for a round trip on the Mon with a transfer valid for three hours. Rides for children ages 6-11 or people with disabilities are $1 each way. Both inclines run from 5:30 a.m. to 12:45 a.m. on Mondays through Saturdays. Hours of operation on Sundays are from 8:45 a.m. to midnight for the Mon and from 7 a.m. to 12:45 a.m. on the Duquesne.
For Senior Citizens and Disabled: The Benefits of ACCESS
ACCESSprovides services for senior citizens and people with disabilities who need door-to-door transportation within Port Authority’s service area. There are no restrictions on the purpose of trips taken, but users must share rides with others traveling in the same direction and at the same time.
Other Modes of Transportation: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Pittsburgh International Airportis a world-class facility that opened in 1992. More than 14 million people use the airport each year. It is a “focus city” and former hub for US Airways. Throughout the airport are nationally known retailers that provide plenty of opportunities for shopping while you wait for a connecting flight. For more information about the airport, go to www.pitairport.com.
Passenger train serviceto and from Pittsburgh is available on two Amtrakroutes: the Capitol Limited, which travels between Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and Chicago; and the Pennsylvanian, which travels between New York City and Pittsburgh.
Visitors and residents of Pittsburgh can useZipcarto “check out” one of 50 cars in the city and then return it to a designated parking spot. An hourly rate includes the charge for gas, insurance and 180 miles. Cars are located primarily in the downtown area and Oakland, which includes Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. For more information, go to ZipCar.com.
Greyhound and regional bus servicesare also good public transit options for getting to Pittsburgh from outlying areas. Greyhound provides bus service to the city as well as to and from the airport. In addition, many counties throughout southeastern Pennsylvania provide commuter bus services that connect to Port Authority buses.
Sights and Activities in Pittsburgh PA
Visiting Pittsburgh PA means you will have a ton of things to do and places to visit. You will not have many dull moments in this great city, and whether you are visiting with an adult or with your entire family, Pittsburgh will prove to be a memorable excursion for everyone. It is always best to plan your trip if you are going to make the most of your time here. The range of activities that you can enjoy in Pittsburgh is vast, so you may want to decide what you are going to do beforehand. This will allow you to take in as much of Pittsburgh PA as possible during your stay. Read on and learn about a few of the most popular attractions that Pittsburgh PA has to offer.
The Duquesne Incline
The Duquesne Incline takes you back in history, to a time when cable cars were used to transport immigrant workers from work at the plants along Pittsburgh’s rivers to their homes located at the top of Mt. Washington. Built in the 1800s, these century-old inclined planes, otherwise known as “funiculars,” still serve as transportation for the area residents. In addition, they are a great way for visitors of Pittsburgh to enjoy the city’s beautiful skyline. This is actually one of the most beautiful places in America, as rated by USA Today.
The Duquesne Incline is also a working museum, seeing as it utilizes the 2 original cable cars. It is also one of the few remaining inclines found in the United States. The incline was officially opened on May 20, 1877 as part of the 4 inclined planes that served the summit of Coal Hill, now known as Mt. Washington. A group of local residents who rescued and restored that incline are the reason why it is still in use today, centuries later. There is an upper station that houses a museum of the city’s history. Here, you will find photos of the steel days, when Pittsburgh was dark even at noontime. You will also gather a storehouse of information on inclines that are located all around the world. If you would like to take some Pittsburgh PA items with you to remind you of your visit, there are maps, photos, and other souvenirs in the gift shop located here.
You can also visit the interior of the incline and have a chance to watch the machinery in action. The cable cars do not power themselves, and neither do they have an operator on board. They are instead pulled up and down the track that is inclined by a cable driven by an engine located in the upper station, where the operator is. The cars work in pairs and are permanently attached to opposite ends of a single cable. One of the cars will be going uphill when the other is going downhill at the exact same time. This enables the cars to balance each other out so that the engine only needs to provide enough power to enable it to overcome friction as well as the weight difference of the passengers in both cars.
There are a number of ways you can enjoy your visit to the Duquesne Incline. The first is to take a group tour if you are with a party of 10 or more. Although group rates apply, you will get to enjoy a free tour of the Incline’s upper station. The group tour also includes a pictorial history of Pittsburgh’s industry, the sports venues, inclines, and natural disasters that the city has experienced. A visit to the machine room allows you to observe the original hoisting equipment that has been in use since 1877; you also get to see it in operation. From the observation deck 400 feet above the water surface, you can see downtown Pittsburgh, take photographs, and purchase souvenirs.
There is also a field trip program that caters to students as well as youth groups of 10 or more. The program includes a teacher’s lesson packet for the specific grade level of the students. If the group is coming in a vehicle, there is free parking across the street from the lower station at 1197 West Carson St. The program also includes a round trip on the Incline and a discussion on the history of inclines in Pittsburgh PA and the city’s industrial past. Later, the group can visit the machine room and observe the original hoisting equipment in operation while they learn about the engineers who built it. A brief history of the French and Indian War from which Pittsburgh arose is also given to ensure that the students leave with a wealth of information. As for all other guests and tourists, the program allows a view of the city from the observation deck. It is important to note that group rates will apply for the group tours and school programs.
Getting to the Duquesne Incline can be a little tricky. You can park at the free parking right off West Carson St., and then just follow the signs. There are also many buses that serve the lower station on West Carson St., and transfers can also be made to and from Port Authority Transit buses at both stations. Once on West Carson St., you will climb stairs that will lead you to the pedestrian bridge that goes over Carson St. From here, more stairs will get you to the old cars and the booth where you will pay your fares. There are 2 options to check out the incline: You can either park at the bottom of the incline on the West Carson St., or you can park at the top of the Incline. During summer, parking as the top of the Incline may be expensive, but you can also opt for the private parking lot located across the incline.
Kennywood Amusement Park
If you are looking for a time of fun in Pittsburgh PA with your loved ones, then the Kennywood Amusement Park has just what you need to make your visit memorable. The park is considered one of America’s finest traditional amusement parks. It offers a collection of old wooden coasters, as well as modern steel coasters that are much faster, promising to give you the ride of your life. In addition to having some of the best rides, Kennywood Park is also designated as a national historic landmark as a result of the nostalgic atmosphere that surrounds it. The entrance gates to the park open every day at 10:30 a.m., and the rides begin at 11:00 a.m. Closing times depends on the prevailing weather conditions, but generally, the park will close around 10:00 p.m.
Kennywood Amusement Park features 33 major rides that include:
- Sky Rocket
- Cosmic Chaos
- Ghostwood Estate
- Phantom’s Revenge Steel Coaster
The park also boasts 3 classic wooden coasters and an indoor spinning mouse coaster known as the Exterminator. You will be thrilled by the heavily themed scenery, even from the line. You also get to enjoy choose from the 3 water rides, traditional amusement rides, and Kiddieland, with 14 rides meant especially for kids. Kiddieland was one of the very first amusement park areas in the world designed specifically for children. The rides here include miniature versions of the Phantom’s Revenge, Cosmic Chaos, and Merry-Go-Round. The games, arcades, and gift shops in Kennywood will keep you here all day, so do not plan for other activities outside of Kennywood for the same day.
When you visit Kennywood Amusement Park, you can expect a lot of entertainment, which is probably the focal point of Kennywood. You have your choice of strolling musicians, live shows, and costume characters that evoke the rich history that Kennywood boasts. Acrobats are also on site to perform a most thrilling show. You can also participate in various carnival games and contests where you are required to perform tasks that require concentration, skill, and a little luck.
If you happen to be in Pittsburgh PA during the month of October, you will definitely enjoy the Phantom Fright Nights, a Halloween event held at Kennywood on weekend nights throughout the month. During the month, the entire park is actually given a complete makeover. There are costumed actors who roam the paths; spooky music fills the air; and fog blankets the park grounds. Light bulbs also change to other colors, and in some places, sheets are hung up on which to play classic horror movies. Areas of the park such as Lost Kennywood are turned into open-air haunted attractions. If you have young children with you, you may not want to attend the Phantom Friday Nights with them, for the atmosphere may be a little too intense and spooky for their young sensitivities, but the decision is left entirely to the parents or guardians.
There are a couple of things you can do to ensure that you enjoy as many rides and have as much fun as possible when you visit Kennywood Amusement Park. Try and arrive early and start your tour at the back of the park, working your way to the front. This way, you will avoid the crowds, as well as spend less time on the lines. The water rides will also be less packed in the mornings and evenings, so these are the best times to go for them. You can also spend less time at the entrance by purchasing your tickets online so you will have them in hand on arrival. This allows you to use the convenient e-ticket entrance, where admission is much faster.
The Kennywood Amusement Park is located in West Miffin, just 12 miles southeast of downtown Pittsburgh PA. From Interstate 376, you will get off at the Swissvale Exit No. 7. You will find arrow signs that are well-marked leading up to Kennywood. The preferred parking goes for a small fee, but the rest of the parking lots around the park are free. If traveling by bus, take a PAT 61C; this will stop in the Kennywood parking lot when the park is open.
If museums are your thing, Pittsburgh PA has more than enough to significantly widen your historical and scientific knowledge. At the Carnegie Science Center, science comes alive with more than 400 exhibits, which make it an interactive amusement park for the mind. The Center covers 5 floors, while the adjacent building houses the Highmark SportsWorks and the USS Requin submarine was docked at the edge of the river. You should not be in a hurry to leave, particularly if you have kids with you. The fourth floor for instance, is ideal for visiting with the family, with an 8,000-square-foot Exploration Station where you will enjoy open-ended problem-solving and exploration for the kids as well as the adults. If you have kids between 3 and 6 years old, they do not have to be left out either since there is also the Exploration Station Junior.
At Highmark SportsWorks, you get to know what it feels like to be a yo-yo or find out how fast you really are. This is a large exhibit that provides fun and fascination for everyone, adult or child, with over 30 interactive experiences to sample. This is the best place to be, especially when the weather outside is not so good. There are 3 major theme areas that you can explore during your visit.
LifeWorks is where you learn the benefits of a fun and active lifestyle through interactive exhibits like BodyCam, where you get to a take a simulated ride through the human body so you can observe surgical techniques. Physics of Sports is the second theme area where you get to enjoy interactive, full-body sports activities that will put your daredevil to the test while at the same time teaching you about balance, center of gravity, trajectory, and much more. You can become a human yo-yo on a flywheel! The third theme area is Sports Challenge, where you put your own skills at sports to the test as you participate in a variety of challenging experiences including pitching, jumping, balancing, and many more.
Roboworld is a permanent exhibit, the world’s most comprehensive and largest robotics exhibition that covers about 6,000 square feet. Here, you will learn how robots are designed to think and act, and you can explore several interactive exhibit stations. You will definitely enjoy trying to beat Hoops, the Center’s industrial arm that actually shoots hoops, or you could have a go at air hockey and see whether you can perform better than a robot at the game. You could also chat with an intelligent robot and have your picture taken with Star Wars characters. There are also 3 live demonstration theaters that you should not miss out on; ensure that you get there a few minutes before the show begins so you can save yourself a seat. These are the Science Stage, Kitchen Theater, and Works Theater, which are very popular with visitors.
The OmniMax Theater is a 4-story domed theater that surrounds the audience with whatever movie is playing. This is probably the largest film frame available in the entire motion picture industry, so you do not pass it off as your typical cinema. You will definitely enjoy the experience here, no matter what is showing onscreen. Watching a movie here will mean that most of your peripheral vision is utilized, so that you are at the very center of the action. Usually, there are 3 different special engagement or IMAX movies that are showing during a certain period.
You are probably going to spend your entire day at the Carnegie Science Center, and that is why the River View Café is there: to ensure that you do not go hungry. The café offers relaxed, casual dining with a cafeteria-like line and self-seating. On the menu you’ll find tasty and affordable sandwiches, soups, salads, hot entrees, or just a dessert or snacks to keep you going. If you want a heavier meal, there are restaurants not far from the Center.
The Science Center is located within walking distance of Andy Warhol Museum, as well as Heinz Field and PNC Park. If you are driving, take the Fifth Ave. West and follow the signs for 376 W. Take the North Shore exit and make a left, where you will find the Center on your right, and free parking. If you are taking a bus, it is advisable to take a westbound 500 Highland Park/ Bellevue from Fifth Ave. Get off at the first stop after crossing that river at Sandusky and General Robinson. The Science Center will be on your way as you walk south on General Robinson. Whether you are with your kids or taking a trip with your significant other, Pittsburgh will never run short on activities that you can take part in and places for you to visit.