The Terminal in the Strip District, Pittsburgh

Moving to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Relocation Guide

Here’s all you need to know about moving to Pittsburgh. For specific neighborhood information, peep Pittsburgh’s Best Neighborhoods. If you’re still considering relocating to Pittsburgh and feel undecided, then check out all the Reasons to Move to Pittsburgh.

Learn Yinzer

I had never heard the word Yinzer until I moved to Pittsburgh. Yinzer is a word that describes Pittsburghers, but not all of us. When you’re a Yinzer, you’re an evangelical Pittsburgher. I could waste your time with the sterile wiki definition of Yinzer, but instead I’m going to waste your time with my outsider’s definition of Yinzer because I think it will be more valuable. There are some very obvious qualifications for Yinzerdom, as follows:

1) You love all things Pittsburgh sports and sports history. Bradshaw, Clemente, the Steel Curtain, Crosby, Roethlisberger, and you’re even able to successfully argue that the Seahawks did not get screwed out of the 2006 Superbowl. You have jerseys, memorabilia, autographs, and you actively seek to increase your collection.

2) You remember the days when the mills were humming. Even better, you remember the days when the rivers ran Steelers’ gold. You worked in the mills, or your dad did, or someone close, and you take pride in it.

3) You are steeped in Pittsburgh history and can tell someone stories from back when your grandparents were kids. You describe places to other people by what it was before what it is today, “it’s the old Jimmy’s Tavern.” Or, “down there by the old Penney’s.” Or, “it’s where the old Lincoln Elementary was.” Point is you know the city backwards and forwards.

4) You have a thing for drop ceilings, faux wood paneling, and sun faded awnings.

5) You have a Pittsburgh accent. Pittsburgh accents are subtle but distinct. Here’s a dope video on how Pittsburgh accents sound:

Pittsburgh Potty and Shower

Pittsburgh Potty
The classic Pittsburgh Potty. Image courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Radio.

Whew! It was a tough day stoking the furnaces. I just want a shower, a proper shot of Jamison, and an IC Light.

All virtuous things may be had in an open-air basement Pittsburgh shower and toilet, whereby there are no walls for privacy, because that would be impractical. After all, the basement door provides enough privacy. Most older homes in and around Pittsburgh have open air showers and toilets in the basement.

Bucs Stadium is the Best Bar in Town

Pirates Stadium Pittsburgh
Sitting outside at a park on a summer evening with a view of downtown while enjoying a nice IC Light tallboy. PNC Park is a hell of a bar.

I’m afraid the Pittsburgh Pirates are perennial losers. Their loss is our gain, however, because ticket prices remain low and there is nothing like the view from Pirates stadium (AKA PNC Park). So don’t be afraid to drop 24 bucks for the nose bleeds, crack a tall boy of IC Light, and enjoy the view. Oh, yeah, there will also be a baseball game going on while you’re drinking.

It’s IC Light or Yuengling

IC and Yueng are the two preferred beers for Pittsburghers. I’ve been told by proper Yinzers that it is really only IC Light. I like an ice cold IC but sometimes it’s too light, and I need more meat on the bones, which is the nice thing about Yuengling.

The Mon Means the Monongahela River

And that concludes my definition of the Mon. It took me like a year to figure that out.

The Parkway is I-376 (the freeway through the center of town)

And that concludes my definition of the Parkway. It took me like a year to figure that out.

Up and Coming Neighborhoods

Pittsburgh Up and Coming Neighborhoods
Pittsburgh’s Up and Coming Neighborhoods.

I’m going to take this opportunity to broach a potentially sensitive subject: my love life. Just kidding. I meant gentrification, which actually has a more ambiguous definition than my love life, yet both baffle me equally. You would think that Pittsburgh Planner, being an urban planner, would have a proper definition for the word gentrification. I’m afraid I don’t, but there are neighborhoods in Pittsburgh that find themselves on the edge of a creeping market moraine.

Displacement of generational households due to an energetic market is challenging to manage short of significant ordinance restrictions – restrictions that place a cap on market activity. Thus, the often difficult choice for local leadership is stunt market activity or allow investments to take their course. Balance is difficult to find, and the legal language reflected by official ordinances is a lot for the laymen to understand, not the least of which being city/borough council people. In the end, it’s far simpler holding public hearings on my love life.

In addition to the neighborhoods noted on the map above, Pittsburgh Magazine recently came out with a list of five neighborhoods that are on the rise. They know this town well, so I would pay attention to their opinion on the matter. If you really want to go wild, call one of the rank-and-file planners at Pittsburgh city hall, they know things that will blow your mind, they take calls from strangers, and they will share everything that is public information, which is pretty much anything on paper in city hall.

Know Your Tunnels!

Pittsburgh Tunnels Map
Pittsburgh tunnels are to be avoided at all costs during rush hours.

The major Pittsburgh tunnels will jack you up. Squirrel Hill, Fort Pitt, and Liberty are the three major tunnels whereby a traffic jam is more than likely. You can’t help but get to know the tunnels because they are unavoidable whenever you want to get from one neighborhood to the next. All cities have a rhythm, and you’ll get to know Pittsburgh’s rhythm – eventually you’ll just have an innate sense of when the tunnels should be moving. Rush hours, game days, concert days, event days all pose their own unique threats.

From a practical perspective, the major challenge with Pittsburgh’s tunnels is they were designed by traffic engineers, which is like asking a vegan to cook you Beef Bourguignon. All the tunnels are two lanes in each direction, so multiple traffic lanes have to squeeze down from three or four lanes to two. That’s problem number one, and it’s also the most understandable problem. Problem number two is that the traffic engineers insisted on placing on-ramps after the lanes shrink down to two. Thus, we have the shrinkage problem and the addition of more volume. Both factors create gridlock. I don’t blame the engineers who blasted out the tunnels decades ago for making them too narrow. I blame the engineers that insisted on placing on-ramps just before entering into the tunnels. Us urban planners must have lost that argument.       

How to Know You’ve Become a Local

Glade's Pike Winery
The rolling vineyards of Pennsylvania are a fabulous places to enjoy some local wines.

There are lots of local wineries within regional Pittsburgh. Don’t worry, you’ll eventually develop a palate for their offerings, which is precisely when you know you’re becoming a local. Most vineyards import their red grapes from out West but use the native whites in local varietals. Estate wineries are somewhat rare but that’s not the point. Pennsylvanian’s take pride in their local wine — many make wine via kits in their basements. Drink it. Develop a palate for it. Identify your favorite vineyard. Here’s a suggestion: the best local winery in the commonwealth is Glade’s Pike, about an hour outside of Pittsburgh in the charming small town of Somerset.

Cities, Towns, Boroughs, and Townships

There are over 130 different munies just in Allegheny County, the central county of the Pittsburgh metro. The city of Pittsburgh has 90 different neighborhoods. It would take a relatively significant analysis to figure out how many municipal jurisdictions are within the entirety of the metro. Choose your parent jurisdiction wisely. Do some diligence before you pick where to live. Different boroughs and townships are either competent or not. Pittsburgh is a 21st century metro, but there are plenty of jurisdictional enclaves that prefer to make excuses rather than take action. I recommend choosing the action oriented jurisdictions.