This week’s questions are: Do I need a car in Pittsburgh? How easy is it to have a car in Pittsburgh?
The short answer to the first question is: No.
The short answer to the second question is: Pretty easy, for a city.
Pittsburgh has a great public transit system, mostly buses, that goes nearly everywhere one would have a need to get in the city. Buses go between all of the areas that grad students live and to campus, downtown, and all of the major shopping areas in and around the city. The least frequent bus comes about twice an hour, but most of the buses come more often than that, on the order of once every 10-15 minutes. And, public transit is free with your Pitt ID!
That being said, if you don’t have a car, the consensus is that it’s useful to know someone who has one. It’s useful for the big shopping trips everyone needs to take once in a while, as well as getting out of Pittsburgh or getting to events (such as some parts of the IBGP interview weekends, once you’re a current student) that take place outside of the city.
I do have a car with me, and I’ve found it pretty easy to keep. Street parking is free in some of the neighborhoods (including the one in which I live); in others, you’d need to buy a street parking permit from the city. In many of the neighborhoods, the rental companies that handle the apartments also have lots or spaces available for residents as well, as an alternative to street parking, which may or may not cost money.
Some of the shopping areas- mostly the big box stores- have free parking lots for their customers. Other areas that are more mom-and-pop shops or restaurants have metered parking available. Parking everywhere is free on Sundays!
The worst part of driving is the snow in the winter, because many of the side streets don’t get plowed. But of course, you could always take more public transit in the winter instead of driving.
My overall impression is that if you have a car, bring it, but it’s not worth buying a car if you don’t already have one.