Driving in cities varies according to each cities geography, social layout, and hot spots. The traffic issues have a major impact on how a city manages its transportation issues, and that is why public transport systems don't cover the needs of the many. This is why rideshare has become so popular since it provides a personalized solution to a time old problem; how do I get from where I am to where I want to be? So here at RSF, I decided to start preparing guides for my readers, comprehensive insights into anything and everything rideshare related.
RSF City Guides for Drivers
This series will look at specific cities and focus on issues that are related to each and every city. Take into account that all information provided will change over time. Cities tend to change their transportation routes, and business, as well as social locations, move around.
Pittsburgh is the county seat of Allegheny County. It has a population of around 305,704 residents within the city limits. Pittsburgh has a metropolitan population of 2,353,045 is the 26th largest in in the U.S.
Pittsburgh Driving Times
Weekdays (Monday – Wednesday)
- Morning rush 4 am to 10 am
Monday mornings start the week with early red eye flight travelers, so if you want to catch riders for the airport in the wee hours of the morning locate yourself downtown around hotels like the Fairmont and the Double Tree.
Due to the early morning hours and lack of drivers, you will likely get a returning rider from the airport which sort of kicks off your morning ride nicely.
If you are starting out your shift at 6 – 7 am in the suburbs, such as North Hills, then stick around since you will definitely get a ride to the airport or downtown.
After 7 am and till 10 am there will be a lot of demand in the city, so locate yourself around downtown and sometimes stick around the Carnegie Mellon Campus.
- Afternoon rush hour 3 pm to 6 pm
If you like a lot of congestion with riders paying the bill, then afternoon rush hours is the time to drive. The business centers in downtown and other commercial areas all become instant surges and provide rides to the suburbs and the airport.
- Late night 10 pm to 3 am
While most of the city is dormant, there are great locations to pick up the more colorful riders. Locate yourself around the theatres like The Rex and Mr. Smalls. The shows end at 11 pm, and suddenly you have a mini surge at that hour of the night.
During the fall, the Carnegie Mellon Library unloads a lot of students that get in late nifght study groups, usually ending around 11 pm.
Weekends (Thursday – Saturday)
- Morning rush 4 am to 10 am
Thursday and Friday mornings are similar to the Monday Wednesday crowd, but with one difference, the direction is from the suburbs to the airport. The rest of the early morning crowd will come from the Rivers Casino which is a 24-hour casino. Usually, it releases its visitors around 4:00 – 5:00 am.
In general, Saturday mornings are quiet, so this would be a good time to relax and spend time with your family too unless you are single and have nothing else to do.
- Daytime hours 10 am to 3 pm
Usually, the daytime hours over weekends are quiet unless there is an event. So check out the events calendar and prepare yourself for those daytime riders. Other than event days you will find the best place to be located is in the suburbs where locals seek rides all over the place.
- Afternoon rush hour 3 pm to 7 pm
Thursday and Friday's rush hours are like Monday to Wednesday, business people escaping the city to get back home.
Saturday late afternoon is when things start to get interesting with many seeking rides to bars, restaurants and evening events downtown or in specific hotspot locations. The demand usually starts around 7 pm. Position yourself in the suburbs, such as North Hill and be ready for a seamless shift.
- Late night 10 pm to 3 am
This is the prime time and surges for rideshare drivers. Students will congregate rides around Oakland and Squirrel Hill requiring rides to bars of the South Side, Lawrenceville, and Bloomfield. After you drop them off stock around the bar hotspots. If there are major events going on at the PPG Paints Arena or Studio AE, get closer to them too.
Remember, that the late night brings the drunks crawling back out from the bars. Prepare accordingly and be patient, they are drunk. In the words of the bible "forgive them, lord, for they know not what they do." (or something like that).
- Morning rush 4 am to 10 am
No such thing as a Sunday morning rush, so sleep in and enjoy the soft sheets.
- Daytime hours 10 am to 3 pm
Most of the year-round Sunday mornings are quiet. However, you do get your fair share of museum visitors and families going out with the kids to attractions. You will find that the Carnegie Science Center, the Andy Warhol Museum, and the Carnegie Museum of Art produced a demand on Sundays.
During the football season, you also get 60,000 Steeler fans and thousands more of visiting fans crowing the roads. This is an eight-week stint, so enjoy the show, the sounds and be wary.
- Afternoon rush hour 3 pm to 7 pm
This is when events take control over the flow of traffic, so just watch that events calendar and be prepared to locate yourself for rides to and from specific locations.
This is also when airport rides start to emerge, trickles of both leavers and arrivers start to dot the map.
- Late night 10 pm to 3 am
This is when events close and visitors start to demand a return home ride. It is also when the airport becomes starts to demand. Check the incoming flight's list and be prepared for an airport demand surge to the city.
Pittsburgh demands strategic driving at all times. The traffic and the road conditions only add to the need to think about how, where and when you will drive. Having a load of apps such as Mystro, Gridwise and others will not help you if you don't know the patterns. So learn the hourly patterns, and you will become a lucrative rideshare driver.
Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
The PIT is a very busing airport and handles around 590 flights daily. It was also voted as the #1 airport in the US and #3 in the world, so be ready for a lot of work and waiting if you want to use PIT as a location.
- Always keep the Uber app open at the airport.
- The waiting area uses a FIFO system within a geofenced area. You need to access the area and wait in turn.
- The waiting area is a parking lot near the Gas Station on Airport Blvd. Arrive at the TNC Staging Lot by following signs to Airport Exit / Return to Terminal / Fuel. Then, make a left onto Return to Terminal Rd, drive behind the gas station, and make the first left down the sloped area to the TNC Staging Lot. A ticket is not needed to access the staging lot. Exit the lot via Gate 46 to the front of the gas station. If there are no drivers in the waiting zone, the request will go to the drivers closest to the airport.
- If asked by airport staff for your Waybill, you can access this within your Uber Partner App
- Driver cancellations: if you use this option too frequently you will be blocked from using the app in the PIT.
- The Uber trade dress must be displayed on your windshield for all dropoffs and pickups.
Per the Uber site: Citations can occur for any of the following reasons:
- Not displaying Uber sticker properly (trade dress)
- Pickup anywhere except for Door 4 of the Commercial Arrivals
- Dropping off anywhere other than Public Departures
- Picking up in an active travel lane (not directly flush with the curb)
- Leaving vehicle unattended
- Being disrespectful to airport officials
- Failure to maintain an overall clean and professional appearance
- Driving on any roads that are marked as prohibited use, such as emergency vehicle roads & lanes
- Driving dangerously or aggressively (reckless driving) while on airport property
PIT Queuing rules:
- You will lose your place in the queue if:
- You go offline with your Uber driver app
- You drive outside the FIFO zone
- You do not accept multiple incoming trip requests in a row
- You cancel multiple rides (if the rider cancels, you will remain at the top of the queue)
Pittsburgh Top 10 Hotspots
- Grist House Brewery
- Wigle Whiskey Garden and Barrel House
- Arsenal Cider House & Wine Cellar
- Pittsburgh Party Pedaler
- Roundabout Brewery
- Howl at the Moon Pittsburgh
- Maggie's Farm Rum Distillery
- Jack's Bar Southside
- Arcade Comedy Theater
Pittsburgh is a complex city to drive in; there is no real grid like pattern. It's a lot of winding streets, hills and bridges, tunnels and valleys. GPS has an issue when handling multiple exits in the same location, but each exit leading to a different level.
Pittsburgh has a Wayfinder system that splits the city into five colored regions. There are colored belts that help drivers around the city, and includes a special Wayfinder loop, which is purple and has signage that points drivers to most of Pittsburgh's inner-city hotspots:
The colors of the Belt Route system are organized like the rainbow - the outermost belt is Red, then Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple. The belt route system is on of Pittsburgh's pride, and therefore it is well maintained with good signage. However, you will find that good intention can also lead you to hell.
Highways to Pittsburgh
- North : If you drive from the north then you need to exit onto I-79 onto I-279 at a point just south of Wexford, PA. This route is called the Raymond P. Shafer highway, but you will also hear it called Parkway North.
- South : If you drive from the south on I-79, you need to exit onto I-279, also called US 22/30, Penn Lincoln Highway, and the Parkway West. You can also connect with Route 60 to the airport from this location.
- East/West : Driving from the east or west you will use the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I-76. This has four Pittsburgh exits: Exit 28 in Cranberry (Route 19, Perry Highway), Exit 39 in Gibsonia (Route 8, Butler Valley), Exit 48 in Harmarville (Allegheny Valley) and Exit 57 in Monroeville (best access to Pittsburgh). Another east/west option is to use Interstates 70 and 68, which both connect to I-79 south of Pittsburgh.
- East : If you drive from the east exit the PA Turnpike in Monroeville (Exit 57) and connect to Parkway East, also called I-376, US 22/30 and the Penn Lincoln Parkway.
- Northwest : If you drive from the northwest, from Cleveland, exit at Route 19 (Exit 28) and follow Route 19 (Perry Highway) to I-79S.
- East: I-376 (the Parkway East) travels through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
- South: truck 19 travels through Pittsburgh via the Liberty Tunnel aptly named the Liberty Tubes.
West (and South): Fort Pitt Tunnels and Fort Pitt Bridge connect to the Golden Triangle via I-279. Be careful when driving through these tunnels since the overhead signage is only obvious when you are directly underneath them.
Pittsburgh is also known as the City of Bridges since it has over 1700 bridges in Allegheny County alone! Apart from the three sister's bridges that are identical, Sixth, Seventh and Ninth street bridges, all the bridges are different designs and colors. The oldest US steel bridge is found here, the Smithfield Street Bridge built in 1845.
Rules of the Road - the Pittsburgh Left
The Pittsburgh left evolved out of necessity and social regard for efficient driving. Basically, the Pittsburgh left is this:
If you are standing at a traffic light and the car on the right of you has his left blinker on, wait for him to drive first and go left. In all other cities you would be shot for doing this, but in Pittsburgh, it is expected, and if you don't do it, you will be shot!
- Pittsburgh drivers stop at stop signs as well as at yield signs, so if you are behind a driver that stops, relax, take a breath, this is life in Pittsburgh.
- Sunday drivers drive every day of the week, so be ready for those slow touring vehicles.
- Left turns are given priority, even when they cross lanes to get to the left. This is a common local courtesy, please abide by it and accept it.
- Since a lot of Pittsburgh's roads have narrow shoulders and are sometimes winding, be aware of cyclists, joggers, and pedestrians as well as the odd e-scooter and skateboarder.
- Pittsburgh was built without drivers in mind, so most houses have no car parks or driveways, this means that all the residents cars are parked in the streets. This means that some people park a block or more away from their home. If you intend to park to wait to pick up a passenger or dropping one off, don't. Be prepared to anger someone that lives in the area, to whom you are stealing their only parking option. Its better to hold up traffic and drop the passenger off in the middle of the road or ask them to meet you at a more convenient location for pickup. They will understand this; it's part of Pittsburgh's culture.
- You will also find some locations have a no-parking designation, which means that if you don't have the appropriate sticker, you can't park there anyway.
Getting in the Right Lane
When I say right lane, I don't mean right; I mean the right lane to be in. Since most of the roads have multiple exits in one location, you don't want to have to cross over many lanes to reach it. So, plan your driving accordingly and be as close to the lane you need to be on at all times.
Take into account that winters are harsh, prepare your vehicle and drive with care. There are many articles on how to prepare for winter driving, so I wont g into detail here.
I said it before and will repeat it here. GPS is not so efficient in Pittsburgh. The topography combined with tunnels, bridges and winding roads lead GPS reliance to be problematic. This is one city where you need "the knowledge," just like in London, UK. If you don't know your way around the city, don't become an Uber or Lyft driver.
Since there are loads and loads of steep hills, going up and down, you need to drive accordingly and use your gears, not your brakes. If you use your brakes going downhill, you will wear them out in a week here in Pittsburgh. Take into account that in the winter using your brakes will lead you to skid all the way freely down until you hit something or someone.
I already covered parking but will state again, if you need to park, make sure you can. You don't want t a ticket for being in the wrong place, and you don't want to argue with an irate resident that needs the place you have taken up.
One Way Streets
Pittsburgh is the twilight zone of one way streets and streets that change direction at different times of the day. As I mentioned, if you don't know the routes don't drive in Pittsburgh, you will get lost.
The Restricted Lane
Also known as the carpool lane, this lane runs north or south on I-279, depending on the time of day. It was designed for Uber and Lyft drivers, do use it. These lanes are for cars that carry more than one passenger and are very useful.
Yes, Pittsburgh has directions, there is North, East, South, and West, but no one will tell you these directions. As far as locals are concerned, there is inner city and outer city. So, when you ask a direction, you will be directed towards or away from the city.
Another fact about Pittsburgh is that there is no one way to anywhere, there are multiple ways to everywhere. You can go one way to a location and another way back, and this will continue all day long until you have gone twenty different ways to and from the same locations.
Another fact that is until recently there were no road names, and signage was sparse, so locals will direct you to locational directions such as drive away from the center and then take a right. They wont tell you how far to drive and which right to take, but in most cases, any distance and any right will get you to where you want to go.
You will know when a driver is local or not, a truck driver will weave the streets like a ballerina, a car driver will seem to be asleep letting everyone in in front of him and buses will not stop at the curb, but discharge and take on passengers in the middle of the street so you cannot overtake them.
As for cyclists, let's just say that locals have a sixth sense for them and there is a point system for hitting as many as you can.
The turn signal is not used in Pittsburgh, or it is used, but usually when you take the turn and after you started to take it. No one knows why maybe it's a blinker light conservation issue.
For some reason unbeknown to any, all the multi-lane, limited access roads in Pittsburgh are called "the Parkway." There are The Parkway East, the Parkway West, the Parkway North, and we guess that eventually there will be a Parkway South.
Pittsburghers are used to the intricacies of driving in the area, so they will drive in the lane they need to assure a smooth transition from their lane to the turn-off. This means that lanes are as congested as the number of actual drivers needing the lane, unlike other cities where the left lane is for fast and the right lane for slow.
Stay away from these 6 routes!
This is perhaps the worst route to use; the 28 is full of drivers weaving around other drivers and lead to the most active accident route in Pittsburgh. Take into account that this happens more so during rush hour.
Don't take this route in the morning and evening rush hours. The Parkway East turns into a nightmare during those times. If you're coming to Pittsburgh from the east suburbs, expect to hit congestion at Squirrel Hill Tunnel. If you're driving to the suburbs, you'll hit the bottleneck at the Squirrel Hill exit.
Parkway West is notorious for long drive times during rush hour. Accidents that always occur tend to add to the long wait time, especially as you get closer to the Fort Pitt Tunnel.
This is a rush hour location, so find an alternative route if you can. Remember, there is no alternative way out of a tunnel when congested.
This is a questionable route, some believe its great, while others think that the red lights add to waiting time. Its all a matter of perspective.
This is perhaps the worst road in Pittsburgh, especially when you add the one-way streets in Oakland. If you are driving during rush hour, avoid this route at all costs.
Primary Pittsburgh Routes
- William Penn Highway
- Allegheny Valley Expressway
- Lincoln Highway
- Mon-Fayette Expressway
- Ohio River Boulevard
- Amos K. Hutchinson Bypass
- Pennsylvania Turnpike
- Raymond P. Shafer Highway
- George C. Marshall Parkway
- Connellsville-New Stanton Road
- North Shore Expressway
- East Street Valley Expressway
- North Hills Expressway
- Airport Parkway
- Beaver Valley Expressway
- Penn-Lincoln Parkway
- Southern Expressway
- Southern Beltway
- Crosstown Boulevard