By, Kenneth Trueman
Six, maybe seven, minutes. In the time it takes many people to place and receive their order for a fancy coffee and a muffin, I have walked from my apartment in front of Point State Park to my office at the corner of 6th and Liberty. It could even be faster in this city of shortcuts, but I figure I should at least respect the crosswalk light at the corner of Forbes and Stanwix. That is still less time then it takes many people to get from their parking lot to their office.
I moved to Pittsburgh from Montreal at the beginning of November 2012. Though I looked online at apartments in a number of neighborhoods (North Shore, Southside, Oakland, etc.) and visited them once here, it was an apartment downtown—new and partially furnished—that caught and kept my attention. While I paid a bit more than I had budgeted, it didn’t take long for the “numbers” to work out. Numbers like the 6 minutes it takes me to get to the office. (Or 12 if you count the round trip.)
Numbers like the money I save on gas for commuting and on parking. Or the directions—360 degrees in all—I can head out in the early morning to go for a run. (In fact, I can run every day of the week and not take the same path out of downtown as I follow one of three rivers that give this town its character. It’s the same thing for when I go cycling in search of those wonderful hills that ring the city.)
Because I live downtown, I can sleep 1 extra hour in the morning and get home at least 30 minutes earlier than I would otherwise. That 6-minute walk, cutting through the charm that is Market Square, is all I need to decompress from the day at the office. Even with a conservative estimate of the value of my time—the opportunity cost if you will—I still come out way ahead.
“Well, you must miss something?”, you say. I will add my hat to the ring of those clamoring for a grocery store downtown. In the meantime, I trudge across the Roberto Clemente bridge to the nearest Giant Eagle. As an avid cyclist, I would love to see a bike store downtown as well, or somewhere that could provide inner tubes and other bike supplies. A movie theatre showing mainstream (read Hollywood) first run movies would be nice, and my immediate neighbors in Point Park University and those up the hill at Duquesne University would likely concur. And I would love to find the perfect cannoli in the Golden Triangle.
For those things that you just can’t find downtown, there is the bus and the T, though I have not yet tried the latter. There is also a Zip-car (a Mazda named “Mignon” I believe) that I can rent by the hour (with gas and insurance included) that is parked beside my building; in fact, I can look out one of the 6 windows in my corner apartment to see if it is available should I need to dart out to the suburbs and back (for a trip to the bike doctor!). Finally, in a throwback to the Sears Roebuck catalog in the days of the first half of the 20th century, there is online shopping and shipping for those items that simply can’t be found downtown. That’s how I got my vacuum cleaner and my hand blender. (The concierge in my building is happy to sign for packages while I am away at work or play.) Basically, everything I need is at hand or handy in as little as 2 days.
My contribution to this blog will be from the perspective of someone who is new to Pittsburgh but who is a firm believer in the value of cities, particularly their downtown cores, from a historical, architectural and social perspective. I will provide a ground level view if you will, as someone who “lives and breathes downtown” seven days a week, through all seasons. There is so much history and there are so many stories to tell about this city and I hope I can add some value in telling them. (Sometimes it takes someone from the outside seeing it with fresh eyes to realize that what you have is special.) If you have any recommendations for a newly adopted “Yinzer”, or have suggestions for other “numbers” that I could consider, please do not hesitate to reach out via the Comments section below.