Public Transit and Summer Fun (Plus tips on vacationing in Pittsburgh!)

Warm weather is here, and I’m looking forward to summer!  We won’t be taking any big vacations; most weekdays, I’ll be going to work in my office as usual, and our seven-year-old Nicholas will be attending art and natural history day camps at the Carnegie Museum while his dad works from home.  I take a city bus to work, getting off right in front of the museum, so it will be easy for me to take Nicholas there each morning.  I’m looking forward to riding the bus with him again like I did for three years while he was in preschool!  I have missed my commuting companion since he started going to a school within walking distance of our home.

I will admit, it’s a little bit annoying that he has to pay to ride the bus now and that the transit authority doesn’t sell bus passes for children.  Most days, Daniel will be picking up Nicholas and usually will do it by car, so Nicholas will be paying child’s fare for only 5 rides a week, a total cost of $5.50–much less than the $22.50 price of a weekly pass.  At least we’ll be able to avoid the hassle of finding exact change every day, by buying ten-trip ticket books, which they do sell in a half-fare version; the price is the same ($11 for 10 rides) but the tickets can’t get accidentally spent on something else!  If I drove him to the museum and then parked my car all day in the neighborhood, I’d burn through that $11 every two days!  (Parents of day campers get a parking pass for the museum garage, but it’s good only for short times for drop-off and pick-up, not for a full day.)

On the bus, and while waiting for the bus, I can read books to Nicholas–or my first-grade alumnus can read to me!  That’s another change from his preschool days.  I look forward to sharing more stories with him and having more reading time than we do at bedtime.

Every day, we’ll get to walk together from our house to the bus stop on the main street.  Our route to school goes the other way, and it’s been striking to me these last two years how much of the daily excitement of our neighborhood Nicholas misses by not hitting Murray Avenue every day!  (Sometimes I’ve taken him for a walk in the evening to see a digging machine, an antique storefront newly exposed during a renovation, or something else of interest that may vanish before the weekend.)  We’ll ride past a new apartment building every day and watch its construction.

If we allow a little extra time, we can do errands together before hopping on a bus a little farther away from home.  Although in my solo commute I still travel every morning and evening through our neighborhood business district, and I do sometimes stop for an errand on my way to or from work, I try to save my visits to the stores Nicholas likes for times when he can come with me–and that seems so silly, sometimes, getting off the bus right in front of the drugstore only to walk back up there with him later in the evening!

I got a digital camera for my birthday, and now that I have my own I’m carrying it with me almost all the time.  We can take pictures of the things we see in our daily travels.

On days when we’re running early, we can stay on the bus for an extra two stops and then walk to the museum by way of the Cathedral of Learning.  We used to pass by this beautiful building, and often cut through its main floor, every day during his preschool years, and we both miss it.

Nicholas is looking forward to more frequent bus rides.  Public transit was such a big part of his daily routine for so many years that now he feels kind of gypped getting to ride only once in a while!  We are planning some weekend transit trips this summer, too, because the new North Shore Connector light-rail extension gives us a free ride from Downtown Pittsburgh (easily accessed by bus) to two new stations on the North Side, from which we can walk to the Carnegie Science Center, the Water Steps interactive fountain (a great place to cool off, for free!), the National Aviary, and the Children’s Museum!  Maybe we’ll even check out The Mattress Factory (an art museum we’ve never visited) or take a ride on RiverQuest! Just getting to ride on a train is exciting for Nicholas, who has been a big fan of trains since he was just one year old.

If your family doesn’t usually ride public transit, give it a try this summer!  It will connect you to cool places in all sorts of cities.  Last summer, my family took an entire vacation by public transit, to New York City and Philadelphia.

If you’re considering a vacation to Pittsburgh, make sure to take advantage of our clean and friendly public transit!  I’m no expert on local hotels, but I see that there are some on the North Side near the subway stations; if you stay there, you can ride transit to most of the interesting places in the city, and you’ll have an easy connection to the train and long-distance bus stations Downtown.  An affordable bus from the airport also stops Downtown.  Why rent a car and drive on our crazy mountain roads, when you could ride the incline up Mount Washington to admire the view?  Public transit will take you to the Carnegie Museum, the Heinz History Center and unique shopping experiences in the Strip District, the Blue Slide Playground of Frick Park (famous for being an awesome playground or for having a hip-hop album named after it, depending on whom you ask), the carousel in Schenley Plaza, the Anderson Playground of Schenley Park, the Super Playground of Highland Park, Kennywood amusement park, and more!  Google Transit gives pretty reliable directions (not just within a city, but between cities!) whereas PAT’s own search tool has not been working properly recently.

Check out the “Mom, I’m Bored” edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday and the Summer Blog Carnival at Sunny Today Mama for hundreds more ideas for summer fun with kids!  Visit Your Green Resource for more environmentally friendly ideas!

About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

6 Responses to Public Transit and Summer Fun (Plus tips on vacationing in Pittsburgh!)

  1. We had that same dilemma when we wanted bus passes but realized we had to take the bus pretty much daily for it to work out in our favor. I guess they’re meant for only (adult) commuters, which is unfortunate when you just want an easier option than cash. Fortunately Seattle started a card system, which isn’t any cheaper, but it means I can autofill it from a debit or credit card online, and I never have to have exact change. Plus, Mikko loves scanning it when we get on the bus.🙂

    I love your ideas for Pittsburgh — I’ll be sure to keep them in mind if we’re in your neck of the woods!

    • 'Becca says:

      We liked the fill-your-card system when we were in New York last summer; we bought and refilled the cards at machines in the subway stations, using a credit card. Toward the end of our visit we refilled just one of them and took turns using it in the turnstile because (although I forget the specific numbers) it was a better deal to put a larger dollar amount on one card than to put smaller amounts on 3–something about the cost of processing transactions, I assume. I have used cards like that in D.C. and Minneapolis as well, and I expect we’ll eventually get them in Pittsburgh. I like the unlimited rides with a pass, but yes, it’s only a good value if you make many trips in the time the pass is valid.

  2. I haven’t been to the Mattress Factory in a long time, but it can definitely be fun, and I suspect Nicholas would find it very stimulating.

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  4. Pingback: A Week of Vegetarian Lunchbox Lunches | The Earthling's Handbook

  5. Pingback: Over 200 Summer Activities for Kids - Mama Smiles

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