How to hack Pittsburgh public transit

The planes, trains and automobiles edition

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Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
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Like any sizable city worth its salt, Pittsburgh is home to a sprawling public transportation system. And like any transportation system worth mentioning, there are tricks and tips to using it most effectively.

In this guide, we look at some of the rules of the road (or rails) and the ways novices and natives alike can make Pittsburgh’s public transportation system work for them.

“The T”

The basics: Pittsburgh’s T is a 26.2-mile light rail system that runs from the North Shore through Downtown and into Pittsburgh’s southern neighborhoods and parts of the South Hills. It’s like New York’s subway system, only, uh, a lot smaller and with fewer discarded chicken bones and coffee cups per square foot. Also, some think “T” stands for trolley, though Port Authority says that isn’t the case.

When and where it works: The T has three active lines: the Red Line, Blue Line-Library and Blue Line-South Hills Village. Pittsburgh’s Light Rail is the successor system to the streetcar network formerly operated by Pittsburgh Railways, the oldest portions of which date back to the early 1900s, KDKA-TV reports. The current system operates most hours of the day.

How much it costs: $2.75 per ride without a ConnectCard and $2.50 with one. (More on ConnectCards later.) Free for children under 5 with a fare-paying adult. Travel between Downtown and the North Shore is free for everyone. And while there have been questions in recent years about the future of the free-fare zone, Port Authority spokesperson Adam Brandolph told The Incline this week, “The free zone for our light rail system is not going anywhere.” That seems pretty definitive to us.

The map:

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Courtesy Port Authority

Tips and tricks: ConnectCards are not sold at every stop, so have cash ready just in case. Credit cards are not accepted on trains. Transfers are $1 with a ConnectCard. Transfers are not available with cash. Riders paying with cash must pay another full fare. Sorry.

Find the nearest station and routes using your smartphone’s built-in navigation tool, the same you use when driving. Just select “transit” as opposed to walking or driving directions. You can also plan your route by using the Port Authority website’s handy Trip Planner feature. Track departure times by using the Port Authority’s True Time feature, a must-have for any Steel City straphanger.

The quirks: Pay as you enter the train when you’re headed Downtown and pay when you exit when traveling away from Downtown. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯