9 Things We Wished Pittsburgh Had from Food Boats to Transit

Last Updated on by Jeremy

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Over the past several years exploring Pittsburgh, we have started to get a good understanding of some of the best things the city and metro area has to offer. But on the flip side, we have also seen many of the area's issues, and are more than happy to admit there are several aspects in which the city is lacking (cough, metro system, cough cough).

As such, we thought it'd be fun to put together a list of some of the ideas we wish the city would have. 

But for this list, we wanted to keep things a bit light-hearted and fun as opposed to tackling some of the very real and serious problems our city faces. So many of the ideas below are pie-in-the-sky, likely never going to happen ideas, and none of them include a zipline from Mount Washington to the North Shore!

To put it bluntly, we did not let things like practicality, cost, or feasibility stop us in many of the below, and this list should mostly be considered what we would do if we had (a few) billion dollars, no concern for ROI, and free reign to make it all happen.

Food Truck Rallies on the Clemente Bridge

Food Truck Roundup at Strange Roots

We love our local Pittsburgh food truck scene and have to admit that we lament the early demise of the food truck park. When we started thinking about it, we realized there are very few food truck rallies in Pittsburgh- especially those at any regular interval (the Millvale Food Truck Roundup is one of the only ones that is semi-frequent). With having dozens upon dozens of amazing trucks, we simply think the city needs more public gatherings of them.

It got us thinking about annual events like Picklesburgh or the Three Rivers Regatta and how the city would shut the Clemente Bridge down to make it a pedestrian-only walkway for vendors and food trucks. While we are not terribly big fans of the crowds those bring (especially Picklesburgh which can be so busy that the bridge is impossible to navigate), a monthly closure for six or eight food trucks, maybe a mobile bar, and an array picnic tables on the bridge for a few hundred people could be a pretty awesome time.

Food Boats

Boats in Pittsburgh

Speaking of food trucks, why aren't food boats a thing? We have three rivers and no one sells food on them. Personally we would love a floating taco boat or an ice cream boat patrolling the rivers, docked outside of PNC Park or at the Point, or stationed elsewhere along the river trail.

I'd buy a taco every single time if we passed a taco boat. Just saying.

A Proper Metro System

One of the two times we've ridden the T

We asked on Instagram what people would want to see in Pittsburgh, and better public transportation was a solid chunk of the responses. We get it. In the last decade I can count on one hand the number of times we've taken the T (we don't live in the South Hills), and despite living on a bus line the time factor to get from A to B is quite a turnoff.

Could Pittsburgh get a proper subway or an expanded trolley system? That is up for debate. But one thing is for certain, if/when that ever happens, we hope an airport connector is involved in some capacity as well.

A Massive Jolly Roger

Can you tell if the Pirates won or not? I do not see a Jolly Roger.

A lot of people consider PNC Park to be one of the most beautiful ballparks in America, and although we haven't been to too many outside of the city, we can see why that is.

But there is something that doesn't sit well with us, and that is what happens when the Pirates win a game (bear with us here because we know that is rare these days). They best their opponent, the fireworks go off, and the saddest Jolly Roger flag in the world rises up a tiny flagpole that is barely visible unless you know exactly where to look.

What? That's not celebrating a win in baseball. That's just sad. What we'd like is a monster flagpole either at PNC Park or on top of a downtown skyscraper such that the skyline is truly flying the Jolly Roger with each victory! Like we said, we can dream- both on the Pirates winning and the monster flag.

An Improved Riverfront

Sunset at the Roundabout Popup on the North Shore river Trail

Back to the rivers we go for the next one, and we'll preface this one with a statement from a friend who moved to the city a few years ago: “When will Pittsburgh realize it has rivers?”

This was another common response in our Instagram ask, and we fully understand this one. Close your eyes and try and count how many riverfront drinking or dining establishments there are. If you count more than five, we'd like to hear what they are.

Ignoring Point State Park and the beautiful river trails (which we'd love to see expanded), we do have to admit that other amenities like retail, drinking, and even a dining scene on the rivers are more or less non-existent. Not in the Strip District, not in Lawrenceville, not in South Side other than a slim chunk of land at Station Square. While we know that there are a few, like the fabulous Farmer x Baker in Aspinwall, we simply want more.

Sure, we understand that part of this is because many industrial companies are utilizing the rivers. And sure, the train lines also utilize a substantial amount of real estate too. But we really think that is unfortunate and an under-utilization of our city's gorgeous waterways. One day maybe this will change, but we also have to admit this is probably the most expensive dream on our list!

Water Ferries

Aquabus in Vancouver

We always seem to come back to the rivers when thinking about things we want, and there is one solution to the public transportation issue in Pittsburgh that is often never discussed- water ferries. 

We first encountered water ferries in Vancouver (known as the Aquabus) and loved the short hops around to eight different locations over a distance of about one mile. Considering many of Pittsburgh's busiest neighborhoods are right on one of the three rivers, a fleet of about 10 water ferries on a set path could work out quite well.

Perhaps a loop like Aspinwall, Sharpsburg, Lawrenceville (a few stops), Millvale, Strip District, North Shore, Downtown, the Point, Station Square, South Side (a few stops), Hazelwood, and Homestead with transfer options to buses to travel further? I am already dreaming of the itineraries we could come up with in having accessibility like that!

More Public Parking in Neighborhoods

Transportation logistics are always a big concern in Pittsburgh, and it shouldn't be a surprise that half of this list includes ways that it could be improved upon.

One frustration we have when going out is how it is often quite difficult to find parking when you need it. Sure, places like downtown, the Strip District, Mount Washington, and East Liberty have a number of garages and/or surface lots that make parking a breeze (yes, East Liberty has a ton of surface parking lots!). But other neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, South Side, Garfield, and Bloomfield? Not as much.

In many cases trying to find a metered parking spot on the road or dealing with permit restrictions on side streets can be quite frustrating when visiting neighborhoods like these, and it is past time for some garages to find their way to these growing parts of the city.

A Public Market

Old Pittsburgh Public Market

Remember back when the Strip District had a public market? Remember when it was in the heart of the neighborhood and not on the outskirts, too? We do, and we really miss this one. 

Virtually every major city in the country has some form of a public market, and the lack of one in Pittsburgh is simply unfortunate. Don't get us wrong, the Strip District is a pretty solid alternative all the same, but there is something about a massive multi-vendor retail space as a destination that we really miss having in the city.

More International Restaurants

Kavsar on Mount Washington

The real answer in this one is that Pittsburgh simply needs more diversity without any modifiers. But in this one, we wanted to take a tangent of this and speak specifically on our restaurant scene.

Dear chefs- please stop opening up gastropubs.

Don't get me wrong, we love a good gastropub with a stellar burger and draft beer list when we're in the mood, but lately it seems like a new gastropub is opening up monthly (if not weekly) with the same tried-and-true concept just in a different location.

What we'd love is better representation in the international dining scene. 2 Sisters 2 Sons (Caribbean) opening in Sharpsburg was great. We love Kavsar (Uzbek) on Mount Washington. Tana (Ethiopian) in East Liberty too. But in many cases, you can count on one hand (and sometimes one finger) the number of restaurants in the metro area that offers cuisine from some countries, if they're present at all. 

We would love to see a Syrian restaurant open (and then four more behind it). A proper walking street purely for street food in Oakland would be stellar (Korean mandu or an outright Korean BBQ restaurant, please). Pick a country whose cuisine is underrepresented in the area, and we're 100% on board for it to open up likely multiple times over. We got a plethora of comments on Instagram of people wanting cuisine from non-represented countries, and we fully agree.

There are many more things we could dream of that we wish would show up in Pittsburgh, but these are some of the ideas that we come back to time and time again. Are these practical? Some are, some are not. We always intended for some in this list to be a pipe dream, but if we're going to dream, we're going to dream big!

Which ideas in the above list would you love to see in Pittsburgh? Comment below to share!

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