Opinion | You don’t have to live in Oakland

By Jessica Snyder, Staff Columnist

Pitt’s campus rests in the heart of Central Oakland, sandwiched between Forbes and Fifth avenues. Many students take up off-campus residence in the northern or southern part of the neighborhood, while the majority of on-campus students reside in Central Oakland proper.

Oakland is a fan favorite, boasting a considerable amount of bars, local cuisine and relatively affordable rent — if you can get in on the housing race on time. At most, a student living in Oakland can expect a 20-minute walk to campus. Fewer students live in North Oakland, likely given its considerable distance to the heart of campus. Shuttles and buses do go up to North Oakland, but Central Oakland serves as arguably the most convenient off-campus neighborhood for Pitt students.

Personally, I got in on the off-campus housing race extremely late — I signed my lease for this year in January. By contrast, I just recently signed a lease for a house in Central Oakland for next year — finishing the process about three months earlier than I did last year. The Central Oakland housing race shows no mercy and if you don’t have the time, roommates or funds to participate in it, opting to live in another neighborhood in Pittsburgh just might be more realistic and not as inconvenient as one might think. 

Oakland is an extremely convenient neighborhood for any Pitt student thinking about living off-campus, but there are many different neighborhoods in the City that sometimes offer more than Oakland. There are many places where a Pitt student can live and enjoy their college life — it doesn’t just stop in Oakland.

I currently pay around $700 a month to live alone in Friendship — one of the biggest luxuries I think a college student can have. My apartment building is cleaned pretty regularly and maintenance requests are usually addressed the next day. The company that I rent from, Forbes Management, offers apartments in Oakland for almost $400 more. Rent in Oakland costs more because it is the most convenient neighborhood for Pitt students, simple as that. But the tidiness of apartments outside of Oakland can be matched — or be even better — at a fraction of the cost.

University services also extend farther than most might believe. For example, Pitt offers housing on Centre Avenue in the Centre Plaza Apartments, located near UPMC Shadyside. The 20A and 20B Pitt shuttles also serve areas along Centre Avenue and Baum Boulevard, with trackers that can be found by downloading the Ride Systems app

One of the most reliable public transportation systems that Pittsburgh has to offer is the Port Authority buses. Personally, I find that most off-campus students who don’t live in Oakland take the 71A or the 71C, but a significant amount of East End bus routes travel through Oakland at some point in their journey. Transit is a free app that students can download to track the arrival of buses, making this process even easier. In my experience the buses are pretty quick too — rarely have I ever waited more than 10 minutes during regular commuting hours.

If the Pitt shuttles and the Port Authority buses aren’t viable options, bringing your car with you to college is another option. Given the sheer volume of college students in Oakland, the streets are filled with cars and parking proves to be nearly impossible. In my time, I have unfortunately seen a couple accidents, mainly because the streets are so packed with cars. Pitt offers student parking permits and the Pittsburgh Parking Authority offers Residential Parking Permits for $20 a year, but utilizing a car daily in the City can prove to be pricey. Overall, parking tends to be easier in areas other than Oakland because the volume of students tends to decrease as you get further away from campus. I live in an area with lots of families and graduate students, so parking is never an issue for me.

Living farther away from campus comes with the unexpected bliss of peace and quiet as well. UPMC Presbyterian always has helicopters flying overhead and Oakland constantly has construction going on. You can’t escape the grip of general city noise when moving farther away from campus, but I find that it is still quieter in other parts of the city.

Pitt offers a Commuter Lounge in the William Pitt Union for students who might have longer travel times between their places of residence and campus. While I haven’t taken advantage of this service myself, I would imagine it would be convenient for students when their transportation options are all but optimal on any given day.

For Pitt students, Pittsburgh is an explorable city right at our fingertips, and we should be taking advantage of that — not just staying within the confines of Oakland for the entirety of our academic careers. There are many other neighborhoods that offer more for the amount of money that you pay, be it better parking, cleaner buildings or some valuable peace and quiet. The University — as well as the city of Pittsburgh — offer various modes of transportation to get you to and from campus, as well as amenities on campus to accommodate those that have to commute.

Oakland isn’t the end all be all for off-campus students living at Pitt. Living in one of the many communities that Pittsburgh has to offer as a student can foster a sense of independence, as well as a genuine love for the city of Pittsburgh. 

Jessica Snyder primarily writes about controversy in art and politics. Write to her at [email protected].