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Thread: Winter driving in Pittsburgh

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Winter driving in Pittsburgh

    My girlfriend and I took a weekend roadtrip and Ikea run to Pittsburgh for Columbus Day weekend. On Saturday, we spend most of the day driving around some of the city's neighborhoods, wandering up and down the hills south of the Monongahela River, among many other places. We couldn't help but think "How do they drive around here during the winter, after a snowfall, without killing themselves?" Snow removal in flat-as-a-pancake Buffalo and somewhat-rolling Cleveland is already a challenge, and driving in freshly fallen snow even more so. How about Pittsburgh? How does the city and surrounding towns deal with snow on streets that seem to climb hills at 30 degree angles? How do drivers deal with it?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Cleveland and Buffalo get hammered with deep lake-effect snows much more frequently than Pittsburgh. Here, we get lots of "nuisance" type snow events, of an inch or two or three, but it's rare that we get six or eight inches. The highway departments deal with it by using salt. Lots and lots of salt.

    The drivers deal with it in several different ways.

    Those with any sort of leadership potential act like it's not even snowing, until they're upside down in a ditch, and then they blame PennDOT. Everyone that follows slows to a crawl, and resigns themselves to being anywhere from two hours to two days late in getting where they're going.

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    You should see some of the problems in Marquette, Munising, Copper Harbor, and Houghton. They all have steep slopes and use a combination of a salt like chemical but with a much colder melting point and sand to melt as much as they can and to provide traction in areas that it does not melt.
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    Cyburbian jmac's avatar
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    I had a beer with giff57 Sunday night and he mentioned that you had been in town to do "some shopping." My first thought was "Ikea Pilgrimage." Vindication!!

    So, your question... digger has the answer - we just salt up and slow down.

    I'm surprised you could even think about winter on Saturday.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmac View post
    I had a beer with giff57 Sunday night and he mentioned that you had been in town to do "some shopping." My first thought was "Ikea Pilgrimage." Vindication!!

    So, your question... digger has the answer - we just salt up and slow down.

    I'm surprised you could even think about winter on Saturday.
    "IKEA pilgrimage" aak!


    Indeed. I remember the day I moved to Pittsburgh there was around 17 inches of snow on the ground and I made the 52 mile trip from where I was staying to my new place in the city on completely unplowed roads. Even with front wheel drive I was able to get around as long as I stayed really slow and never used the brakes. The city Public Works department does a great job of keeping the streets cleared and salted during those troublesome snows, and since a significant portion of the population takes transit to work, you can count on most of the major routes to be safe enough for bus traffic.

    That said, there are some hills here in the East End of town that are for all purposes shut down during snow and ice. Easy enough, you just avoid them and take another route. I have no idea how people get around those southern neighborhoods you were driving around (South Side Slope, etc.). I guess they just don't.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    LIke they said - salt up and slow down. It seems as though folks forgot how to drive in the snow, and traffic just creeps in the minor events, too.

    My town does an outstanding job with snow removal; I'm often surprised to get out of town to see just how bad it snowed.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    A a good friend spent 5 years on the hill in Syracuse. For the most part, his car would just be parked for 2-3 months in the winter. If he did take it down the hill he would usually have to leave it at the bottom until the roads were clear enough.

    I would imagine that in the neighborhoods south of downtown PGH they take good advantage of the train and the buses. They use chains on a lot of the routes don't they?

    At least once per winter In Philly the 6 o'clock news shows our bus routes 9 and 27 sliding backwards down the hill on Ridge Ave. (going up towards Roxborough). And these are the 60ft. articulated kind. There's a train station a little ways up up the hill and, when it's snowing, a lot of the drivers will say "i'm not stopping at East Falls Station or Manayunk Ave." because if they loose momentum that will be their bus on the news.
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    No chains, please

    Local roads are bad enough -- no chains, please!

    The average winter temperature in Pittsburgh is 32 degrees, so we get LOTS of freeze thaw, and lots of ice - not so much snow.

    But, I would suggest that snow/ice removal in this city/region is not nearly as efficient as it is in cities with real snow issues, including Chicago and Milwaukee, cities I have first hand experience in. Many neighborhoods complain that it might take city crews 2-3 days (or more) to clear their streets. In that same time frame, in my experience, Milwaukee would have gotten to every street and every alley - perhaps more than once.

    The terrain makes it very difficult in winter. There are a number of areas in which residents simply park at the bottom of the street and walk home from there on smowy/icy days.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    How does the city and surrounding towns deal with snow on streets that seem to climb hills at 30 degree angles? How do drivers deal with it?
    Even when we get a snowstorm, within several hours it's off the roads. Pittsburgh is crappy in many ways, but when it comes to snow removal they don't mess around..or, "day don't mess arahnd" as it's pronounced around here.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    I wonder how they do it in Montreal, where they get about twice as much snow as Pittsburgh and have a few neighborhoods (Westmount, Snowdon) where the streets are as narrow and the hills as steep as in LA's Hollywood Hills or Bel Air. I'd imagine it's lots and lots of salt, because I've never seen a clean car with Quebec plates between the months of November and April.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
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    da burgh

    I grew up about 20 miles up the Allegheny from Pittsburgh. Back then a lot of people still had chains. One thing most people did was just to avoid the REALLY bad hills, the ones with turns and deep ditches. My father worked in a small steel mill on the Allegheny. There were only three ways in and all were treacherous. One very bad day he said that there were only three people at work, himself in his VW beetle, the night watchman who had been there all night and one other guy who rode a horse in.
    WALSTIB

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