Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

We have to pick where we’re going to live in Pittsburgh over the next few months. We’re at least trying to decide what part of the city we want to be looking in so that when our house does sell, we’ll be ready to seriously look for something.

We were originally looking at the North Hills (North Allegheny school district), but after commuting for the last week and a half, I’m wondering if we shouldn’t live closer to my job – in Squirrel Hill (my job is in Oakland). I’ve been driving to a park and ride and then riding the bus in (the 61C), and it’s taking me about an hour each way. I leave before Daughter Person gets up in the morning, and I’m home in time to spend about 2 hours with her before she goes to bed. I’m used to getting up at 7:30, to be at work by 8-8:30 and then picking her up by 4-4:30pm. This long commute stuff may be for the birds. I have been taking the bus primarily because at my mom’s the bus takes the exact same route I would drive, it only takes about 5 minutes longer, and it’s free. Living in the North hills, I’d be driving every day, paying $87/mth for parking, and theoretically driving 30 minutes each way (I’m going to assume my co-workers are being generous and stretch that to 40-45 minutes each way). That kind of commute was fine – when I was single, and when I wasn’t a parent. Now, I want to get home to spend time with Daughter Person in the evenings – not sit on the bus or in the car all day.

We’ve talked about possibly buying in Squirrel Hill – the neighborhood just outside of Oakland where I work. I could walk it (about 20-30 minutes – biking is not an option because I’m very hill averse), or take any of 5 buses home – all of which seem to come more often than the bus I ride now. Tonight, the one bus I need to get home drove right past CMU without stopping because it was full – so I waited *another* 30 minutes for the next bus – something I’d rather not continue to do.

There are some advantages besides the shorter commute: a smaller home is easier to find, we’d be walking distance to a lot of great stuff – a grocery, a jewish community center, lots of restaurants, etc. But there are some serious downsides: the schools are crappy from what I’ve heard (especially compared to North Allegheny), and it’s in the city, with smaller yards and property. We’d pay 3% local tax instead of 1% local tax (comes out to about $4000/year). *But*, we’d likely get rid of one vehicle (and be able to get a 1 car garage instead of 2), and not paying gas or insurance on it – but that doesn’t quite match up to $4000/year difference (maybe $3000/year). We’d still have a car payment because we’d be keeping the car with the payment, but we wouldn’t be saving for a replacement car for a while.

The housing prices are within our price range, and in decent parts of town (except maybe the schools). The commute can’t be beat – and if we ever worked outside the city, we’d be right downtown and could get most places pretty easily.  We know this isn’t likely to be our “forever” house, so there are some compromises we’re willing to make.

Are we missing something major to consider? Does anyone have kids in the Pittsburgh Public Schools (Colfax K-8 and Alderdice High school) that would be willing to talk about them?

6 thoughts on “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

  1. globeplodder

    Hi, I found your blog after seeing your comment about a meetup at Mad Fientist’s site. I’m a fellow Pittsburgh to DC to Pittsburgh transplant!! (Hopefully it is half as exciting to you as it was to me to find another FIRE-minded Pittsburgher.)

    I neither have children nor live in Squirrel Hill (obviously making me the ideal respondent), but my husband and I were looking at places in Sq. Hill and Regent Square when we we moved here 5 years ago. During our search, we heard that the schools for this area provide plenty of opportunities, but results are mixed because of the wide range of student backgrounds. Without ANY firsthand knowledge, it sounds like advanced classes are pretty good, but normal classes less so. A friend who did some substitute teaching at Allderdice mentioned this at the time as well.

    I’d still vote for living in Squirrel Hill, or elsewhere in the East End, because the extra, less-stressed time you’ll have with your daughter would have to more than make up for whatever differences exist in elementary schools, I think? Good luck with the house hunting!

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    1. Mom Post author

      Where did you end up buying? We’ve now expanded our search into Baldwin/Pleasant Hills as there’s a back way to Oakland that my aunt takes to Presby (over the Glenwood bridge). I’m going to test this route next week and see how accurate my aunt is – my family is notorious for misjudging how long it takes to get somewhere.

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      1. globeplodder

        We ended up in Mt. Lebanon. Our jobs are downtown, so paying a price premium to be in the East End didn’t make sense for us since the public transit commutes are about equal.

        It’s good to test commuting routes; as you know, the bridges, tunnels, narrow roads, and lack of turn lanes around here can make drive times pretty inconsistent. Plus, people might be reporting optimistic travel times to encourage you to move to their neighborhood!

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        1. Mom Post author

          I completely understand that. My aunt and mom also suggested Jefferson Hills and SouthPark – entering Oakland via the Glenwood (885) and Greenfield bridges. That’s a route I can easily drive in the morning to test, so I’m going to try that this week. 20 minutes tops is my goal, and with the housing prices out there being a lot cheaper, I can put the “extra” to a parking pass!

          Reply
  2. plantingourpennies

    Where do others that you work with live? What are their commutes/school districts like? I feel like there should be someone else with young children around that tried to optimize this?

    Most of my Pittsburgh friends are either childless or live way out in the suburbs, so I haven’t heard anything about the schools inside the city. =/

    Reply
    1. Mom Post author

      Most of my co-workers with kids live in Wexford – further north of the city than I’d really like to be. One co-worker lives in Squirrel Hill and I talked with him about the schools – he liked them and his kids liked them – they’re in high school now. We’re working with the realtor to visit a few houses in Squirrel Hill next weekend (if possible). To be honest, the idea of getting rid of a car and walking/bussing everywhere appeals to me – not sure about Dad though.

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