The Steps of Pittsburgh

The city of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania is located over an unruly terrain of hills, hollows, valleys, and three intersecting rivers. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Pittsburgh was growing as a coal and steel town, factory workers built houses in the hills, rising above the flat riverbanks that were lined with factories. To commute to work, city officials and residents built staircases along the mountainside that ran up and down, creating a chaotic place that’s notoriously difficult to navigate. Physically, Pittsburgh is absolutely irrational, looking like it was laid out by a mountain goat. Certain sections of the city are so steep and narrow that these neighborhoods are serviced by special fire trucks that are small and have a tighter turning radius. There are a total of 712 public stairways and 44,645 steps in the city, accounting for 24,108 feet of vertical height and 23 miles in distance. The city allocates just $200,000 a year for step maintenance, but repairing just one set of steps can cost $100,000. The one thing people agree on is that Pittsburgh is so puzzling that even the people who live there can’t find their way around.