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Philadelphia
  • $700   =  non-traditional average 1
  • $1004   =  average 2BR ÷ 2, or traditional roommate rent 2
  • $1648   =  average 1BR, rented solo 3
  • (traditional vs. non-traditional roommates)
  • (the rest of the  northeast US)

95% live within a 10-minute walk of a park. 4
Most errands can be accomplished on foot. 5
traffic, aggressive drivers, property theft
pedestrian friendly, symphonies, professional sports teams 6
worst traffic, what the hell happened, irish flight, drug crisis, badlands, literally an open air drug market, graffiti pier, get the hell outta here, hipster houses vs angry townies, be street smart, 3rd world hell hole, students, i just heard gun shots, champions, former italian mafia, little africa, hot people in scrubs, fine swedish design, white camden, hordes of children, trains, and the land of broken dreams are the largest hoodmap tags 7

SO, roomiematch.com's Philadelphia roommate rundown:

Philadelphia was founded in 1682 by William Penn, an English Quaker and huge fan of religious freedom. They they hosted congresses and wars and sieges and ultimately the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Philadelphia is the birthplace of the American Revolution. Then about 67 more National Historic Landmarks. And along the way they also founded the first: business school, federal capital, hospital, library, medical school, stock exchange, university, and zoo.

All that was already happening in Philly hundreds of years before you were born, and they're are eager to tell you about it. If you're from out of town, you should learn and appreciate Philadelphia's history. Nope, not overeager or sarcasm, that's just the truth.

Because if you don't want to hear a lot about Philadelphia? You probably shouldn't move within 100 miles. Any closer, someone will be definitely be determined to tell you.

But a whole lot is happening in Philly, and for a lower cost of living than several other cities in the Northeast? So step up for your history lesson. The University of Pennsylvania and several university-associated hospitals are Philly's largest employers, after all.

There are over 50 (!) colleges and universities in Philly. It's properly a very large college(S) town . . .

. . . so it's also chock full of comfort food. Or dishes that work in cozy pubs and small bars, like all over Philly. They're often locally-owned, and not always labeled.

And serving Philadelphia's most famous sandwich with grilled shaved or chopped beef and cheese along with optional onions, mushrooms, and peppers on a fresh white roll? Yes, cheesesteak! There are many excellent versions all over the city. Clearly.

Also hoagies, like submarine sandwiches, and "grinder" means your hoagie's now toasted.

"Scapple" is originally from the Pennsylvania Dutch, including the Amish and Mennonites. It's pork offal boiled into mush, combined with cornmeal or wheat flour and spices, set into a loaf, then sliced and pan-fried until crispy and brown. Usually served as a breakfast side like sausage, or on a roll with apple butter, ketchup, or BBQ sauce. Maybe American cheese.

A tomato pie is pizza with no cheese other than parmesan. Water ice, slushy ice, and Italian ice are mostly the same, except for your choice of syrup for flavor.

And soft pretzels, Tastykakes, and Goldenberg's Peanut Chews are popular too at pubs and bars plus sporting events . . . or anything else to which Philadelphians can walk right up . . . which is a lot. It's a pedestrian-friendly city.

And while locals report a few aggressive drivers, Philly is generally bicycle friendly as well. The Delaware River and Schuylkill River trails invite cyclists to ride along the river then connect to popular spots.

There is a bus network connecting most of the city, including some rail, subway, and trolley routes, and most of that is Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA. However, it's notoriously slow, and service outside Center City can be spotty. There are several different lines, several different ways to pay, and several different ways you can get bulk rate discounts. You can also use vending machines and a variety of passes.

Basically, you can take public transport anywhere in Philly . . . but identifying the fastest route plus the cheapest way to pay for it will take research. A trip planner with a real-time map is recommended (see below). Also, if it's important and you've not yet used that route at that same time, maybe go on a trial run first.

You can drive pretty much anywhere in Philly too, but it'll always be crowded.

Philly is the center of a very large metro area, so roads are always congested during the day, gridlock happens frequently, and parking garages are expensive. Legal street parking is hard to find, rush hour is often, and if your meter runs out you better believe you're getting a ticket.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority isn't kidding around.

Residents of nearby suburbs use multiple park-and-ride centers. If you don't already live within the city, your cheapest fastest route might be driving to one of these, paying to stash your car, then taking the rail the rest of the way.

SO: If you could live and work entirely within one Philly neighborhood and walk most places, you'd be loving life! You could also laugh your ass off at all the commuters . . . but you're better than that, right?

But no kidding, you would love the time you'd spend strolling around NOT in gridlock.

Meanwhile, Philly also has major historical reputation with violent crime. It was was actually nicknamed "Killadelphia" sometime in the 80s.

However, like several large cities on this list, what this means lately is that you need to be aware of your neighborhood. Philadelphia is no exception.

Anywhere in Philly that's popular with tourists or college students is usually well policed and reasonably safe, with the possible exception of pickpocketing and car theft. So keep an eye on your belongings, put your valuables like your phone and wallet inside inner pockets that fasten, and never leave anything in your car.

But when we said like other large cities, no exception . . . we do mean neighborhoods within walking distance of one another can present different risk levels. There are neighborhoods in Philly that are reportedly open air drug markets. Philadelphians are also said to host more outdoor art, including murals and sculpture and repurposed graffiti than any other city.

They took worthwhile but previously illegal graffiti, and made it contemporary art. Then they included it officially, within their own history. It's now displayed educationally for tourists.

Mural Arts Philadelphia is one organization, originally helping professional artists collaborate with prosecuted graffiti writers and mural artists. Now, they connect community groups with graffiti artists too. Formerly illegal graffiti artists are now on "History on Tour!"

Everyone's history could become Philadelphian, if and when Philly says so. If you and your roommates do some outdoor art, maybe they'll write you into a popular tour too.

The rest of the Philadelphia roommate lowdown:

  • Philadelphia is located in southeastern Pennsylvania along the Susquehanna River, while the Schyukill River runs through the city. It's near the New Jersey border and only 15 miles from Delaware.
  • The Appalachian Mountains to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east moderate extreme temperatures.
  • The greater metro area including the Delaware Valley hosts around 6 million residents.
  • NYC is about an hour and a half away via various public transport, driving highly variable due to traffic. And easy access to the rest of the Northeast too.
  • all four seasons, with cold and snowy winters, but not as cold as Boston or Chicago - yearly snowfall is variable but blizzards are possible, usually melts quickly - spring and fall are pleasant, summers are hot and muggy
  • home to Delaware Valley College, Haverford College, Moore College of Art and Design, Penn State University Delaware, Penn State University Ogontz, Ursinus University, Valley Forge Christian College, American College, Beaver College, Cabrini College, Chestnut Hill College, Cheyney University, Eastern College, Gwynedd-Mercy College, Holy Family College, La Salle University, Lincoln University, Neumann College, Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Philadelphia College of Textiles, Rosemont College, Rutgers University, St. Joseph's University, Swarthmore College, The University of the ARts, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, Drexel University, Hahnemann University, Pennsylvania State University, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, Rowan College of New Jersey, Temple University, Thomas Jefferson University, University of Pennsylvania, Villanova University, and Widener University
  • Philadelphia hosts a LOT of sports with a lot of extremely passionate fans, including: Philadelphia Phillies Eagles (NFL), 76ers (NBA), Flyers (NHL), Union (MLS), NJ/NY Gotham FC (National Women's Soccer League).

    Also, several winning college teams, including but not limited to the "Big 5" men's basketball rivalry.

    There's also a legendary Army vs Navy game, where the Army Black Knights of the Military Academy and the Navy Midshipmen of the Naval Academy fight it out as bitter rivals . . . but it's also mutually respectful and honors decades of military tradition.

    Last but not least, an unusually large number of amateur to elite teams in cricket, rugby, and rowing.
  • Free Black Philadelphians founded the first independent Black protestant denomination in the country, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME).
  • As a large city, Philly features the variety of architecture you'd expect, but "row houses" are more common here than most cities in the US. They're a row of joined houses sharing side walls, more commonly known as "terraced" houses in the United Kingdom.



After you're settled down, you and your roommates should experience Philadelphia's:

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art: 200 galleries of art, one of the largest art museums in the world. Daily tours of something interesting almost every day, free with museum admission. There's a sculpture garden, where contemporary large-scale work extends outdoors, and the Rodin Museum, featuring the world's largest collection of Rodin outside France showcased in an elegant garden. Also, the stairs to the main entrance were made famous by the movie Rocky (1976).
  • Fairmount Park: Philly's largest park, one of the oldest and largest urban parks in the US. The Philadelphia Zoo is inside this park, along with several historically registered mansions.
  • Franklin Institute Science Museum: Daily live science demonstrations. There's a giant heart. They have staff scientists who oversee their programs. Also a planetarium, an observatory, and a lot of Frankliniana.
  • Mummers Parade: Every New Years Day, local clubs compete with elaborate costumes and moveable props in a parade with over 10,000 marchers.
  • West Philly Porchfest: DIY community music festival in June featuring free shows all over neighborhood porches. You and your roommates could perform or host. Hosting is as equal opportunity as possible, but do be considerate of your neighbors. If you don't have a porch, tiny lawns work too!
  • ODUNDE: The largest African American street festival in the country, with a procession and a marketplace featuring goods from Africa, the Caribbean, and Brazil. Since 1975, now covers 15 city blocks. They also feature ongoing educational programs called ODUNDE365.
  • World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR): Internationally-attended clothing-optional bike ride, since 2004. You can also attend on skateboards or rollerblades. Philadelphia is one of their largest and most famous rides.
  • Mural Arts Philadelphia: Go on a guided or virtual or self-guided tour of the thousands of now public murals across the city. If you and your roommates have a mural, you can apply for potential projects and/or inclusion on an existing tour.


Here's most of the city of Philadelphia's public transportation system (SEPTA), including real time updates, which you and your roommates will probably need.





Notes

1.   The non-traditional roommate rent average for this city we've experienced over the last 3 years. We can't predict future rental availability, because we're neither in control of any rental market nor psychic, sorry!

But in most cities most of the time, the recent and relatively recent past are the best predictors.


2.   This idea came from smartasset.com's ranking of what a roommate saves you in 50 cities. They ranked where roommates will save you the most money, based on the average cost of a 1BR as opposed to a 2BR ÷ 2. Unsurprisingly, the more expensive the city, the more you can save, but the savings are significant in all larger metros. So we got the data for the rest of our cities from Zumper too.

This is really the minimum you could save, as you could live with more than one roommate, split more services, share food or other supplies, etc. More sharing tends to lead to more savings too, as per our roommate roadmap.

As per the rest of the description at the top of this page, we're calling this "traditional" roommate rent.


3.   From zumper.com.


4.   Directly quoted from the Trust for Public Land's parkland rating system.

"The ParkScore index awards each city up to 100 points for acreage based on the average of two equally weighted measures: median park size and parkland as a percentage of city area. Factoring park acreage into each city’s ParkScore rating helps account for the importance of larger “destination parks” that serve many users who live farther than ten minutes’ walking distance."

While each city's rundown already includes their individual ParkScore, nature lovers might like to see all roommate cities ranked for parkland.


5.   Directly quoted from Walk Score's Cities and Neighborhoods Ranking. They've ranked "more than 2,800 cities and over 10,000 neighborhoods so you can find a walkable home or apartment."

While each city's rundown already includes their individual Walk Score, dedicated pedestrians might like to see all roommate cities ranked for walkability.


6.   From various lists here on our own best roommate cities.


7.   From hoodmaps.com: a collaborative map where residents use tags describing social situations you're likely to find. Other users can thumb up or down, so the largest tags have been thumbed up the most.