Pirates game creates parking challenge

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Whether they're headed to the Pirates season opener or just schlepping to work as usual, people are likely to face serious challenges getting around Downtown Pittsburgh and the North Shore today.

"I know this is counterintuitive coming from a parking operator," said Alco Parking president Merrill Stabile, "but I truly believe that [today] is a day that mass transit should be considered seriously."

North Shore lots and garages will be closed to commuters, sending at least 1,000 vehicles on a scramble for alternate spaces that would be scarce even without a ballgame in town, Mr. Stabile said.

"This is a unique situation. Parking demand has grown dramatically over here," he said. On top of that, 200 spaces have been lost to construction of two new office buildings on what was stadium Lot 2.

Port Authority's Light Rail Transit system will operate two-car trains and add trips throughout the day, spokesman Jim Ritchie said. Rides are free between First Avenue Station, Downtown, and Allegheny Station on the North Shore. North Side Station is closest to the ballpark.

For those traveling longer distances on the T, the fare from all stops out to Washington Junction is $2.50; for those beyond the junction, $3.75. A 75-cent surcharge is added to fares paid with cash between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

North Shore parking lots will open to baseball fans at 9 a.m. with event pricing. The Roberto Clemente Bridge will close at 9 a.m.

Gates at PNC Park will open at 11 a.m. Fans will want to note an earlier starting time, 1:05 p.m., for the game between the Pirates and Chicago Cubs, which is being nationally televised on ESPN.

Today's high temperature may reach 60 degrees, a welcome relief from the sustained bitter cold of winter and early spring. It is an improvement from last year, when the opener was played in 45-degree weather.

The stadium lots will fill quickly, and most Downtown garages and lots are full by the end of rush hour. The Pirates suggested several other parking options, including:

▪ Consol Energy Center west and south lots, accessible from Centre Avenue, Downtown. Parkers can catch the T at Steel Plaza Station and ride to the ballpark for free.

▪  Grant Street Transportation Center, 11th Avenue, Downtown, which typically has spaces when all other parking facilities are full.

▪  Station Square, from which fans can take the T or Gateway Clipper shuttle boats to the ballpark.

▪  The Rivers Casino on the North Shore will charge $30 for parking in its garage and requires all vehicle occupants be 21 or older.

The ParkPGH.org website and smartphone app offer real-time information about parking availability at several Downtown and North Shore facilities.

For the first time, some fans entering the ballpark will be asked to pass through upright metal detectors. Others will be checked with metal-detecting wands, which were used for the first time last year. The Pirates recommended fans enter the ballpark early.

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic.

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