The Pittsburgh Parking Authority agreed Thursday to provide free weekend parking at all 11 of its garages during the holiday season.
Garages in Downtown, Oakland and Shadyside will offer free parking after 4 p.m. Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday.
The city also will test valet parking in Market Square.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl requested the free parking promotion, which is intended to generate business for stores and restaurants. The promotion begins today with Light Up Night and runs through the First Night celebration Dec. 31.
The authority also will consider the possibility of free seasonal parking at metered lots that the authority owns in the South Side, Squirrel Hill and other neighborhoods without parking garages, Scott Kunka, city finance director and authority chairman, said.
Mr. Ravenstahl also has raised the possibility of free parking at street meters during the holiday season, but city council has not indicated whether it's willing to participate.
The authority owns the parking garages and metered lots, but the city owns the street meters. Mr. Ravenstahl would need city council's approval to offer free parking at street meters.
Mr. Ravenstahl will kick off holiday festivities at 12:35 p.m. today by lighting a Christmas tree on the portico of the City-County Building.
In another incentive to bring more people Downtown, the mayor's office, in conjunction with the Market Square Association and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, will begin offering valet parking to visitors starting Wednesday.
The parking will be available in Market Square from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. The cost will be $5.
"This is an exciting new service to be tested Downtown to see if there's a demand," said Nick Nicholas, a restaurateur and merchant who serves as spokesman for the Market Square Association.
While the drop-off point is in Market Square, Mr. Nicholas said the service is available to anyone who comes Downtown to eat, to go to a show or for some other purpose. He said the $5 fee covers the entire evening.
"This isn't in place to get people to patronize Market Square restaurants. This is a service to provide people easy access to Downtown and not have to worry about parking," he said.
Mr. Nicholas said the mayor and the parking authority made spaces available in the authority's Third Avenue parking garage for the valet program.
While the program will kick off during the holiday season, the intent is to offer it throughout the year.
Merchants in the square have worked for months to get a valet parking program going to capitalize on the bustling restaurant scene in the refurbished plaza. They began taking steps after council jacked up rates at Market Square parking meters and extended the enforcement hours from 6 to 10 p.m. The enforcement cutoff later reverted back to 6 p.m.
Some retailers also have suggested valet parking as a way to help entice more people Downtown.