All new Pittsburgh metered parking spaces put on hold?

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Throwing another wrinkle into the parking authority's meter modernization program, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said Tuesday that plans to create hundreds of new metered parking spaces across the city should be put on hold unless residents and businesses in those neighborhoods have a chance to weigh in.

Mr. Ravenstahl made the remarks a day after demanding that the authority suspend plans to create 338 metered spaces in the Strip District as part of its $7.3 million modernization drive.

In all, authority planning documents call for replacing 3,000 single-space meters in various neighborhoods and creating 519 new metered spaces -- 338 in the Strip District, 22 Downtown, 149 in Oakland and 10 on the South Side. Many of the spaces would be created in areas where motorists now park for free.

Strip District activists and business owners reacted angrily when they learned about the proposed addition of metered spaces last week, and Mr. Ravenstahl on Monday called for the authority to halt the installation plan unless merchants decide that they want the metering devices after all.

Asked about the issue again on Tuesday, Mr. Ravenstahl said community input also is needed before creating new metered spaces in the other neighborhoods slated to get them. He said it was "never our intention to hurt businesses in any way" but noted that some merchants like meters because they promote turnover in visitors.

David Onorato, parking authority executive director, could not be reached for comment on the mayor's proposal to suspend creation of new metered spaces citywide.

However, city Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who is an authority board member, criticized the mayor for "reversing course" on plans that have been in the works since 2010.

"This, to me, smacks of political opportunism," she said, adding that private investors would have been able to create new metered spaces under Mr. Ravenstahl's plan to lease parking garages and meters two years ago.

After council rejected that plan, she said, it authorized a series of meter rate increases and new metered spaces to generate additional revenue amid an emergency bailout of the pension fund. Mr. Ravenstahl vetoed that legislation, but council overrode the veto in December 2010.

Although Mr. Ravenstahl on Monday said he directed the parking authority to suspend plans to install new metered spaces in the Strip District, he acknowledged Tuesday that his legal powers aren't that sweeping.

With the veto override, creation of the new spaces became a matter of law. In addition, though its members are appointed by the mayor, the parking authority is an independent agency.

Yet Mr. Ravenstahl said he hopes council members would be willing to revisit the issue.

The authority agreed to pay Florida-based Cale America $7.3 million for 560 multispace metering devices and a seven-year maintenance plan.

Of the 67 machines tentatively earmarked for the new spaces, 44 were to go on Penn Avenue. If new metered spaces aren't created in the Strip and other neighborhoods, Ms. Rudiak said, officials have to decide what else to do with those machines.

"I think we'll be fine," Mr. Ravenstahl said when asked about potential revenue loss.

Nathan Hart, president of Oakland Planning and Development Corp. and vice president of Oakland Community Council, praised the mayor's call for community input.

"I certainly agree with him that community input is really vital. ... The residents on those streets tend to know those streets the best," Mr. Hart said.



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