Pittsburgh council to vote on hours for parking meters

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Pittsburgh City Council may make another effort this week to coax additional parking meter revenue from a parking authority that has been cold to the idea in the past.

Council will take a final vote Thursday on legislation that would limit enforcement of on-street parking meters from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. citywide through June 30. Without the bill's passage, enforcement as of Jan. 2 will be extended four hours, until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, in seven neighborhoods.

In discussing enforcement hours last week, council members complained about the parking authority's reluctance to renegotiate an agreement that allows it to keep more than 90 percent of revenue from city-owned street meters. Council members also cited a need for better coordination of parking rates and enforcement and for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to nominate a replacement for Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who resigned from the parking authority board in the fall.

Councilman Patrick Dowd said he may introduce a nonbinding resolution Thursday asking the parking authority and Mr. Ravenstahl to address council's concerns. The resolution would be nonbinding because it cannot force the parking authority to make policy changes or require Mr. Ravenstahl to fill a board vacancy.

Some council members said last week that they hoped the six-month postponement of nighttime meter enforcement would give the city and parking authority time to ink a new revenue-sharing agreement -- but such hopes have been frustrated before.

In December 2010, council passed a pension bailout that taps more than $735 million in parking tax money over 31 years. Council also passed meter-rate increases and extended enforcement in seven neighborhoods with the goal of funneling that new revenue to the general fund to offset parking tax money diverted to the pension bailout. That plan required renegotiating the cooperation agreement, which the parking authority declined to do.

Nighttime enforcement began in June 2011, but council quickly suspended the measure until January 2013, partly because of the parking authority's unwillingness to turn over additional meter revenue. At the time, officials said they had hoped that a new cooperation agreement could be worked out by January 2013. That has not happened, however, and now Mr. Dowd and some other council members want to renew the request.

"I'm always willing to listen and consider," David Onorato, the authority's executive director, said last week.

Under the current agreement, the authority keeps 93.5 percent of meter revenue and turns over the balance to the city. In 2013, the authority anticipates about $8.8 million in on-street meter revenue, about $507,000 of which will be turned over to the city.

Mr. Onorato said the cooperation agreement was worked out in the mid-1990s, when the parking authority took over meter enforcement from the city. He said the authority keeps most of the meter revenue because it employs and equips the enforcement staff.

In addition to a share of meter revenue, the city receives 90 percent of parking court revenue, which is projected to total about $7.6 million next year.

The authority also provides an annual subsidy to the city. That subsidy, about $1.2 million last year, increased to $2.6 million this year. Next year's subsidy also will total $2.6 million, according to the authority budget.

Council members haven't said exactly how much additional money they want from the authority, which has seen on-street meter revenue increase from about $5.6 million last year to the $8.8 million projected for next year. The increase is attributable to meter-rate increases, which began taking effect in June 2011; to brief enforcement of nighttime meter enforcement in 2011; and to installation of new multi-space metering devices that accept credit cards in addition to quarters.

Mr. Dowd said Mr. Ravenstahl should use his influence with the parking authority to get a revenue-sharing agreement for the city. He also wants Mr. Ravenstahl to move on nominating a successor to Ms. Rudiak, the only council member who served on the parking authority, so council's interests will be represented on that board.

Mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven said the administration is working to fill the vacancy.

"The challenge is that nearly all council members serve on one other board or commission and the home rule charter states that no member may serve on more than one authority board at one time," she wrote said in an email.

Councilman Bill Peduto introduced legislation that would permanently abandon the idea of nighttime meter enforcement. His colleagues, however, amended the bill to suspend nighttime enforcement through June 30. Some members balked at Mr. Peduto's bill because it would mean forgoing an annual $1.2 million in meter and fine revenue on top of what the parking authority already provides.

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Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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