City parking rates, hours to increase Wednesday
Share with others:
Higher parking meter rates and extended enforcement hours are scheduled to take effect Wednesday in many Pittsburgh neighborhoods, but the conversation about how to best use parking assets to generate revenue and boost economic development is just beginning.
Hourly rates at city-owned on-street meters are set to increase from $2 to $3 Downtown; from 50 cents to $1 on the North Shore and in Shadyside, South Side and Strip District; and from 50 cents to 75 cents in Brookline, Mount Washington, North Side, Squirrel Hill and Uptown.
In Oakland, the hourly rate increases vary by location. The biggest jump, from 70 cents to $1.50, is scheduled in the Schenley Park area.
For now, hourly rates will remain 50 cents in Allentown, Beechview, Bloomfield/Garfield, Carrick, East Liberty, Lawrenceville, the Mellon Park area and the West End.
Currently, the city enforces on-street meters from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The change scheduled to take effect Wednesday calls for enforcement to be extended to 10 p.m. on those days Downtown, on the North Shore and in Oakland, Shadyside, South Side, Strip District and Squirrel Hill.
City public works crews have begun to change enforcement signs to reflect the new hours, but all meters won't be mechanically adjusted to capture the new revenue until about June 11. Brightly colored stickers will be placed on meters to alert motorists to the rate changes, said David Onorato, parking authority executive director.
"We just want to give them a heads-up," he said.
Rates will not change at authority-owned parking garages or metered lots, Mr. Onorato said.
The changes with on-street meters, authorized by city council, drew mixed reaction from community leaders.
"Our concern would be that increased parking rates will drive people further into the residential neighborhood," said Rick Belloli, executive director of South Side Local Development Co. If city officials take a corresponding stand against illegal parking in the residential area, he said, he has no problem with changes in rates and hours.
East Liberty isn't scheduled for a bump in rates or enforcement this week. However, both are needed in parts of the bustling neighborhood, said Nate Wildfire, director of planning for East Liberty Development Inc.
"We would love for parking to be enforced until midnight in parts of our neighborhood," he said.
Mr. Belloli and Mr. Wildfire called for more coherence in Pittsburgh's parking system, saying it isn't structured to maximize revenue opportunities, respond to parking demand or promote development. At certain times, Mr. Wildfire said, hourly rates of $2 or higher are "completely appropriate" in parts of East Liberty.
The higher rates due to take effect Wednesday grew out of last year's debate over boosting the city pension fund.
After rejecting Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's plan to prop up the fund with proceeds from a 50-year lease of parking garages and meters, council proposed selling the city's share of parking assets, including about 7,000 on-street meters, to the parking authority for $220 million. Higher rates would have helped finance the deal, which the authority rejected.
In the end, council passed a pension bailout package that taps more than $735 million in parking tax revenue over three decades. The diversion of parking tax money will put a perennial hole in the city operating budget, which council hopes to fill with higher annual payments from the parking authority to be funded with higher parking rates.
While the city owns the on-street meters, the authority keeps the lion's share of revenue and makes a $1.3 million "payment in lieu of taxes" to the city. Council wants the authority to double that payment to $2.6 million this year and to increase the payment to $9.3 million annually beginning in 2013.
Council approved a schedule of on-street meter increases and enforcement hour changes with the pension bailout in December, and the parking authority board is scheduled to take its own vote on the increases and changes today. Mr. Onorato said the authority board will vote on validating council's decisions on the increases and changes, but he didn't believe the authority's vote was necessary.
The rate schedule calls for additional increases in January and annually thereafter through 2015. Not every neighborhood, however, would see an increase each year.
In Beechview, for example, the hourly rates would jump from 50 cents to 75 cents Jan. 1 and to $1 in 2013. After jumping from 50 cents to $1 on Wednesday, rates in Shadyside, the South Side and the Strip District wouldn't change again through 2015.
Unresolved is whether the authority, after beginning to take in additional meter revenues, will honor the city's request to turn over additional money to the city. Also unresolved is whether the authority at some point will raise rates at authority-owned garages and metered lots, something council says it should do.
Mr. Wildfire said he's interested in creating a "parking district" in East Liberty. He envisions a system in which parking rates would change by hour and day of the week in different parts of the neighborhood.
First Published May 31, 2011 12:00 am