Pittsburgh delays after-6 parking charges until July 1
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Pittsburgh City Council voted Thursday to delay nighttime enforcement of on-street parking meters until July 1, and it drew new battle lines by requesting that the parking authority use the next six months to revamp its rate structure, improve enforcement efforts and further boost its tribute to city coffers.
If the authority doesn't do so, Councilman Bill Peduto said, he'll introduce new legislation next year to suspend nighttime enforcement yet again.
The discussion signaled a continuing disconnect between council, which wants more meter revenue and a more comprehensive approach to parking management, and the authority, which has increased its contribution to the city and embarked on modernization efforts.
"This is the time to resolve this problem once and for all," said Councilman Patrick Dowd, who contends the authority should make sweeping changes to better serve the public and accommodate a 2-year-old pension bailout.
Under a 2011 law, enforcement of on-street spaces was to be extended four hours -- until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday -- beginning Jan. 2 in seven areas: Downtown, North Shore, Oakland, Shadyside, South Side, Strip District and Squirrel Hill. Now, enforcement hours will remain 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. citywide through June 30.
Mr. Peduto had proposed eliminating nighttime enforcement, but his colleagues, citing the need for additional revenue to offset funds taken for the bailout, agreed only to a six-month delay. Councilman Ricky Burgess estimated that nighttime enforcement in the seven neighborhoods annually would generate $200,000 in meter revenue and $1 million in fine revenue for the city.
Mr. Peduto said reaping fine revenue while discouraging nighttime shopping and dining is "bad tax policy" and insisted that council focus on extracting more meter revenue from the parking authority.
The city owns and sets rates and enforcement hours for the 7,000 on-street spaces; the authority keeps 90 percent of meter revenue and 10 percent of fine revenue. The authority also owns and keeps revenue from a dozen parking garages and more than 30 metered lots.
In addition to receiving a share of on-street meter and fine revenues, the city this year received a $2.6 million subsidy from the authority, double the 2011 subsidy but not enough to satisfy council. Unless the authority agrees to more revenue-sharing, Mr. Peduto said, nighttime enforcement only enriches the parking authority at the expense of the city's general fund.
Council wants the authority to use the next six months to overhaul its operations and priorities.
At Mr. Dowd's request, council passed a nonbinding resolution requesting that the authority align rates at meters, garages and lots. In neighborhoods with garages and lots, Mr. Dowd said, meter rates should be significantly higher so that motorists use on-street spaces only for short periods.
The resolution asked that the authority revisit enforcement efforts. In neighborhoods with meters and garages, Mr. Dowd said, enforcement of on-street spaces should complement garage operating hours. Council members also cited a need for more enforcement of residential permit parking districts.
The resolution also requested that the authority turn over meter revenue but didn't include a specific amount. Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak previously suggested that the authority provide $9.3 million annually.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is "open to ideas that will improve the parking experience for residents and visitors," his spokeswoman, Joanna Doven, said in an email. Mr. Dowd has demanded that the mayor, who appoints parking authority board members, use his influence to help council achieve its parking-related objectives.
David Onorato, authority executive director, could not be reached Thursday but previously said he was willing to entertain council's request for additional revenue.
The December 2010 pension bailout diverts more than $735 million from the city's general fund over 31 years. In approving the bailout, council also passed a series of meter rate increases and approved nighttime enforcement in the seven neighborhoods to offset the loss of parking tax money.
Although council has demanded that the authority turn over more revenue because of the rate increases, which took effect in summer 2011, it cannot require the authority do so.
The authority has increased its annual subsidy to the city but has been unwilling to provide more because it has embarked on its own modernization initiatives. Nighttime enforcement of on-street meters debuted in summer 2011 but was quickly suspended because of revenue-sharing and other conflicts.
First Published December 28, 2012 12:00 am