Getting Around: City loves yinz, offers free Valentine's evening parking

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Wednesday is Valentine's Day. Pittsburgh wants to show how much it loves yinz by offering a sweetheart deal: free parking.

It will be in effect from 4 p.m. Wednesday through 5:59 a.m. Thursday at all 800 meters on Downtown streets and 5,000 spaces in garages operated by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority.

In addition, the authority will offer free all-day parking on Black Friday, Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving and traditional start of the holiday shopping season, and every Saturday thereafter through Dec. 22.

The authority hopes that owners of private lots who have fattened their bank accounts as a result of the heavy demand for parking in the compact Golden Triangle will give something back to the city, too, especially the ones who rip off visitors for special events and discourage them from coming back.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl called for the measure partly to compete with suburban malls and partly to offset the fact that parking providers did not lower rates after a slight drop in the city's outrageous 50 percent parking tax this year.

"Getting Around" suggested the policy in a Dec. 10 column headlined, "Try Black Friday free parking to bring people Downtown."

Mayor Luke stopped at my desk and pulled out a copy during a visit to the PG the next day for an editorial board meeting. "I like it," he said. "I talked to the Parking Authority this morning. It's going to happen."

And it has.

Mr. Ravenstahl told PG staff writer Rich Lord the free parking would be "taking away excuses people may have" for not coming Downtown for its entertainment, dining and shopping. "It's not cheaper to go to the malls at that point."

The restaurants are better, too.

Flinn-ished. Several readers have questioned a new William Flinn Highway sign erected on Route 8 near the Etna-Shaler border where PennDOT recently flattened the "Mae West Bend." I was hoping PennDOT's sign makers goofed, but they didn't.

The old sign, bearing F-l-y-n-n, was in error. It was spelled that way for so long, by so many, it came to be accepted as correct. Chalk one up for PennDOT.

So who was this guy, William Flinn?

He was a Republican political boss, a businessman and builder of many city streets. His eldest daughter was Mary Flinn Lawrence, who, with husband John, owned Hartwood Acres and mansion in Indiana Township. State officials named Route 8 after Mr. Flinn in 1934.

Belatedly, I am obliged to offer kudos to former state Sen. Rick Cessar, R-Shaler, for persuading PennDOT to proceed with the $15 million project after years of excuses. There was lull in progress after he retired in 1994, but not because of him.

Potpourri. The Chevrolet Amphitheatre is being moved near Sandcastle Water Park, thereby relocating traffic and drunks on Route 837 to West Homestead. Patrons leaving concerts and Station Square who used the Wabash Tunnel to try to beat the law paid for it. Port Authority Police records for May show they wrote 18 traffic tickets, investigated one accident and made three DUI arrests at the tunnel.

At the same time they're railing about the Port Authority's proposed fare increases and service cuts, city officials are supporting construction of not one, not two, but three more parking garages on Second Avenue as part of expanding the Pittsburgh Technology Center. People familiar with Second Avenue can tell you less transit and more traffic is what the convoluted and congested Bates Street-Hot Metal Bridge intersection needs. Like a hole in the head.

Cameras at red lights are long overdue not only in Pittsburgh but on major roads around the city, such as routes 8, 22, 30, 51, 65 and 19. Although PennDOT owns the arterial highways, municipalities are responsible for the traffic signals. Most lack the expertise, money or will to get it right, which helps explain why the yellow light may be two seconds at one intersection but six seconds at the next. The inconsistency contributes to driver confusion and uncertainty.

Believe it. The Lincoln Highway (Route 30) was the nation's first coast-to-coast highway, stretching from New York City to San Francisco in 1913. Want more? Visit

Elsewhere. The San Diego Association of Governments has singled out public transit as one of the factors that makes its region more livable.

Plate du jour. Irene Paul, of Uniontown, spotted the Pennsylvania personalized license plate MUM 4KDS in a church parking lot. She's a BUSY GAL.

Joe Grata can be reached at or 412-263-1985.


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