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By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

How could parking lease affect South Side

 

August 3, 2010



There are few issues in South Side over the last 30 years that have been debated, discussed and dissected more than parking.

Parking, permit parking, parking lots and parking studies and ways to find more parking have been on the agendas over the years of South Side organizations from the Planning Forum to the Community Council and were included in the first South Side Neighborhood Plan. However, no one has studied parking in South Side more than the South Side Local Development Company having invested thousands of staff hours and tens of thousands of dollars examining the issue.

Now, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's proposal to monetize parking assets by leasing the city's meter and garage parking has enlivened the debate with some saying the increase in parking rates will hurt business and drive people out of the city while others maintain taxes will go up if the parking lease fails to go through.

On South Side, one of several neighborhoods that will see the greatest increases in metered parking rates, Rick Belloli, executive director of the SSLDC, says it's too early to tell how the increase will affect the neighborhood.

He points out currently six different government departments have control of one aspect or another of parking in the neighborhood: the Parking Authority controls metered on-street and off-street lots; the Urban Redevelopment Authority owns the parking garages at the SouthSide Works; City Council sets the meter rates; the police are in charge of valet parking; City Planning controls permit parking; and, Public Works is in charge of signage.

According to Mr. Belloli, one side effect of raising the metered rates could be an increase of available parking in the neighborhood. Shoppers, visitors, business owners and employees that are currently finding parking in the business could move onto residential streets with an increase in rates and enforcement times.

One way to counter increased non-residential parking in the community would be to institute residential permit parking throughout the neighborhood. Currently there is one permit parking zone in the neighborhood.

The entire South Side Flats would have to be broken down into as many as 10 permit parking zones. There are concerns if only parts of the neighborhood have permit parking and others don't, those parts of the community without it will be oversaturated with visitors parking. Like squeezing a balloon, the air swells to other parts of the balloon.

However, it would take a change in city policy to affect the change. Currently City Planning is accepting only one new permit parking zone in the city each year. At that rate it could take a decade before the entire neighborhood was covered by permit parking.

While not advocating leasing the city's parking assets, Mr. Belloli says it could make parking more efficient in South Side. A single vendor in charge could make changes that could increase usage of public spaces without increasing the actual number of spaces.

As an example he pointed out rates to park in the Parking Authority's five surface lots in South Side are double the cost of parking at on-street meters. Calling it a "backward system" he said it would encourage people to park in the lots if they cost less than on-street metered parking. He also suggested it would be more efficient if metered parking rates were structured by time of day and day of week.

"[Parking] isn't enforced during hours that it is relevant," Mr. Belloli said. "Parking is only enforced until 9 p.m.…It's not being treated as a system."

He says South Side could also gain as much as 10 percent or more in additional parking spaces by utilizing parking kiosks such as those being used in the surface parking lots instead of individual metered slots.

"It could be more efficient," he added.

A side benefit of the kiosks over meters is the amount of graffiti on each: while virtually every meter in South Side has some sort of graffiti on it, the kiosks are kept relatively free of vandalism.

It's important to note that in South Side, the metered spaces on the street and in the surface lots at 12th, 18th (two), 19th and 20th streets are operated by the Parking Authority and are included in the mayor's plan to monetize parking. However, the garages in the SouthSide Works are owned by the URA and not included in the plan.

 

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