Parking in South Side has drawn the ire of residents and visitors of the neighborhood for years, and it could soon become a more widespread issue than ever.
More residential permit parking areas are likely to appear in addition to zones that already exist in South Side to help give residents the ability to park close to their homes. This could give residents a better opportunity to find parking, but it also might make it more difficult for business employees and patrons to park.
“There are political reasons why things like this happen because the voters are the residents; the voters are not the businesses,” said Kim Collins, president of the South Side Chamber of Commerce. “And I think that’s a very unfortunate way to run a community if you are that focused on voter population and not looking at the whole picture.”
A petition drive to expand permit parking from 17th Street to 22nd Street from Mary Street to Carey Way ended in late August with 93 percent of the households voting in favor of permit parking for their block. Hours of enforcement for the zone would be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a two-hour grace period. Some business operators worry they might have to relocate or close if parking issues are not resolved.
Ms. Collins lives in South Side and owns a business there. She is not only concerned about the businesses on East Carson Street, but also the many businesses that are interwoven into residential areas of South Side where permit parking could take over.Her design business, Blue Tomato, is tucked into a residential part of the neighborhood.
“I’m lucky enough that my business is by the Giant Eagle and I can have clients park in the parking lot if need be. But not all businesses within the residential areas have that opportunity,” Ms. Collins said. “What about the employees? There’s 14,000 people that are employed in South Side. 14,000. Where are they going park?”
While the parking zones may not interfere with nighttime business frequently seen in bars and restaurants because of the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. enforcement time, daytime shops and studios could be hurt.
“Think of all the shopping boutiques that we have,” Ms. Collins said. “If you walk up and down East Carson, there is so much more than bars and restaurants. This is such a vibrant community with so much to offer.”
The permit parking system, however, is more than 30 years old and is outdated for the needs of South Side today, she said. But the South Side Community Council and the city have little power to change the practice once it is enacted because it is based on what the residents want.
“It’s a residents-driven program,” said Bruce Kraus, councilman of Pittsburgh’s District 3 which includes South Side. ”Government’s only role is to implement it should it be the desire of the residents that have petitioned.”
Permit parking is one small way in which residents can get a say in what is going on in their community.
“It’s the only vehicle that residents have right now,” said Dr. Barbara Rudiak, a board member of the South Side Community Council. “People have said, ‘By putting my X down I feel that I have a bit of a voice.’”
The Community Council, Chamber of Commerce and other South Side groups are working together trying to find solutions to permit parking concerns, but progress is slow and the issue is complicated, community leaders said.
“It suffocates South Side businesses and residents because all of [the Southside Works] employees and customers take over Jane [Street], Sarah [Street] and [East] Carson [Street] with their cars,” said Rich Cupka, owner of Cupka’s Cafe.
Mr. Cupka said permit parking has not affected his business because he is far enough away from the restricted zones, but he added there is “no question” that it is hurting businesses closer to them.
He suggested making paid parking garages in SouthSide Works free of charge. Separately, Dr. Rudiak said the community might work out an agreement taking advantage of UPMC’s empty parking lots after hours.
Dr. Rudiak said she thinks that going through this process will make the community stronger in the end.
“It will never be perfect but I think that we could become more united,” Dr. Rudiak said. “I think that communication is the key, and working together is the key because we all need each other.”