South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

PED encompasses more than parking in the South Side

 


A presentation on the proposed South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED) initiative headlined the Dec. 13 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

City officials in attendance included city Councilman Bruce Kraus, Chief Operations Officer Guy Costa, Pittsburgh Parking Authority Director of Enforcement and Residential Permit Parking John Fournier and Zone 3 police Commander Karen Dixon.

The meeting began with the presenting of a gift to Christine Gaus, who is retiring, and forum members thanking her for all of her work over the years as secretary at forum meetings.

“You were always professional and always pleasant,” Thom Barry of the South Side Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) said.

Forum Chair Hugh Brannan said Ms. Gaus has been on the staff of the Brashear Association for more than 30 years. She grew up in Arlington, and dedicated her career to helping the community.

“It’s a hard act to follow,” he has said previously of Ms. Gaus’ contribution to the meetings.

Later in the meeting, it was announced Candice Gonzalez of the Chamber has volunteered to serve as meeting secretary.

Next, Mr. Costa reported PennDot (state Dept. of Transportation) has a $5 million plan to resurface and replace traffic signals in a portion of East Carson St., beginning in 2018, with the goal of improving pedestrian safety.

The work also includes new crosswalks, curb extensions, and improvements at the Birmingham Bridge-Carson St. intersection. Grant Gillen, of community and government affairs in the Mayor’s Office, said PennDOT will hold a community meeting on the project at a later date.

He also said the city put up additional money to make sure the traffic signals will be black, which is now the city’s standard, and not the galvanized steel that PennDOT prefers.

Mr. Kraus said the impetus for the pedestrian safety concern is that Carson St. is the sixth most dangerous street in the state based on its number of DUI (Driving Under the Influence) offenses.

The councilman also announced a new position has been created to help attract and promote positive businesses in South Side. The city and Urban Redevelopment Authority are splitting the $40,000 a year cost for two years for the position.

The position is intended to help attract diversified and positive businesses to fill empty storefronts in the business district.

In his presentation, Mr. Fournier said he would like to have the South Side PED system up and running before St. Patrick’s Day. South Side would be the first neighborhood in Pittsburgh to have a PED.

“It’s a really powerful tool to create a safe neighborhood environment,” he said.

The South Side PED allows for nighttime parking meter collection. The price to park at meters on Friday and Saturday until midnight would be $1.50 an hour. There will be no limit on how long a driver may park at a metered space, day or night.

On Fridays and Saturdays, a police officer would accompany enforcement personnel during nighttime hours to ensure safety and coverage.

It is estimated the PED could generate $250,000 annually, which would be dedicated to South Side. City law allows the extra income generated from the extended meters to be directed to public safety or public works improvements in the neighborhood.

For example, revenue from the PED could be used to pay for police officers on Friday and Saturday nights in South Side.

“This is about a police presence, but not a police state. Customer service is the prime motivation,” Mr. Kraus said.

Another change, currently in a legislate process, is to adjust Residential Permit Parking Program (RPPP) hours to go until 2 a.m. to match meter enforcement. Numbered streets in the RPPP hours could be changed to begin at 2:30 p.m. with enforcement beginning at 4:30 p.m. after the two-hour grace period. Named RPPP streets hours would remain as they are now.

Mr. Fournier said the change in hours would make it easier for some employees in South Side businesses to find parking, while still protecting residents and discouraging commuters.

RPPP areas in the South Side would receive increased enforcement attention throughout the week and at all times during the day.

Free parking in the Parking Authority’s Second Avenue Lot will be available after 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. A vehicle may be left overnight in the lot.

A free shuttle, the Circulator, will operate Friday and Saturday nights from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. It would run in loops from the Second Avenue Lot to 22nd and Carson streets. The extended hours for the Circulator are to encourage South Side employees to park in the lot.

Mr. Fournier called the Second Avenue Lot a well-lit, safe location.

Mr. Kraus said he believes the area will see a decrease in vehicle break-ins if cars are parked in a well-lit location. There would also likely be a decline in sexual/physical assaults if people are retrieving cars from well-lit locations.

A dedicated ride-sharing and taxi area will be created on Carson St. at 17th St. The area would be staffed by an expediter who will help get people in cars faster and keep vehicles moving.

The city is also exploring for future consideration a mobile custody center and a night court to process offenses faster.

Mr. Fournier said the PED plan is a work-in-progress, for which adjustments can and will be made.

“If the meter rate is too high or low, we will adjust it.

“We’ll keep trying things until we get it right,” he said.

No city money will be used to pay for the Circulator, Mr. Kraus would later say. Initially, it will be paid for by sponsors. In addition, there will be a marketing campaign using Blattner Brunner through Lamar Advertising to help get the word out about the PED.

Next, in her report of the Development Review Committee (DRC), Chair Tracy Myers said there is a proposal to demolish some structures between 23rd and 24th streets, and build a 325-apartment, five-and-a-half story residential complex on Wharton St.

She said the DRC was asked for support for three variances, which include building length and height, and change of use. A meeting between the developer and residents was held after Thanksgiving.

A concern raised by residents was a traffic study -- which was not yet completed -- as there are traffic-wise challenges in the area. Ms. Myers also said there were concerns about the height of the building as Sidney St. residents can currently view the river and other sites.

Another community meeting is tentatively planned for Jan. 4.

In forum business, Mr. Brannan, who has served as forum chair for 25 years, said the neighborhood plan states the chair position be looked at every two years. The next time will be this January.

He said he could continue as chair for another year, if needed. But if someone else wants to do it, that is fine with him.

Next, Mary Ellen Solomon, Duquesne University’s new assistant vice-president for executive affairs, introduced Alexandra Kozak, the school’s manager of government and community relations.

She will be the new liaison for Duquesne at forum meetings. She is also a new South Side resident.

The final action was Mr. Barry thanking the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local #5 for repairing the snowflake lights – free of charge – on East Carson St. for the holiday season.

While the snowflakes were bright and attractive when first installed in 2014, they were very dim last year due to the damage from being out in the elements of rain, ice, and snow the prior year.

Last month, 30 IBEW apprentices worked for 250 hours to remove the damaged rope lighting and reassemble 75 feet of new rope lighting and a five-foot electrical cord on each of the 27 snowflakes.

Other local companies donated labor and equipment, or provided items at discounted costs, for the electrical, and installation/removal costs.

The South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association, South Side Bar and Restaurant Association, and South Side Community Council each donated $1,000 to join the Chamber in the project.

The next forum meeting will be on Jan. 10.

 

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