Sociable City Plan calls for extended meter parking in S.S.
Over the last three years, the City of Pittsburgh has contracted with the Responsible Hospitality Institute out of California to work with nighttime economy stakeholders across the city to enable entertainment businesses and the neighborhoods they are located in and around to coexist.
To that end, Councilman Bruce Kraus joined Mayor Bill Peduto in announcing plans to expand the Responsible Hospitality Initiative into the Sociable City Plan. With the announcement, they introduced Allison Harnden as the new Nighttime Economy Coordinator.
Ms. Harnden replaces Maya Henry who resigned after a year in the position.
The Sociable City program will be rolled out in the neighborhood as a pilot program and eventually taken to Lawrenceville, East Liberty, the Strip District and elsewhere.
“(The new initiatives) didn’t just happen overnight,” Mr. Kraus said. “We’ve been working on them for years and years and years and years.”
In announcing the Sociable City Plan, the councilman said they are going to get their priorities in order, plan night life, manage appropriately and introduce police when necessary.
The first of the pilot initiatives slated for South Side is a Parking Investment Zone (PIZ). The as yet to be determined area will extend enforcement hours for on-street metered parking until midnight. Currently meter enforcement ends at 6 p.m.
The extra revenue generated from the increased enforcement hours will be earmarked for expanded police and public safety services on E. Carson Street. Councilman Kraus estimated the city could generate as much as $300,000 per year from the extend enforcement hours.
The extra money would allow the city to put more police on the streets in South Side.
“Increases in collections would be dedicated to covering the cost of the program: safety, clean-up and transportation initiatives in the business corridor. That’s really what this program is about,” Mr. Peduto said. “It’s about combining public safety, with transportation, with a clean neighborhood and how all three of those work together to provide a vibrant nighttime economy in the City of Pittsburgh.”
Mr. Kraus said if the city is able to provide the extra security of additional officers along E. Carson and into the neighborhood, the bar owners may be able to take the money they hired detail officers to hire additional security for inside their places of business.
The councilman said currently there are only a “handful” of off-duty officers working details at bars on E. Carson Street, down from dozens several years ago. The detail officers are required to stay outside of the businesses while they are working, unless there is a problem.
In addition to providing more police, the increase in revenue could also fund other services in the business district. The councilman said while he wouldn’t want it paying for current on-going services such as trash collection, he could see it being used for initiatives such as power-washing the sidewalks on a regular planned basis.
Although the boundaries of the PIZ haven’t been determined, Mr. Kraus said he doesn’t envision the zone extending the full length of E. Carson, possibly ending in the vicinity of the Birmingham Bridge. The cost for time on the meters would also remain the same for evenings as it is during the day.
“Some have argued one time that you park anytime time after 6:00 you would put $20 in. I disagree with that vehemently. I just think it should naturally progress as it does any other normal day, just to go to midnight. It’s just that we sequester the (additional revenue from) 6:00 to midnight for policing and transportation,” he explained.
There are two ways the Parking Investment Zone can be established, according to the councilman. The first would involve City Council passing legislation creating the zone and spelling out how the additional revenue could be spent.
Going hand-in-hand with the increased enforcement hours on metered parking is a strategy to encourage visitors and employees to park off-neighborhood and take a free shuttle to South Side. The Pittsburgh Parking Authority has agreed to allow people to park at no charge in the Second Avenue lot on Friday and Saturday nights.
The councilman said he sees the opportunity for free parking in a lighted and secured parking lot becoming a first choice for people coming to the neighborhood. He noted that now four-fifths of South Side is now covered by Residential Permit Parking zones from noon to midnight with two-hour grace periods.
“It’s a parking of first resort, I think we can market it and sell it to people as ‘Why do you want to drive around for 40 minutes looking for that one spot that may exist. You know definitively if you drop your car here (in the Second Avenue lot), you’re going to have a parking spot. It’s going to be lighted, protected, secure. The whole thing,’” he said. “You’ll be on a shuttle and across the bridge and in a matter of seconds you’re on Carson Street.”
The shuttle will operate in the same area as the Parking Investment Zone. Stops and a route still are to be determined.
However, the councilman said he envisions a wristband system where those parking and their passengers will receive a wristband to ride the shuttle. They will not only be able to ride the shuttle back and forth to the parking lot, but also up and down East Carson the length of the PIZ.
Only those with a wristband will be permitted to ride the shuttle.
Mr. Kraus also considers it a “win-win” for employees of South Side businesses to have a free, secure place to park their cars when working nights. He said they’ll be able to leave their cars, take the shuttle to work and be dropped off at their cars when finished with their shifts.
Free parking will be available in the Second Avenue lot will be available on weekend evenings through noon the next day. The shuttles will run until after the same nights until after the bars close.
The councilman said there were sponsors already for the shuttle service, but declined to name them.
There is no timeline for instituting the Sociable City Plan in South Side. The first step would be to establish the PIZ and shuttle service. The additional services proposed, including enhanced policing and clean-up services, would follow once it is determined how much revenue the extended meter enforcement brings in to the city.
An additional change to metered parking will be coming sooner than later. Zone 3 Commander Karen Dixon has requested the creation of a “safety lane” in the parking lane on the South Side of East Carson between 12th and 17th streets from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and certain special events.
The commander expressed concerns safety vehicles including police, fire and medics, aren’t able to quickly make their way down East Carson on weekend nights. She said it’s important for emergency vehicles to be able get to where they are needed quickly without putting other drivers and pedestrians at risk.
After the area is posted with signs, a short grace period will be extended to those who inadvertently park before they are ticked and towed according to Commander Dixon.