Initially, extended hours meter parking meets expectations
Parking has been a challenge in South Side for more than half a century. In the mid-1960s, the South Side Chamber of Commerce first commissioned a parking study which determined: There wasn’t enough of it!
Over the past 50 years things haven’t gotten any better with residents having multiple vehicles and an influx of as many as an estimated 20,000 visitors each weekend to the bars, restaurants and entertainment venues. The influx of vehicles has resulted in conflicts between residents looking to park near their homes and businesses needing parking for their employees and customers.
The end result of the tug-of-war for free parking has been the expansion of the Residential Permit Parking Program throughout most of South Side with a two-hour grace period for non-permit holders.
Instead of a parking problem, District 3 Councilman Bruce Kraus often describes the parking situation as a “transportation problem,” needing a more effective way of bringing people into and out of the neighborhood, and not necessarily in their personal vehicles.
While transportation might be the problem, it appears changes in the way visitors and employees park in South Side may be part of the solution.
In the planning stages for more than a year, the City of Pittsburgh instituted its first Parking Enhancement District (PED). A year-long pilot program using the on-street metered spaces throughout the neighborhood to generate dedicated income which may only be spent in the Enhancement District and only for specific expenditures.
The PED extends on-street metered enforcement hours from 6 p.m., when enforcement normally ends, to midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. The rate remains the same at $1.50 per hour, but the usual two-hour maximum time limit has been eliminated. It’s also possible for those parking to use the Parking Authority’s app to add time to their meter.
Councilman Kraus called the elimination of the time limit a “really healthy compromise.”
The Pittsburgh Parking Authority will turn over the money to the city from the extended hours on Friday and Saturday nights, minus enforcement expenses. Those funds will be held in a trust fund dedicated to the South Side Neighborhood.
John Fournier, director of meter enforcement and residential permit parking for the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, said they are monitoring the vacancy rate at the meters to determine if changes need to be made to the program. So far, through the first weeks of enforcement there hasn’t been an excess of vacant spaces in the neighborhood.
Before the PED began, Councilman Kraus said they hoped to take in approximately $250,000 from the Friday and Saturday extended hours. Mr. Fournier said it was still early in the program, but the amount seemed to be on target based on the first few weeks.
Concurrently to implementation of the PED were changes to the RPPP hours of enforcement. Originally, all South Side streets in the RPPP had permit hours of noon to midnight. Now certain streets allow parking up to 2:30 p.m. With the two-hour grace period, parkers don’t have to fear getting a ticket on those streets until 4:30 p.m.
Councilman Kraus said the change was made to free up more parking for employees in the neighborhood during the day. He added the extended hours were then needed to prevent people from moving into the neighborhood because of the extended meter times.
Another change was the operation of a shuttle, the South Side Nite Rider, on Friday and Saturday nights operating out of the Parking Authority’s Second Avenue Lot. Parking is free after 6 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. on Saturday and operates until 4 a.m. to accommodate bar employees. The lot is regularly patrolled by Pittsburgh Police.
The South Side Nite Rider makes stops at Bedford Square (12th Street), S. 18th and Sidney streets and 21st and E. Carson streets. Returning to the Second Avenue Lot, the shuttle will drop off riders at their cars.
City of Pittsburgh Nighttime Economy Manager Allison Harden said the roll out of the PED couldn’t have gone better. She credited an education campaign with wide media exposure along with putting an “Oops” card outlining the program on cars instead of a ticket for the first month.
When enforcement began last week, she said according to the Mayor’s Community Affairs Office there hadn’t been any complaints about the increased enforcement. Councilman Kraus echoed the comments saying his office also didn’t receive any complaints.
In the last week, the city also began enforcing a “Public Safety Lane” between 12th and 17th streets on E. Carson where parking isn’t permitted from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. A change that was requested by Zone 3 Police Commander Karen Dixon.
The lane isn’t intended as a travel lane for emergency vehicles, but rather an area where cars in the travel lane can pull over to allow the emergency vehicles to pass by.
Ms. Harden the first weekend of enforcement for the safety lane worked well and had a side benefit of allowing ride sharing services to pick up passengers in the area after the bars closed at 2 a.m. It facilitated people leaving the district quicker resulting in having the area cleared 30 minutes earlier than normal.
Having people clear out quicker means less noise and public urination in the neighborhood, she added.
In coming weeks, The South Pittsburgh Reporter will explore more about the PED, the requirements, how the funding may and may not be used.