South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Parking meters will fund city programs in South Side Flats

 


South Side’s Parking Enhancement District (PED) is a little over two and a half months old and is meeting the goals set for its success.

The PED, a one-year pilot program in the City of Pittsburgh, extends on-street parking meter enforcement until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights in South Side. The program came about through a recommendation of the Responsible Hospitality Institute.

The maximum time for a parking space is lifted after 6 p.m. when a motorist can pay for the entire time they will be there at once or add to it later.

The program began being enforced on April 14 after a month-long grace period where motorists were issued “Ooops Cards” instead of tickets for not feeding the meter.

The boundaries for the PED is the South Side Flats including the SouthSide Works, which numbers 688 on-street metered parking spaces. That number doesn’t include surface parking lots and parking garages at the Works.

On East Carson Street, the number of available metered spaces is reduced to 653 on Friday and Saturday nights from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. because of the no parking Safety Zone from 12th to 17th Street.

John Fournier, director of meter enforcement and residential permit parking for the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, said the amount of available empty parking spaces hasn’t been affected by the PED. The Parking Authority tracks the occupancy of spaces in two ways: by the monetary transaction, or how much money is coming in through the payment kiosk, and by physically going out and counting empty spaces.

Mr. Fournier provided data for the weekend of June 9-10. During that weekend, he personally went out and counted empty spaces, determining there was an over occupancy of the available spaces.

“As soon as one car pulled out, another one pulled in,” he said.

The percentages for the time he counted spaces were: 6-7 p.m., 94.9 percent; 7-8 p.m., 87 percent; and, 8-9 p.m., 94 percent. He noted utilization dips between 17th and 23rd streets after 11 p.m.

Mr. Fournier said the Parking Authority didn’t have utilization data after 6 p.m. in South Side prior to the enhancement district beginning.

The week the PED went into effect, Uber registered a 20 percent increase in South Side calls for service. Uber couldn’t point to the PED as the entire reason for the uptick in business and noted their business has been growing overall.

Revenue in the Parking Enhancement District has been growing each week, taking in nearly $50,000 during the first 13 weeks of the program, including four weeks without enforcement.

PED revenue only includes money for parking, not from parking tickets which are included with all other parking tickets in the city.

By law, money raised through the extended meter hours, minus Parking Authority enforcement costs, can only be utilized within the Parking Enhancement District, which includes the entire South Side Flats. Currently, that money is being held at the Parking Authority and can only be transferred to a trust fund in the city held specifically for the South Side PED at the end of the fiscal year.

Mr. Fournier said amendments to the law are being considered to be able to move the money over quicker.

The same law restricting where the money can be spent also restricts who can request funding and for what type of project. Only the Director of Public Safety can request the money and only for public safety and public works projects along with needed capital improvements.

According to the PED legislation: “Revenue net of expenses incurred from parking collection after the hours of 6:00 p.m. shall be dedicated to funding business area enhancements within the parking zone, provided that none of these funds shall be granted, contracted, or otherwise provided to an outside organization that provides service within the parking zone.”

The city can’t request PED funding for services already being provided normally.

Once a proposal for a public safety or public works is developed, the Public Safety Director would then request approval from City Council for PED funding.

Councilman Bruce Kraus said he’s not in favor of just paying overtime for extra police in the neighborhood, but would rather have officers specifically trained for policing an entertainment zone.

Other neighborhoods are already watching the South Side Parking Enforcement District to see if it’s successful, Mr. Fournier said. The communities that are eligible for a PED are limited and must meet specific criteria.

Only neighborhoods that generate at least $500 per metered parking space and have 80 percent of the metered streets intersect or adjoin a residential permit parking zone are eligible. The City Council representative for the area or a community group, with the support of the council representative, may make the application for a PED through the city’s Nighttime Economy Coordinator.

Through the first three months of the PED, Council Kraus said he hasn’t received any complaints in his office about the extended meter hours. Allison Harden, the Nighttime Economy Coordinator, confirmed she hadn’t received any complaints about the district either.

Chuck Reese, president of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, also said he hasn’t heard anyone complaining about having to pay to park on East Carson after 6 p.m.

Mr. Fournier noted the PED was only part of an overall parking strategy that included changing the hours for Residential Permit Parking (RPP). On north-south facing streets, hours were pushed pack to begin at 2:30 p.m. and all hours extended until 2 a.m.

By beginning RPP at 2:30 p.m. instead of noon, enforcement now wouldn’t start until 4:30 p.m. allowing South Side employees a longer period to park on residential streets during the day before chancing a ticket.

The Safety Zone or pull over lane from 12th to 17th streets from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays was requested by the police to allow cars to pull over and allow emergency vehicles to pass. It has also been used by ride sharing companies including Uber, Z-Trip and Lyft to drop off and pick up passengers, getting them in and out of the neighborhood quickly.

City officials are considering extending the hours of the Safety Zone until 3 a.m. to help facilitate getting people out of the neighborhood after the bars close.

 

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