Peak-demand parking rates could rise in Pittsburgh |

Peak-demand parking rates could rise in Pittsburgh

Drivers would pay more to park in Pittsburgh during times of peak demand under a measure City Council is considering to plug a $4 million hole in Mayor Bill Peduto’s proposed 2015 budget.

Council also could increase meter rates or extend meter enforcement hours in neighborhoods, according to options discussed Thursday.

But talk centered on a system of “dynamic parking” that’s been tested for the past two years on 400 spots around Carnegie Mellon University. Prices rise and fall on four streets monthly based on demand.

“The way it works around Carnegie Mellon is the parking spots that are in high demand that are closer to the university cost more money, while the parking spots that are farther away cost less,” said Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak. “The way it’s been proposed makes sense to me.”

Peduto’s $505.9 million spending plan counts on $10 million in meter revenue from the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. The authority’s board last month approved an agreement with the city that provides about $6 million, according to Executive Director David Onorato.

Council, which controls meter rates, is debating ways to bridge that gap.

“We haven’t figured it out yet,” Peduto spokesman Tim McNulty said, noting that adding parking meters is an option. “Everything is on the table.”

Council members attending an informational meeting on the CMU project liked what they heard from the professors who run it.

Mark Fichman and Stephen Spear said revenue from meters around campus has increased dramatically since the program’s inception in January 2013.

Total revenue from the 400 meters was $60,922 in October 2012 when rates were $2 per hour for meters on Schenley Drive and Margaret Morrison, Frew and Tech streets.

With hourly rates bouncing from $1 to $2 in October 2013 and October 2014, revenue increased to $86,071 and $95,350, respectively, Fichman said.

“We had substantial increases in revenues with lower average rates,” he said.

He said fluctuating rates also triggered greater parking availability and filled metered spots where people rarely parked. When rates were $2 per hour, 18 meters on Frew Street were always empty because people had to walk up a steep hill to get back to their vehicles.

“We changed that block to half the price, and it immediately went from empty to full,” Fichman said.

The professors said Pittsburgh should expand dynamic parking across the city and include garages and surface lots the parking authority controls. “Council is very interested in doing something like this,” said Councilman Corey O’Connor, who chaired the meeting.

Council in 2010 avoided state takeover of city police, fire and municipal employee pension funds by pledging $735 million in future parking tax revenue over 30 years to the accounts.

Members authorized an increase in street meter rates to help offset the money diverted from parking tax revenue. They urged the authority to provide cash from increased garage rates to help shore up the pension funds.

The authority increased rates at more than two dozen garages and lots starting Aug. 1.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or [email protected].

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