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Dormont about 980 parking spaces short of need

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Streetside parking is in high demand on Kelton Avenue between West Liberty and Annex Avenue in Dormont. The borough is considering ways to improve its apparent shortage of on-street parking spaces, especially in residential neighborhoods. A study by three Carnegie Mellon University graduate students said the borough needs about 980 more parking spots to meet demand

Brian Condon can sit on his front porch in Dormont and watch his neighbors compete with patrons of West Liberty businesses for parking on Hillsdale and Texas avenues, jockeying for street parking in front of houses just outside a permit-only parking zone farther up the block.

A block over on Kelton Avenue, Rickey Callon, 25, said his girlfriend has had to park several blocks away at Keystone Oaks High School when she visited him.

“This street needs some control to it. What can be done, I don't know,” said Condon, 52.

Farther up Hillsdale at the borough building Tuesday evening, Dormont's Parking and Traffic Control Commission went over recommendations from a study by three Carnegie Mellon University graduate students of the borough's residential parking problems. The review found that Dormont is about 980 spaces short of demand. Recommendations included switching streets like Hillsdale to one-way traffic with parking on both sides.

“Mind you, not every street is a good candidate” for conversion, borough Manager Jeff Naftal said. “Some streets aren't wide enough. On some streets, the traffic flow would not make sense.”

One-way streets would need to be at least 26 feet wide to support an 8-foot-wide parking lane on each side with a 10-foot-wide travel lane down the middle, he said.

Linking on-, off-street use

One of the more controversial recommendations in the study, available at boro.dormont.pa.us, was to tie the number of on-street parking permits to off-street parking: If a house with three cars has garage and driveway space for two, that household would be eligible for just one on-street permit. Naftal emphasized that the parking commission and council could implement less-strict versions of the recommendations.

“I have a garage, but it's in need of repairs before I'd be comfortable parking my car in it,” said Hillsdale resident Diane Arrington, 53, who nonetheless supports stricter parking pass requirements. “I'd be giving someone else a place to park.”

But Greg Langel, another Hillsdale resident, said such requirements don't make sense for every block and might be seen as unfairly punishing residents with garages.

An alternative recommendation is to expand metered parking for businesses along West Liberty and Potomac avenues farther into neighboring blocks, then provide “flex” permits for residents of those blocks so they could park at the meters for free.

Judith Friedl, who lives in an apartment above a Potomac Avenue business, said such permits would have been handy when her son stayed with her for a few months.

“We'd have to run down to feed the meter at 6 or 7 in the morning to see if we could last through the day, then we'd have to go back in the evening,” she said.

Broadening enforcement

Other recommendations include expanding permit parking to cover the entire 0.7-square-mile borough, not just the areas close to the business district, and changing the enforcement hours to cover times when competition for parking is fiercest. Permit parking is currently enforced between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The borough also could increase the annual price of a parking permit from $10 to as high as $40 and use the additional revenue to pay for more parking enforcement or equipment like “smart meters,” multi-space meters similar to the ones in Pittsburgh neighborhoods or Dormont's new public parking lot.

“I'm willing to pay more for a parking permit if you're able to eliminate some of the aggravation around here,” Illinois Avenue resident Barbara Marasco said.

The parking commission will discuss the study's recommendations at its Sept. 10 meeting, then make its own recommendations to the borough council. The earliest council would take action is Oct. 7.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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