Pittsburgh councilman wants to revamp parking in CMU area

| Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, 11:10 a.m.

Hourly parking rates around Carnegie Mellon University tripled in recent years and could go up even more if Pittsburgh officials approve pricing based on supply and demand.

City Councilman Bill Peduto on Monday introduced a resolution that would allow the city's Parking Authority, Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business and Phipps Conservatory to try the system for a year. It would involve charging more for prime spaces during peak hours but could lower rates overall, with off-peak pricing running less than the current $2 per hour.

“It will give us more information to make a good decision,” Peduto said. “This hopefully will allow us to look at how parking meters can be best utilized.”

The system would cover approximately 300 parking spaces on Carnegie Mellon's campus and the surrounding area starting in January, Peduto said. Professors Mark Fichman and Stephen Spear plan to study how to implement it elsewhere in Pittsburgh.

Seattle implemented a similar pricing system in 2010 to help it reach a goal of having one or two parking spaces available per block during peak hours, said Mike Estey, the Seattle Department of Transportation's parking manager.

In 2011, Seattle raised rates to $4 per hour in four high-demand neighborhoods and lowered rates in 11 others, he said. This year, it kept rates the same but increased the maximum time to park, in order to bolster traffic in some areas where use decreased even with lower rates.

“Where we raised rates ... a lot of people still parked there but you could find a parking space,” Estey said.

Pittsburgh Parking Authority officials could not be reached for comment. City Council is scheduled to vote on the resolution Nov. 13.

Parking used to cost 50 cents an hour at coin-operated meters around Carnegie Mellon's campus, but motorists rarely found open spaces.

“It was like finding gold if you found a spot around here then,” said Eyona Bivins, 28, an administrative coordinator at the university.

Many people stopped parking on Frew Street and other metered spots on campus when rates increased last year to $1.75 an hour, she said. They came back when the authority recently installed multi-space kiosks that take cash and credit cards, even though prices increased to $2 an hour, Bivins said.

She typically parks for free in Schenley Park. “It's a 10-minute walk, but I save 16 bucks.”

A price increase on Frew likely would send Dave Nakles looking for cheaper options such as a garage, he said.

“When it used to be meters, you couldn't find a spot here — ever. If you didn't get here by 8:30 a.m., you were dead,” said Nakles, 63, an adjunct professor in the civil and environmental engineering department who often pays to park for three or four hours.

That could change with a price increase.

“I bet I wouldn't do it if I was going to be here for more than an hour or two,” he said. “It's getting close to that now.”

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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