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Pittsburgh councilman calls for scrapping extended hours for meter enforcement

| Monday, June 17, 2013, 1:24 p.m.

Keeping free parking on evenings at meters in most city neighborhoods won't substantially hurt the city's finances, Pittsburgh Councilman Corey O'Connor said Monday.

“We can afford to make the decision to go to 6 p.m.,” said O'Connor, who introduced an ordinance to keep enforcement until that hour rather than extending it to 10 p.m.

The legislation will come before City Council for a preliminary vote on Wednesday and final vote on June 25. It would keep nighttime meter enforcement from kicking in on June 30, a deadline council set in December when some business owners lobbied against the later enforcement.

“It's not fair for businesses trying to compete with the malls where there is free parking,” O'Connor said of neighborhood establishments.

His legislation would allow evening meter enforcement Downtown, in the South Side and on the North Shore — neighborhoods with busy commercial or entertainment districts.

“I'm keeping an open mind about it,” said Councilman Bruce Kraus, whose district includes the South Side. “It's a thriving business district, so it's not unreasonable to think parking meters could go until 10 p.m.”

Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, who represents Downtown and a portion of the North Side, could not be reached.

The issue dates to 2010, when council avoided state takeover of employee pension plans by committing $735 million in parking taxes to them over 30 years.

O'Connor said new parking meters and increased rates are generating money that makes fewer hours for meter enforcement possible.

Mayoral spokeswoman Stephanie Sikora said the city received $2.6 million from the Pittsburgh Parking Authority last year, including meter revenue. The city expects to receive $416,566 from meter revenue in 2013, she said, but she couldn't speculate on how the proposed change might alter that number.

“The city budgets conservatively,” Sikora said. “There are revenue and expenditure fluctuations through the year. They're addressed on a case-by-case basis.”

Revenue went up an estimated 15 to 20 percent in areas where the city installed electronic meters that accept credit cards, said David Onorato, executive director of the parking authority.

The authority installed 550 of those meters by the end of December and ordered 340 that should arrive by the end of this month, Onorato said.

“I think (revenue) will stay up,” Onorato said.

“It's giving customers another form of payment, and they're able to park more cars per block space. I think, before, people were willing to pay but didn't have enough quarters or the meters were broken.”

Two Carnegie Mellon University professors who conducted a parking meter study are scheduled to address council on Wednesday, along with Onorato, Finance Director Scott Kunka, council Budget Director Bill Urbanic and Jeff Cohen, owner of Smallman Street Deli. He could not be reached, but O'Connor said he opposes expanded enforcement.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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