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Pittsburgh Parking Authority OKs sweeping rate increases start Aug. 1

| Thursday, June 19, 2014, 2:11 p.m.

Rates at Pittsburgh Parking Authority garages and lots will increase this summer for the first time in 10 years, officials said on Thursday, outraging commuters.

The authority's board voted 3-1 to approve rate increases starting Aug. 1 at more than two dozen facilities, including garages and lots Downtown, and in some prime business districts in South Side, Lawrenceville, Shadyside and the North Side.

The increase will especially affect people who drive into the city daily for work, such as Nikki Duttine of Carrick.

“That's outrageous,” said Duttine, 30, who has parked Downtown for at least seven years. “I won't park here any more. I'll park over across the bridge where it's cheaper.”

Authority Executive Director David Onorato said the rate hike is expected to generate $5 million a year. Part of the money will help the city bolster employee pension funds, he said.

“The Parking Authority hasn't raised rates since 2004,” said board Chairwoman Cathy Qureshi, who voted in favor of the rate increase.

The board approved hourly, daylong and monthly lease rate increases that include bumps in August 2015 and August 2017.

Board member Jeff Cohen, who voted against the increases, said he did so because he thought they were too high in the first year.

“We needed an increase. I just wish it was a little smaller,” Cohen said. “I think it was absurd that they didn't raise rates for 10 years.”

He said authority garages remain below what drivers pay in privately owned facilities.

At many authority-owned Downtown garages, the fee to park for one hour or less will be $5, up from $3.75 or $3.50, depending on the garage. Similar increases will affect the other park-by-hour categories. For example, parking for four to 24 hours at the Smithfield/Liberty Garage will be $18, up from $13.75.

Day lease rates at many garages will increase by $20 to $45 a month. Day leases at the First Avenue Garage, for example, will be $220 a month, up from $195. At the Mellon Square Garage, leases will be $320 a month, up from $275.

Robin Menk, 49, of Murrysville commutes to work each day with her husband; they park at the Smithfield/Liberty Garage. She thinks the extra cost will be hard on people who drive to work alone.

“You have someone making $40,000 a year, that's a nightmare,” she said. “That's a 30 percent increase. If it wasn't two of us in one vehicle, we'd probably have to move down to the Strip.”

Monthly leases for Downtown residents, who receive special garage rates, will increase from $13 to $31. Mellon Square parking, for example, will jump from $183 to $213.

Onorato said people attending church Downtown will continue to pay $1 to park in the Smithfield/Liberty and Mellon Square garages on Sundays.

Evening and weekend rates at most garages will switch to a flat-rate system instead of one based on the number of hours a car is parked. In many cases, the flat rate will be $5 to $7, instead of $2 for one hour, $3 for two hours and $5 for all-day parking.

Lease rates will increase to $90 a month from $60 at 15 of the authority's off-street metered neighborhood lots in Sheraden, East Liberty, Lawrenceville, North Side, South Side, Shadyside and elsewhere.

City Council in 2010 avoided state takeover of the city's anemic pension funds by pledging $735 million in parking revenue over 30 years to the funds. Council increased street meter rates to help offset the loss of tax revenue. They urged the authority to provide cash from increased garage rates to help shore up the pension funds.

The former Parking Authority board, however, did not act on the request.

Mayor Bill Peduto, who appointed board members this year, said he expected the authority to kick in more for pensions.

“To the extent that the authority is able to put into effect reasonable increases to parking rates ... and that further contributes to the city's ability to keep its promises to workers who are retired, I think that's a good thing,” said Peduto's chief of staff, Kevin Acklin.

Staff writer Megan Henney contributed to this report. Bob Bauder is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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