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Parking tickets in Downtown Pittsburgh spark outrage

| Monday, March 10, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Buildings are reflected on the hood of a car parked on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, as a parking ticket rests on its windshield Sunday, March 9, 2014. Several cars parked on Liberty Avenue were issued tickets, even in areas where signs state that parking on Sundays is permitted.

A parking crackdown on Liberty Avenue during a busy day Downtown led to complaints about unclear signs and misinterpreted parking restrictions on Sunday.

A Pittsburgh police officer from the Zone 2 station in the Hill District ticketed vehicles on at least one block of Liberty, including about a half-dozen vehicles in an area in front of the August Wilson Center marked as no parking, “7 a.m.-7 p.m. except Sunday.”

“If it says, ‘except Sunday,' it means you can park on Sunday,” Phyllis Dreyfuss, 79, of Oakland said as she left the center and discovered a yellow ticket beneath her windshield wiper. “Everywhere else it's ‘except Sunday,' you can park. It's shocking.”

Sgt. David Cannon of Zone 2 agreed.

“Sunday would be the exception. You can park then,” he said. He did not know which officer wrote the tickets but said that drivers who believe their tickets were wrong can contest them before a district judge.

Other vehicles ticketed on the street were in no-parking zones at either end of the block or in front of fire hydrants.

Joe Wos, owner of the ToonSeum on Liberty Avenue, said the ticketing officer told him Sunday was the exception to when parking was allowed, and that he was issuing tickets on orders from Mayor Bill Peduto's office.

Mayoral spokesman Tim McNulty said Peduto hasn't issued any orders regarding parking except to cut down on the number of free-parking passes issued to city employees.

“If your first experience of coming Downtown is getting a ticket, you're not coming back,” Wos said. “It's hard enough being a business open on Sunday.”

The end of Liberty Avenue in the Cultural District was busy through the afternoon, with a ballet performance at the August Wilson Center, art galleries open and the Home and Garden Show going on at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

“Last year when we had our show here, there weren't any (tickets). But the signs haven't changed,” said Aaron Rinsema, operations director for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School.

Kathy Pefley, 45, of Sterling Heights, Mich., was visiting Pittsburgh for the first time for her children to participate in the ballet. She assumed parking in front of the center was legal, based on the signs and the line of other vehicles.

“With that many cars doing it, that's bad communication,” she said. She took extensive pictures of the signs and her car, and planned to send a letter to the city to contest the $100 ticket.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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