Pittsburgh took blame Monday for a towing fiasco that erupted in the hours before last week’s marathon and announced it would waive parking fines and pay towing costs for any vehicle removed from the route between 11 p.m. and midnight the night before the race.
Mayor Bill Peduto met with the owners of McGann and Chester Towing and Recovery — Bob McGann and Bill Chester — Monday morning and agreed to reimburse the company about $3,100 for towing vehicles from the route.
“We’ll notify all the people who were cited or towed in that time frame … and make people whole, just to be fair,” police Chief Scott Schubert said.
Police reported that the company towed approximately 23 vehicles, including 11 from Walnut Street in Shadyside, and issued 30 parking citations. Citations totaled $112 per ticket and towing fees amounted to $135 for most vehicles, according to police.
Peduto and the city’s public works department announced repeatedly on social media that McGann and Chester would begin towing at midnight, but signs posted in streets said it would start at 11 p.m. Dan Gilman, Peduto’s chief of staff, attributed the confusion to miscommunication between city and marathon officials.
“Sometimes there’s a hiccup,” Gilman said. “In this case, there was a miscommunication between the city and the marathon about what time the towing was going to begin. Overall, this was not a result of the tow operator. This was between the city and the marathon.”
Pittsburgh Marathon spokeswoman Allison Corbett said the organization would work with the city on future events.
“We always work closely with the city and the police department on anything related to the marathon,” she said. “We just want to make sure everything is as safe as possible.”
Peduto, who was in Cappy’s Cafe on Walnut Street when towing began around 11:30 p.m., confronted police and a tow truck driver in an attempt to have them hold off until midnight. He said he got “heated” and slapped the fender of the truck. Police refused the request for a delay.
The mayor described the scene as “pandemonium” with patrons of bars and restaurants on Walnut rushing out in confusion to move their vehicles.
McGann and Chester have been towing cars for the city since the marathon began in 1985. All vehicles must be clear of the route running through numerous city neighborhoods, including North Shore, Downtown, Strip District, Oakland, Shadyside and South Side business districts.
Police ticket cars after the deadline, return and mark them for towing, then accompany tow truck drivers when they remove the vehicles, according to Bob Cranmer, former Allegheny County commissioner and the president and CEO of Cranmer Consultants, a Brentwood consulting and lobbying firm representing McGann and Chester.
“It’s very important that people understand well in advance when the towing is going to begin,” he said.
Gilman and Cranmer said the city would craft a plan by Labor Day to ensure that happens.
“We’re going to work together between now and Labor Day to see where we can tighten things up for next year to make sure that towing in business districts occurs at the latest time possible, but still in time to be able to get the route clear and safe for runners,” Gilman said.