Sunday, December 5, 2010

Alternative parking initiative emerges

Published in: The Globe
Originally published: October 5, 2010
By Kalea Hall and Katie Janicik 
Student commuters now have a choice of siding with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl of Pittsburgh's parking plan or the new plan issued last Wednesday by City Controller Michael Lamb.
Some students feel that no matter what plan is chosen, Point Park University needs to step in.
"As of now, I think that the price of parking is ridiculous," said David Guerrero, a junior biotechnology major, in an e-mail interview. "Now, more than ever, I wish Point Park would just buy a parking garage"

Two weeks ago Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said a $452 million proposal for a 50 year lease on the city's parking assets was the best plan. Lamb, last week, proposed a new parking plan as another solution to saving the city's pension fund and to counteract Ravenstahl's plan.
According to an article published Sept. 30 in the "Pittsburgh Post Gazette," Lamb's plan involves selling the city's meters, parking lots and-garages to the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. Under this plan, $60 million will be put into the city's pension fund by the end of the year.
Lamb said, in a phone interview, that his plan will offer lower parking rates.
He said that with the mayor's plan, parking rates will increase 12 percent within the first five years, whereas with his plan rates will increase one-third of that.
At this point in time, the only downside to Lamb's plan is whether or not the Pittsburgh Parking Authority can come up with the money for the technological improvements that a private owner could, according to the "Post-Gazette," article.
Lamb said the details of his plan will be available online as soon as they are finalized.
Mayor Ravenstahl believes the best solution to funding the city's pension fund is to lease the city's parking garages and meters. On Sept. 21, Pittsburgh Parking Partners, LLC, fronted the winning bid of $452 million to lease the city's parking assets for the next 50 years, as published in last week's issue of The Globe.
"The term of 50 years is considerably shorter than other infrastructure transactions, which have ranged from 75 to 99 years," said Shannon Baker, spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Parking Partnership, in an e-mail interview.  "The city and Parking Authority, determined that 50 years was the most desirable term in order to achieve the objectives of the city, Parking Authority and the concessionaire."
 Other changes to the garages, meters and lots include increased parking rates under Ravenstahl's plan.
 "The increased rates were set in the concession agreement, but keep in mind that even after the increase, Pittsburgh rates will still be lower than cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago," Baker said. "The new rates schedule will vary by neighborhood, but for the first five years, meter rates will generally increase from $0.25-$0.50 per hour."
 Students on Point Park's campus have their own plans for what to do if parking rates become too high.
 "For the first two years at Point Park, I parked for free along Carson Street [near] Station Square. I'm sure if the prices got too high for my liking, I would just…not park in a lot," said Guerreo, who pays $5 to $7 daily to park in a lot.
 In the future, if Pittsburgh Parking Partners, LLC, is approved to lease the city's parking assets, they will be required to update meter technology which will "enhance the user experience," according to Baker. She said they will also be "rehabilitating three older garages."
 To help with any issues that may arise, Pittsburgh Parking Partners, LLC, plans to place "parking ambassadors on the ground to educate and assist you," Baker said. They will also offer a website and a hotline.
Kristen Beatty, a junior human resources major, feels that Lamb's plan is the better solution to fix the underfunded pension fund. But she hopes that if parking rates do increase, Point Park will offer a better solution for students.
"They should have their own parking lot," Beattty said.
Commuter students will otherwise have no choice but to pay the price.
"I guess parking is a sacrifice we have to make in order to go to school Downtown," Guerrero said.
At the City Council meeting last Tuesday, Bill Cardille, a well-known Pittsburgh broadcaster, voiced his opinion on the parking issue after being honored by the Council.
"I parked my car today across the street," Cardille said. "I wish someone from the council would tell me where his honor is, because I would like him to stamp my parking ticket. You know cause that's $20 every two minutes. Only a joke."

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