Sunday, December 5, 2010

Parking system ownership shift to ‘harm’ students, businesses

Published in: The Globe 
Originally published: September 28, 2010
By Kalea Hall 

Leah Shreckengast believes Pittsburgh should be more "sensitive" to students and their parking needs.
 Boulevard Del owner Jim Julian is concerned that his business will be negatively impacted by the city's latest bailout plan.
Students and business-owners alike are expressing their concerns with the city's plan to lease the parking garages and meters for $452 million.
"I don't think it will do anything but […] harm to all businesses from the big guys at Macy's, to the little guys like us," Julian said.

According to the Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's website, the city has until Jan. 1, 2011 to find a way to cover the pension fund that is underfunded by $700 million. The city has until New Year's Eve to supply the fund with $200 million. If they do not supply the fund, the state will take it over, which will allow for an increase in taxes and a decrease in services. To avoid the takeover, Ravenstahl believes that leasing the city's parking garages and meters is the best solution, according to the website. 
On Sept. 21, the city received a winning bid of $452 million from Pittsburgh Parking Partners, LLC,  to lease the city's parking garages, according to a press release issued on the Office of Mayor Ravenstahl's website. If they are approved by city council to lease the city's parking assets, Pittsburgh Parking Partners, LLC, will be required to abide by a set of guidelines established by the city.
They will not be allowed to enforce Sunday parking, they cannot raise parking rates until the outdated coin meters are updated, they must have an office in Pittsburgh and they must be able to maintain and improve the parking systems by investing at least $58 million in maintenance. All of these guidelines were created to protect the Pittsburgh residents and employees, according to the website.
The public-private partnership agreement of Pittsburgh's parking systems requires a city council approval, according to the press release. With the partnership, City Council will still be in charge of parking rates; however, rates will increase over the next five years, according to the website.
Student commuters of Point Park University are concerned about how this issue may affect their commute to Downtown.
"This is actually my last semester on campus, so I just hope that I'm gone before any changes are made to bus routes or any huge parking rates increase," said Shrenckengast, a senior english education major.
David Kelly, a senior photography major, drives to Point Park's Downtown campus three days a week. He said he already pays $100 per month to park, but with the leasing issue he feels that price may double.
"There's no way around it if you drive into the city and have to park somewhere for over an hour," Kelly said.
Downtown business owners are also concerned about what the future parking rate may become and how this will effect their business.
Julian, whose business has been open for 22 years, believes it is "obviously going to affect people wanting to come in to town." But he is holding onto the hope that "people still have to eat." Though this will supply him with hungry customers, he still has a full stomach of concerns.
"Maybe if [customers] have to pay so much for parking, they will say ‘I'm going to bring my lunch to work,' and now that's going to effect them not coming the deli to get a sandwich," Julian said.
 Damion Deringer, senior civil engineering major, already pays $40 a week to park near campus and said he is "not looking forward to what costs are coming up."
"It's an unnerving situation," Deringer said.
This past Friday, Pittsburgh's City Council met to discuss the parking assets. In the parking asset study, the city council found more cons than pros when it came to leasing the city's parking garages and meters.
"Inability to predict 50 year horizon, future negotiations costs, and does not fix pension problem," were just a few of the cons listed in the council's study. "Upfront proceeds from the lease" and "avoiding state takeover of the pension" were two of the pros listed.
City Council will be discussing and taking the partnership into consideration over the upcoming weeks.
"I understand that they need to find the money somewhere," Shreckengast said. "I think that they should be sensitive to the fact that there are students in downtown Pittsburgh."

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