Finally!

Did I just criticize the mayor? YES! Shocker.

Am I about to praise the mayor? YOU BETCHA!

Because it directly affects me, you see, and I’m all about ME! Mememememememe!

What’s got two thumbs and is me? ME!

First:

The Pittsburgh Parking Authority agreed Thursday to provide free weekend parking at all 11 of its garages during the holiday season.

Garages in Downtown, Oakland and Shadyside will offer free parking after 4 p.m. Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday.

This is fantastic news for us downtown business owners! I could high-five the shit out of some politicians right now.

And second and most important!

In another incentive to bring more people Downtown, the mayor’s office, in conjunction with the Market Square Association and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, will begin offering valet parking to visitors starting Wednesday.

The parking will be available in Market Square from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. The cost will be $5.

“This is an exciting new service to be tested Downtown to see if there’s a demand,” said Nick Nicholas, a restaurateur and merchant who serves as spokesman for the Market Square Association.

While the drop-off point is in Market Square, Mr. Nicholas said the service is available to anyone who comes Downtown to eat, to go to a show or for some other purpose. He said the $5 fee covers the entire evening.

This is a big deal and Nick has been talking about doing this for a while now. We looked into having valet parking for our restaurant but then we were crushed by a dollar sign the size of your car.

So take advantage, Burghers, so that we can keep this service around. Go and support all of us downtown merchants!

And if you see Lukey, shake your head sadly at him and then give him a high-five and hand that man a juice box in his favorite flavor.





26 Comments

  1. Scott
    November 18, 2011 1:33 pm

    Well played, Ginny….I saw this and wondered if you’d give the lil’ mayor some props.



  2. Joe
    November 18, 2011 1:53 pm

    Not so fast…

    I just want to remind folks, if Opie’s leasing deal had not fallen through, he nor anyone would be be able to offer free parking this or any holiday season for the next 50 years. And all those streets closed for lightup night, we would have had to pay LAZ parking for any of those spots.



  3. Scott
    November 18, 2011 2:02 pm

    You know what, Joe? STFU. Seriously…give it a rest.



  4. Uh, Really?
    November 18, 2011 2:15 pm

    Um, Scott, Joe has a legitimate point, whatever the snark.

    Further, this marks a huge retreat — not just for the mayor, but for city council — from their misguided effort to wring revenue from Downtown parking, when the Downtown merchants are struggling to survive.

    Now, instead of hanging a giant “It’s Gonna Cost You!” sign on the city, the city’s saying “Welcome — please come spend some money.”

    Much, much smarter.



  5. Scott
    November 18, 2011 2:51 pm

    Congratulations on the enormity of your political knowledge, strategy and insight, guys. For a minute, I was so blinded by the brilliance that I thought I got teleported to The Brookings Institute.

    Lighten up and enjoy this wonderful, amazing, dynamic and successful city we call home.



  6. CRT
    November 18, 2011 4:09 pm

    Waiting for Ginny to post something completely wrongheaded about parking reminds me of playing the fish pond game at Kennywood — sit with the line in the water for just a little while and you’ll catch something no matter what.

    Say it with me folks: free and abundant parking kills cities. Expensive, scarce parking helps cities thrive. Indeed, Felix Salmon covers some of the newest data on this in a post from yesterday…

    http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/11/17/parking-datapoints-of-the-day/

    “Parking lots are — with only a handful of exceptions — the best possible way of destroying a city’s soul. They’re gruesome, lifeless places, and I’m constantly astonished by the way in which governments and developers are convinced that they’re a great idea. Instead, local government should act as a brake on private developers’ desires to build out new parking: while that might (or might not) be good for an individual commercial operation, it can at the same time be bad for the city as a whole. Cambridge is living proof that this can be done: other cities, including New Haven and Hartford, should follow its lead.”



  7. Scott
    November 18, 2011 4:15 pm

    CRT, you should get out more.

    Pittsburgh has, when compared to many other cities, a thriving downtown. Furthermore, this is only temporary during the holiday season and is designed to spur entertainment and shopping activity downtown, which it will most certainly do. Also, it is only on the weekends.

    You are hilarious and completely ignorant in somehow drawing the conclusion that this friendly, welcoming and sound gesture, which is going to occur for 48 hours a week for a month is going to “kill the city”.

    I swear…some of you people need to find a hobby.



  8. CRT
    November 18, 2011 4:48 pm

    Scott,

    “CRT, you should get out more.”

    I do get out. And as a matter of fact, given that I’ve chosen to live in the city limits, I don’t have to go far when I do get out to go downtown. I love it there! I spend all sorts of money at restaurants and bars and theaters and stores and such. What’s a shame is that, while I don’t have to go far, it’s sometimes nevertheless a pain to get around because there are so many cars, because people have made the choice to live outside the city limits and drive into town. It can get congested and dirty and dangerous for walkers like me, and their cars take up whole buildings worth of space that could instead be used to house restaurants and bars and theaters and stores and such. That would be nice because not only would there be more fun things to do downtown, those fun things would pay taxes on the value of their property, ensuring that we don’t go bankrupt and maybe could get a subway line or two heading east or south within the city. I object to car-driving suburbanites’ lifestyles being subsidized by the city not charging them a market rate to park.

    “Pittsburgh has, when compared to many other cities, a thriving downtown.”

    Good to know — guess we don’t have to worry about making sound policy decisions then. No reason to, say, have a blog criticize the mayor for his bad choices. New City Motto: compared to others, we’re thriving!

    “Furthermore, this is only temporary during the holiday season and is designed to spur entertainment and shopping activity downtown, which it will most certainly do.”

    This is wrong. There is a large, large volume of research on city planning that says entertainment and shopping activity is, at best, wholly unrelated to parking availability, and, more likely, a net deterrent. Here are some links to get you started:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/business/economy/15view.html?_r=1&src=busln
    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2011/10/folly-city-owned-parking-garages/305/
    http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/07/03/how-driving-a-car-into-manhattan-costs-160/
    Michael Lewyn, How Government Regulation Forces Americans Into Their Cars: A Case Study, 16 Widener L.J. 839 (2007)

    “Also, it is only on the weekends.”

    OK. The mayor can make policy to benefit suburbanites and entrenched business interests, and take no account of what’s actually good policy for the city, so long as it’s not during business hours. Got it.

    “You are hilarious and completely ignorant in somehow drawing the conclusion that this friendly, welcoming and sound gesture, which is going to occur for 48 hours a week for a month is going to “kill the city”.”

    Ad hominem. Play nice. I didn’t say that you’re a shill for the mayor or you’re killing mother earth or anything. I said that free and abundant parking kills cities. Any shift in policy towards cheaper and more abundant parking is a shift in the direction of sprawl, automobile dependence, and empty downtown cores, and away from density, mixed use, and vibrant cities. I’ve given you my research. Do you have any?

    “I swear…some of you people need to find a hobby.”

    I thought I had one — it’s called local policy. I’m really interested in the decisions of local policymakers, like, say, giving a subsidy for no sensible reason to people who don’t live here. I’ll often take some time on a Friday afternoon to think about it and have a discussion with others who share the same general interests. Sometimes we disagree and we hash it out. But you’re right. Maybe I’ll take up knitting.



  9. Scott
    November 18, 2011 5:01 pm

    Have a nice weekend, CRT.



  10. CRT
    November 18, 2011 5:54 pm

    Thanks for playing, Scott, and better luck next time.



  11. Virginia
    November 18, 2011 6:21 pm

    CRT, your comment may be 100% factually true. Maybe you’re right and I’m wrong. I can at least admit that I don’t know everything and I can at least entertain the thought that I’m wrong about this.

    As a small business owner, I love the valet parking. Parking is already five dollars a night in downtown and this is not changing the price, just making it EASIER for people to park downtown. Not cheaper.

    However, when you start a comment in the smug, insulting, most-high-muckety-muck, I’m-right-you’re-stupid, my-high-horse-is-so-high-up-you-doofi-look-like-amoebas-from-up-here tone you did, it makes me not give a rat’s ass about anything you said after that initial paragraph.

    Thanks for playing; better luck next time.



  12. PAgirlinFlorida
    November 18, 2011 7:05 pm

    You go girl!



  13. Uh, Really?
    November 18, 2011 7:25 pm

    Um, plus CRT missed a crucial difference between what the mayor’s new policy (and our discussion of it) addresses and what he/she was trying to address.

    CRT’s argument and citations are about how much parking a city should have; our discussion was about how best to use the existing amount of parking to invigorate holiday shopping.

    Long-term vs. short-term. Two very different policy issues.

    You’re welcome! Happy Thanksgiving!



  14. CRT
    November 18, 2011 7:55 pm

    Ginny,

    I’m honestly very sorry that I offended you with my comment. I used Kennywood in a failed effort to lighten up my introduction, and I can see that it was a bit too precious. Additionally, I’m wrong a lot and so I’m a bit desensitized to being called wrong. I recognize that might not be the case for others, so I may have underestimated how it feels for you.

    By contrast, I’m not used to being called “smug, insulting, most-high-muckety-muck, I’m-right-you’re-stupid, my-high-horse-is-so-high-up-you-doofi-look-like-amoebas-from-up-here.” I never called you stupid. I called you wrongheaded, and I only added the headed because you’ve got an established view on this issue (I’ll get to it in a second) that I’ve addressed in the comments before without a response. I’m honestly confused as to what I said that justified the name-calling.

    But what confuses me more is this:

    ” Maybe you’re right and I’m wrong.”

    Excuse me while I get high and mighty with all caps. YOU WRITE A BLOG ABOUT CITY ISSUES, WHICH BECAME FAMOUS FOR CRITICIZING THE MAYOR. How in can you continually write something on that very topic and not care if you’re right or wrong? And I get that you’re a business owner and you love the valet parking, but (a) as has always been my point, $5 is too cheap for parking whether valet or not; (b) the valet does constitute a subsidy for commuters by paying for a service for them out of city funds (i.e., I don’t get free rickshaw service from Steel Plaza to market square); and (c) it creates the negative externalities associated with making it easy to drive into the urban core (congestion, etc.). I respect your opinion as a business owner, but at times people are very adept at knowing what their business needs to succeed and not very adept at knowing what business/the city needs overall.

    Tell you what. You can think I’m smug and high-minded and awkward-kung-fu-move-worthy all you want. Just read the studies I cited and come to your own conclusion. If you still think that hard scientific data is no substitute for home-spun wisdom (ala the old-school owners in Moneyball) then that’s your prerogative.



  15. CRT
    November 18, 2011 7:59 pm

    Uh, Really:

    Thanks for the thought — this is the sort of conversation I thought I’d be having. However, the issues are not as different as you suggest. In reality, if you read the Copenhagen study in Atlantic Cities, you’ll see that the price of parking is inextricably linked to its availability (lower prices=more space-stalking by drivers who can’t find a good spot). Moreover, my comment is really about whether it makes sense to invigorate a downtown area by subsidizing driving to it. I don’t think it does, because a bunch of cars in a city are a nightmare, and because the city shouldn’t be subsidizing any behavior that isn’t value added, given its balance sheet. By giving away parking to drivers, the City is (a) leaving money on the table that they could use to shore up the pension plan, etc. and (b) making downtown less, not more, attractive to visitors.



  16. DG
    November 19, 2011 1:06 pm

    CRT –

    I am an absolute civillian on this topic and I have not yet taken the time to read the studies you have linked. However, it SOUNDS counter-intuitive to a layperson such as myself to hear that making it easier for people to come into the city to spend money costs the city more than it earns from those dollars being spent in the city. Maybe I am mis-interpreting your argument.



  17. CRT
    November 19, 2011 2:14 pm

    I know it seems counterintuitive. But like Rasheed Wallace says, “ball don’t lie.” Cities work best when less people drive and more people walk. You create the conditions for that by making it harder for them to drive and, as a consequence, more attractive to live within walking distance. Read the studies.



  18. Butcher's Dog
    November 20, 2011 10:30 am

    @CRT: I haven’t read the studies, either, and am generally skeptical of studies done in academia since they often seem to start from the conclusion and work backwards. But if you think making it harder for suburbanites to drive in the city is going to cause many of them to move into the city to make it more attractive to walk places, I have to take exception. All that will do is further enhance the surburban shopping/dining areas, all of which have free parking right near the door. I can’t see anyone saying, for example, “Damn, it’s tough to find parking downtown! I better sell my townhouse in the North Hills (to pick an area at random) and buy or rent someplace in the city.” Nor do I see Stabile or anyone else spending money to convert parking garages to high-rise apartment buildings. Just my two cents worth from up here in Mercer County.



  19. bucdaddy
    November 20, 2011 11:48 am

    I kinda buy in at least to the theoretical notion that cities should make it harder (or at least costlier) for people to cram their downtowns with cars. Didn’t London do this? Make downtown essentially a toll zone? Last I looked, London was still there.

    Several years ago, our county commissioners down here decided to try running a $2/week use tax to fund $180 million in road improvements (our traffic is bad for a small city, nothing like the parkways west, though). They especially wanted to improve roadways into downtown, which I thought was nuts. Why would you want to make it EASIER to bring a car downtown when downtown was already jammed with cars? We didn’t need to make it easier, we needed to make it harder. The use tax would have devoted comparatively little money to public transit, or even good sidewalks, which I suppose is one of the many reasons it got shot down by a 4-1 margin in the vote.

    But the principle still stands.

    That said, B-Dog’s scenario makes sense too, which is why I used “theoretical” up there. I would just add that, in theory, if you made it hard enough and expensive enough to drive downtown, you might make public transit seem more viable, if y’all had a viable public transit system …

    Hmmmm, I think I just brought myself right back where I started.



  20. CRT
    November 20, 2011 12:05 pm

    Butcher’s Dog–

    Ever think about why suburban sprawl planning has that parking right near the door? You guessed it — zoning laws requiring the establishment to provide sufficient parking. I’ve seen zoning codes require at least seven parking spaces per “tavern” establishment — which is insane! A city is making a bar provide parking for people to drive to the bar and drink! Happens all the time though.

    If you didn’t have those regulations (and others, such as subsidized street/garage parking, etc) the market would demand a different sort of development, one where far more people took public transit or walked, as bucdaddy suggests. And while I find the studies convincing (I’m stuck on the notion – some might find it naive – that data is more convincing than anecdote), all you’ve gotta do is look at real estate prices for mixed-use neighborhoods vs. sprawl neighborhoods. Per square foot you’re paying a lot more for a place to live in shadyside than you are for your spot out in Mercer County, for a couple of reasons: (1) people really, really like being able to walk/take transit/have a short commute to the things they need, but (2) such conveniences are in critically short supply because of city planning policies that drive down density and encourage long automobile commutes. The point is that the incentives you’re talking about are already perverted by government interference, and it’s not the case that the Olive Garden has plenty of Escalade-sized spots because the market demands it. If the market for spaces were truly allowed to flourish, and wasn’t biased in favor of cars since the 1950s, I’m betting you’d see plenty of people sell their homes in the North Hills and move into the city.



  21. Butcher's Dog
    November 20, 2011 3:41 pm

    @CRT: The problem I have with data is the whole “lies, damn lies, and statistics” notion. Any study “commissioned” by anyone is paid for by that person/organization. My skeptical nature (remember, I spent 37 years grading student papers) tells me that the data is going to prove whatever the sponsor set out for it to prove. And since we’re in our sixth decade of the sprawl you decry, I’m thinking it’s the intrenched way of our world. Bucdaddy’s certainly right about London, but the place can be disrupted by outages or terrorist activity too easily to make me comfortable.

    I grew up on a farm where we had to drive at least 15 miles to the nearest town of any size. And I spent 33 of those 37 years of teaching walking across the street to go to work. Grocery store, wine shoppe, and beer distributor are all within two miles of my house. Hate crowds, like my car, not interested in moving to a city. That may or may not make sense, but that’s just my curmudgeonly self talking.



  22. Mary
    November 20, 2011 9:57 pm

    Free parking will get my ass downtown more often. Just sayin.



  23. T
    November 21, 2011 9:51 am

    I am sorry, but I am really sick of hearing people complain about commuters and how we should be taxed or punished for coming into the city. I am a commuter and I forever will be. Nothing anyone does will change that, I happen to like where I live, which is close to my family. Most of the businesses probably wouldn’t be as profitable as they are without people who do not live in the city. Making it even more inconvenient for me to come into downtown for dinner after work will just encourage me to go elsewhere. This is a step in the right direction for the business owners here in the city.



  24. CRT
    November 21, 2011 10:01 am

    I’m done with this. I show my work with data (and just dismissing studies by claiming bias and not showing flaws in the data itself is pretty nihilist if you ask me — how do you determine what to believe if everything is bought and paid for?), and y’all just keep on keepin’ on with “I’m a commuter, dagnabbit, so, like, common sense!” Well, common sense also says you should bunt with no outs and a player on first, but the data shows that you lose more games than you win with that (excuse me while I throw darts at a picture of clint hurdle). You can’t trust common sense. You need numbers. But if it makes you more comfortable to sit in your solipsism, fine. Just know that it means you love Pittsburgh enough to read a blog about it, but not enough to pay your fair share.



  25. Scott
    November 21, 2011 10:27 am

    Cathode Ray Tube,

    Good, I think I speak for most here when I say we’re glad to hear that you’re done with your self-serving diatribe. Ginny is right. You lost me, and probably dozens of others with your self-righteous, condescending attitude. I hold degrees in urban planning and history, but I prefer not to ram my opinions down everyone’s throat. Your “argument” has significant holes in it, and is extremely narrow in its perspective…ignoring significant socioeconomic, cultural and geographic issues that play a huge role in this topic. Furthermore, comparing a city like Copenhagen to Pittsburgh is the epitome of apples to oranges for many reasons.

    There is no point in having a discussion with someone like you. You’re in it only to hear yourself drone on and on. You have zero interest in anything anyone else brings to the table. You always have to have the last word (guarantee you’ll do it again here). You are rude and belittling, and I think I speak for many here when I say I’m sick and tired of hearing you intellectually masturbate over your friggin’ “data”.

    Best of all, you wasted a significant portion of your weekend proclaiming the death of our city over a one month weekend-only parking policy in the comments section of a blog. That’s just laughable.

    As stated above, I know you’ll need to get the last word in here. Blowhards like you always do. Don’t hold your breath waiting on a response from me. It won’t be coming.