Pittsburgh Parking Wars

It was revealed on Wednesday evening that the 2015 Pittsburgh budget called for not only an increase in some parking rates, despite the fact that parking costs are already a bowl full of ridiculous with a side of bizonkers, but also extended meter enforcement hours until 10:00 p.m.

Currently, the meters are enforced in downtown until 6:00 p.m., and that’s great news for restaurant owners and business owners like me and my husband. Park at a meter at 5:30 or so, feed a few quarters, and once that puppy realizes it’s six o’clock, it’s all, “Yeah. Whatever. Bye.”

I was angry when this same policy was put in place a few years back, only to eventually be repealed.  Had I more time and inclination, I would hunt down my posts about it, but, yeah. Whatever. No.

I was angry yesterday, when I heard they were trying it again. So I did what I do … I ranted on Twitter.

Read from the bottom up. If I had the time to flip these around, I would, but, yeah. Whatever. No.

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I didn’t crop out my Apple Store tweet because, seriously, that happened. I think they’re wizards and I don’t mean computer wizards; I mean wizard wizards. Magic wand wizards. Eye of newt wizards. Of Oz wizards. Either that or Jedis.

Where was I? Right. Suck it, all you who have whined at me and complained that I was going to be super easy on Bill Peduto, because I’m a fan. No, I was pissed and I said it and he saw it and bloop-blip-bleep goes my phone telling me that I’ve got some direct messages on Twitter from the Mayor.


I’m about to get yelled at by the mayor, aren’t I?

Have a look, and you can read these from top to bottom. Lucky you.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 12.25.50 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 12.26.02 PM

Well then.

First, do you know that when you park at the Cleveland airport, you don’t drive around the garage looking for a spot while shouting at your children that YOU’LL TURN THIS CAR AROUND AND WE WON’T GO TO DISNEY IF YOU DON’T ALL STOP INTENTIONALLY BREATHING ON ONE ANOThER? It is all automated. Electronic signs at each row tell you how many regular spaces, if any, are open, and how many handicapped are open in that particular row. Every space in the garage has a red or green indicator light, so when you turn into a row with an empty space or spaces, you just look down the row for the green light and there’s your open spot. IT IS SUPER AWESOME and it taught me that Pittsburgh was in the dark ages, parking technology wise. I mean. Cleveland. Come on.

Second, when I heard that Bill Peduto was proposing this change after he was against this very thing back when Lukey did it, I imagined he was sitting in a conference room being told there was a budget shortfall and he simply said, “Eh, whatever. Raise the parking rates and enforce those suckers until 10:00 at night. Boom. [drops mic and walks out].” That made me angry. I don’t want the people to pay more just because the politicians couldn’t be bothered to address waste or put any real thought into the budget or into actually making things better.

Having read what the Mayor is saying, I’m intrigued. Data-driven. Technology. Dynamic pricing. I want to see what happens with this. I think Pittsburgh needs this type of technology, and if we really do get it, it could completely change the efficiency, usefulness, and general “I WILL PUNCH A PUPPY IF I DON’T FIND A SPACE SOON” frustration of downtown parking.

All of this is in the ordinance, which you can read here.  (p.s. This took me 15 minutes to find which is 12 minutes longer than it takes me to find just about anything on the web on account of I am a web-sleuthing genius. Fix that, City.)

The Mayor mentioned in a later direct Twitter message that they would be better explaining what they mean by “dynamic pricing” at some point next week. However, reading the ordinance, it appears dynamic pricing will only be implemented in certain areas.

In addition to dynamic pricing, there’s something called dynamic HOURS. It looks like everywhere in the city will end meter enforcement at 6:00 p.m., except the North Shore, Downtown, and the South Side who will have dynamic hours from 6 to 10 p.m., meaning within that timeframe hours of enforcement will be adjusted according to supply and demand.

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I’m curious to see how that will work and what kind of pricing we will see. (p.s. There is a typo that says 10 a.m. instead of 10 p.m. Fix that, City.)

Sundays will still be free.

So for now, as it seems we’re going to get something in return for paying more, I’m going to quash my anger, even as a downtown business owner, and I’m going to see where this takes us. I hope it takes us into the future ahead of other cities, rather than us doing what Pittsburgh always used to do: do, acquire, adopt, accept, realize, and become things five to ten years after everyone else.

This might catch us up with other cities who are incorporating technology into their parking systems, and maybe even catapult us ahead of them.

However, if these promises don’t come to fruition and in 2016 we’re all being taxed to death, driving around town thinking of punching puppies as we hunt down a meter that will only let us park for an hour for ten dollars so we don’t have to pull into a $30 garage, so help me Nutella, I will become a bowl full of LIVID with a side of LOOK HOW MANY SWEAR WORDS I CAN INCORPORATE INTO ONE BLOG POST.



  1. Butcher's dog
    December 12, 2014 2:37 pm

    One of the problems I see with the “cut waste” mantra is who defines waste. Most of us consider, at least deep in some dark inner recess, waste as money spent on anyone else but us or our area. Otherwise, if we are getting something of value for what we pay, I think we just have to deal with that.

  2. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    December 12, 2014 2:58 pm

    I’m really curious as to how they’re going to work the dynamic hours aspect — especially how people will be informed of that. The parking garage aspect of knowing what levels and what rows have open parking is prevalent in a lot of major cities. When I lived in Portland (suck it) this was already there (six years ago, so I’m pretty sure the kinks are worked out). In LA, at many parking they have a kiosk on each level where you can type in your license plate and it will tell you where you’re parked! Being able to check a meter and add time to a meter from your cell phone is already available in Harrisburg (along with extended enforcement and increased prices). You get a text alert when your time gets down to about 15 minutes. The other feature in Harrisburg that is nice is you can actually take your “time” with you (meaning you pay for max time at a meter, you finish your errands/whatever early and have more than 15 minutes left, you can drive somewhere else in town and park at another meter and your time is still yours; you don’t start from scratch). I’ll be watching to see how PIttsburgh rolls this out.

    • bucdaddy
      December 13, 2014 2:44 am

      Yeah, this. How am I supposed to know whether my trip downtown for a Monday night baseball game is free or is going to cost me $20 at a street meter?

      This is the most fucked-up thing I’ve ever heard of.

      Well, maybe not THE most. But the Pirates are going full dynamic pricing, so I guess the city is OK with following suit?

      No. It’s not a good thing to confuse the shit out of your customers. Virginia, can you imagine if Las Velas introduced dynamic pricing? Tacos are $3 on Mondays and Thursdays, $3.50 on Sundays, $4 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and $5 on Fridays and Saturdays. How the fuck is anyone supposed to keep track of that?

      • Virginia
        December 15, 2014 8:49 am

        Dynamic Pricing is not new. Look at gas stations. Look at the airlines and hotels. It’s economics, plain and simple. Seattle and San Francisco have piloted this very thing. Before you start saying “FUCK EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE,” why not read up on it? That’s all the Mayor asked me to do, and it changed my opinion.

        As a growing city, you have two choices. Cheap meters and cheap parking so no one can find a spot because everyone drove, or use technology to ensure parking is available by using the dynamic model that adjusts the price for demand. Again, it’s economics. Supply and demand. What will the market bear? That’s what we will find out.


        • bucdaddy
          December 18, 2014 2:47 pm

          OK, read that. Calmed down a bit. (Just a bit.)

          So let me ask: Since you own a downtown business that’s open in the evenings, what’s your best guess as to the impact on the dinner traffic after 6 p.m.?

  3. Ginny's Dad
    December 12, 2014 3:08 pm

    I like the idea if it tells me where I parked my car. Senior moments are occurring more frequently so it’s not uncommon to see me wandering around a parking lot with a bewildered look because I don’t have a clue where I parked. Maybe a little robot will appear and lead me to my car. I love technology. Got to go now and play my Atari.

  4. John Badertscher
    December 12, 2014 3:14 pm

    And people wonder why downtown has been dying for the past 30 years…Solution. The same thing that hasn’t worked before. Went kinda soft on the mayor didn’t you?

    • Virginia
      December 12, 2014 3:35 pm

      It’s hard for me to take your comment about going soft on the mayor seriously when you say downtown has been dying for the past 30 years. You clearly haven’t visited downtown in the last five years if you say that. It is THRIVING. I can say that for sure because I own a downtown restaurant. It’s not a ghost town. And hell, it is not even close to dying.

      I was fully prepared for an all out assault on this ordinance and Bill Peduto until I actually read the ordinance and read what he had to say. Most places won’t see meters enforced past six. And if paying more means we’ll finally get the technology to make parking easier and to make parking make sense, I’m going to hold off and wait and see what it entails. Simple as that. Paying more for the same crap technology we’re already using? No.

      • John Badertscher
        December 12, 2014 3:46 pm

        Hmmm who bunch of assumptions there so let’s take them one at a time and allow me to make an assumption of my own.

        You’re wrong in that I work downtown every day.

        Assumption: Clearly you don’t remember what downtown Pittsburgh looked like when it WAS thriving, though it might be a generational thing. When I was a kid, everyone went shopping downtown, Kaufman’s, Horne’s etc. Now no one outside of those who have to work downtown…shop downtown. That’s what we call a clue.

        As for the term “dynamic hours” how exactly are they going to implement that policy? What about the networking that will have to be pulled off. Working in the IT field, I’d point out that there are a whole lot of ifs, buts, provisos, and caveats to make such a complex system works

        Assumption: You clearly don’t understand the back-end technology involved, nevermind the implications for making it work.

        In IT we call this type of system a “Unicorn that poops rainbow skittles.”

        Sounds wonderful, lots of promise, unfortunately I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never actually seen one.

        I’m guessing you didn’t bother to challenge the Mayor on the hows, whys, and whatfores?

        • Virginia
          December 12, 2014 3:54 pm

          As I said, I’m going to wait and see what unfolds and go from there. That’s all.

          Again, you said downtown is dying. It isn’t. It’s on the upswing. You’re wrong on that and there’s tons of statistics regarding office vacancy and hotel vacancy to prove that.

          However, the mayor told me to look up dynamic parking and I did and found other cities such as Seattle and San Francisco already have their hands on the technology and have piloted it … so there’s your unicorn.

        • Bryan
          December 12, 2014 3:56 pm

          Here’s a link to a PG article regarding Dynamic Parking back at the beginning of November. I still don’t think they should enforce the meters in town after 6 pm, but that’s just me. South Side? Yesm absolutely. That neighborhood (and I was born and raised there) is stupidly overcrowded evenings and especially weekends. But when you’re trying to draw people into an area, like downtown, the last thing you want to do is raise parking costs. And the Parking Authority (at the behest of the City) already did that for daytime rates at the PPA owned garages…..


  5. MizzPenz
    December 12, 2014 3:22 pm

    Really trying super hard not to be dumb, but it comes so easy to me. Is the area around CEC considered downtown? Isn’t there a 2 hour limit to parking before you have to re-feed a meter? What do people do if they park on the street for a Pens game and it is a Tuesday? Say they park at 6:00, good till 8:00….. then what? What if they don’t have a smart phone to pay the meter from their device? I’M SO CONFUSED!!!! I’m all about generating money for the city that isn’t strictly tax based. I just wish would really hate to see it hurt downtown businesses. Because I already know it’s going to hurt MY consumer pocketbook.

    • Virginia
      December 12, 2014 3:45 pm

      Technically, the CEC is uptown and uptown meters are to have dynamic pricing with enforcement until 6:00 p.m. Looks like you’ll still be able to park there. I will try to confirm.

  6. Andy
    December 12, 2014 3:23 pm

    You know I’m all about the Technology but, dynamic indicates changing as and when.
    I’d kinda to know how much I’ll be expected to pay when I go into Downtown.

  7. Mike
    December 12, 2014 4:24 pm

    Thanks for expanding and expounding on all of this parking business! While the dynamic rates & times idea is certainly interesting, there’s definitely something to be said for regularity and also ease of use. As a fellow downtown business owner, whose business is only really open in the evenings for shows, news of rising rates is always disconcerting. While city government may view things like this as a small increase, it can have big impact when you are constantly trying to convince people to come downtown.

    This is certainly a wait-and-see situation, but I’m at least happy to hear that garage rates are remaining where they are. Keep fighting the good fight for downtown development!

  8. Annie D.a
    December 12, 2014 4:28 pm

    THANK YOU. This is one of the most forward-thinking things the Peduto administration has done, with the potential for the actual intelligent, long-term solutions we’re always whining that we don’t get with short-term, money-driven government. As I understand it, the data will also be used to evaluate road usage in order to focus efforts on rebuilding/rerouting. This plan has been developed in conjunction with — wait for it — one of those universities we’re always bragging about, to address the one thing I hear people complaining the most about (the roads).

    I find Pittsburghers maddening sometimes; they pride themselves on being forward-thinking, they’re thrilled with downtown’s development, but the second they’re asked to cough up a couple of extra dollars they revert to a knee-jerk Tea Party mentality without even bothering to understand the facts. Do we not have faith that the downtown we’ve so revitalized cannot stand up to a few extra dollars expenditure per night — a few dollars that may actually save us all money and headaches in the long run? ARE we people who will be stopped from investing in our city long-term because of a few extra dollars a night? I’m not belittling that a few extra dollars can be a hardship at times, but I do advocate for a full understanding of the situation. There is also, quite frankly, not an abundance of street parking downtown to begin with. All of these angered suburbanites promising to boycott downtown because of this are almost certainly the ones heading straight to garages for an 8 pm show on Saturday night.

    Note: this does not excuse our sorry excuse of a public transportation system, and Peduto & co. would have been well advised to work with Port Authority to offer some fresh alternatives to be presented simultaneously with this announcement. But that’s how that goes.

  9. Taco Pete
    December 12, 2014 4:42 pm

    You are taking the word of the mayor, who built a bike lane no one uses, on a major downtown restaurant and bus hub? That decision was dynamic. Keep pulling that democrat lever you sheep.

  10. Vannevar Bush
    December 12, 2014 5:57 pm

    yeahbutt – how cool is it to have a Mayor who answers tweets? and who answers them with Tweets?

    • bucdaddy
      December 13, 2014 2:53 am

      I’m thinking it’s not. This is a deeper conversation that needs to take place than 140 characters can convey.

      And fuck Twitter anyway, (Sorry, Ginny’s dad.)

      • Virginia
        December 15, 2014 8:45 am

        He simply used Twitter to encourage me to really research the issue, read the legislation, and THEN make my decision on my opinion. That is VERY easy to convey in snippets of 140 characters. And you say “fuck Twitter,” but for all its faults, Twitter is beyond useful and powerful. It let me get water to an orphanage in Haiti post-earthquake once.

  11. Downtowner
    December 12, 2014 6:08 pm

    I live downtown. My biggest concern is my visiting family. Now, they can come and visit after 6pm for free, with no worries of paying to see me. Come February, that will change. I’m still confused about the rolling parking rates. So, I’m to stop at a meter, figure out how much it’s going to cost me, then if I don’t like it… get back into my car to find a cheaper meter? I love the city, I love downtown, but that seems ridiculous and confusing. Another concern of mine… I own a business, not downtown, but in a city neighborhood. I have to pay to park on the street all day. So, one hour I may be paying one price, then the next hour another price? In a time when people, unfortunately, don’t have patience, this seems to be a bad idea. Especially, when a lot of people are programmed for suburbs, and not city living, and are programmed to avoid anything but simplicity. Where are the street cars when you need them?

  12. Kellie
    December 12, 2014 9:04 pm

    Parking downtown is ridiculous. It is a pain, pure and simple. $18 for some of the garages with NO discount for 4 hour, 2 hour, etc parking. If I have to drive for work, I end up parking in the mud hole in in Strip for $5 and walking the mile to work or try to catch the shuttle. Once I get out of work, and hike or shuttle to my car the LAST thing I want to do is stick around and shop/eat. I am so beyond pissed off at the parking rates that I cannot wait to get out of the damn city. I refuse to shop or eat down there because my money goes to the damn parking authority. I give up most days and just take the bus and then have ZERO time to blink in the city as I run to catch the bus outta town. Screw downtown Pittsburgh, I live in Greensburg and there is plenty of FREE parking and nice little restaurants. I’ll spend my cash there.

    • Jill
      December 13, 2014 7:38 am


      I don’t see how this “dynamic” pricing is designed to make the nightlife and weekends in the city more attractive to me, especially because it’s designed to hit me in the pocketbook exactly during the hours when I would actually consider spending more time (and money) in downtown businesses.

      At least now I can find an empty parking space for a couple quarters if I want to dine in one of Market Square’s lovely restaurants. If I have to pay for even more parking (after paying to park all day at work), forget it. I’ll go somewhere else.

  13. j
    December 14, 2014 9:24 am

    “we the people?” Don’t you live in the suburbs?

  14. Nadine Wallace
    December 14, 2014 5:51 pm

    It would be great if we had a better transportation system into town (especially coming from east of the city) and then we would not need to park downtown. I would use public transportation more but it is very limited and in recent years many routes have been cut. If ridership is down, use smaller, more effecient buses during down time. DC and Boston have great public transportation and are good examples of how it should be done.

  15. Mike
    December 15, 2014 9:27 am

    Personally I don’t have the issue with the dynamic parking; However I feel that changing parking enforcement hours till 10 is just a bad idea…especially if all areas of the city will have varying enforcement hours. Changing these hours until 10 seems to be a money grab…especially for a mayor who was against this very thing when the last administration proposed to extend enforcement hours. How will we know what meters are what rates…if its an app on my phone do we really want numerous drivers looking at their phones while trying to find parking? I just see the increased meter hours as a turnoff to people willing to run downtown to do errands…especially with our public transportation the way it is. I hope I am wrong in this, but I just don’t see any positives in extending meter enforcement hours until 10.

    • Virginia
      December 15, 2014 9:35 am

      It appears extended hours are only for downtown, North Side, and South Side. Uptown and neighborhoods, etc. stay until 6:00 p.m. enforcement.

      As for how it will work, the Mayor indicated more info would be coming this week, but here’s how Seattle’s will look:


      As for it being a turnoff, with the way parking is now, I’d be LESS inclined to run an errand downtown because finding a short-term meter is a pain in the ass. The goal of dynamic parking is that there will always be one empty spot on each block for short-term parkers. That removes the frustration and would actually encourage them to go downtown for that errand because then they’d KNOW they’ll find a meter near their destination.

      I’ve spent some time researching this, as you can see. :)

      • Mike
        December 15, 2014 10:08 am

        I have read that article, and a few others about this. My problem is not with the dynamic pricing at meters, it is the extended enforcement in select areas. Very seldom have I had an issue finding parking downtown or on the northside. I do tend to use a garage if I am watching a show or going to be downtown for a long period of time, So maybe I am lucky. But I would like to see the numbers as to why these neighborhoods are the only ones selected. Try getting a parking spot on Penn circle in the evenings…or on walnut street…or Oakland at any point on any day. Why are these neighborhoods not on the list. I just feel that if you are going to change hours, it should be everywhere. Get some base data and then make changes based on that, the article you posted said that some areas were going as low as $.50 and hour. I live on the Northside, and I have enough friends that live near metered parking in the northside, and I just see this being a headache for them. I have to park at a meter just to drop something off to a friend sometimes. I really would like to see the data used to select these areas if they are the only ones being targeted…which it does seem like they are, as there are plenty of other areas that have similar parking issues to these areas.

  16. Ginny'd Dad
    December 15, 2014 10:30 am

    I agree with Mike about concerns with extending enforcement to 10PM. Will the cost of enforcement – increased man-hours, vehicle maintenance and associated employee benefits, etc – outweigh the extra income? People will adjust to price increases by staying away, not staying as long or using parking garages. I could be wrong but I think it will be a lose-lose situation. The city and the commuter both take it on the chin.

    • bucdaddy
      December 17, 2014 1:24 pm

      Yeah, I’m kind of mystified by this.

      I mean, I can see all the South Side spaces still filling up on Fridays and Saturdays, but downtown? What’s even still open downtown (bars, I know) that you would care to go to that’s open after 10 p.m.? What kind of lure is “free parking after 10 p.m.!” downtown?

  17. Spoon
    December 15, 2014 11:50 am

    What’s he going to do when we all get the hover conversion kit for our cars next year? I just can’t land this thing anywhere.

  18. Doug Keklak
    December 17, 2014 12:24 am

    This is the smoothest, coolest way I’ve ever seen someone effectively say “calm your tits”. Peduto does it with such finesse!!! Nice work Mayor!

  19. Annie D.
    December 18, 2014 2:31 pm

    Well-explained (and quite favorable) write-up on DC’s new surge parking plan, with a link at the bottom explaining the long-term problems with free parking:


    With this being voted down due to knee-jerk public reaction in Pittsburgh, I fear we have really missed a forward-thinking chance here.

    • bucdaddy
      December 19, 2014 6:42 pm

      OK, starting to come around. I guess it’s based on the old entertainment-biz axiom “If you’re selling all your tickets, you’re not charging enough.”

      Still can’t imagine there’s such a demand for downtown spots after 6 p.m. that that aspect of it is going to work, but that’s a different issue (it seems to me) than dynamic pricing.

  20. Suzie-Q
    December 21, 2014 7:17 pm

    Because you know it’s all about that space,
    Bout that space, no parking
    It’s all about that space
    Bout that space, no parking
    It’s all about that space,
    bout that space, no parking
    It’s all about that space,
    Bout that space.

    Yeah its pretty clear, limited parking here
    And I can’t park, park like I used to do
    Cause now we got that tech stuff that all the cars chase
    All the right cars in all the right places..