Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Parking Garages Versus Port Authority

Brian O'Neill makes a very important point about parking garages in his latest editorial:
"Suburban commuters, the people most affected by any uptick in parking rates, have no vote in the mayoral election."
He makes that note near the end of his editorial and then he drops it, but somehow I will make a whole blog post out of this one line because I think he's looking at the tip of the iceberg of this thinly-veiled city versus suburb issue. City dwellers love the idea of leasing the parking garages and dealing with the city pension problem with the profits. Why? Because city dwellers DO NOT USE the parking garages. City dwellers take the bus or walk to work. We were just rated the 10th best walking city in part because a whopping 12% of us walk to work, the most in the nation after Boston. Another 18% take public transportation.

So, how about the city sells/leases the parking garages to the county? The county can manage them for the good of the county residents and then the city doesn't have to be responsible for taking care of suburban commuters at the expense of our city pensions.

Of course, the county doesn't want to buy the parking garages. Why would they? The county [read: Dan Onorato] also wants to contribute as little as is necessary for the upkeep and running of Port Authority. The county [read: Dan Onorato] also wants to keep the status quo of unjust property taxes. And the people that live in the county? They tend to think this is all a city problem, and they bemoan us city-dwellers for continuously voting in inept government that they have no control over. Well, suburban commuters, you do not have a mayoral vote, but you do have control over your government. You choose to not live in the city, you reject consolidation between city and county, and you vote for people like Onorato who undermine your cause by furthering the fractions between city and county despite boasting about the 2 municipality functions he's managed to merge.

And how did the city get in such poor shape? It seems to me that for a long time people thought it was easier to leave the city instead of help fix it. They were right. It was easier in the short-term, but now we're all paying for it - whether through higher taxes or parking rates. The big problem is that right now, the only one who's really profiting from it all is private parking garage owners.

How about the city offers to eliminate the dreaded parking garage tax, offers to keep ineptly running the parking garages (with their incumbent city pension issues and nepotism) and instead institutes a low wage tax on those suburban commuters? Is there any concession on the city's part that would make this palatable? County membership on the Parking Authority board? A citizen watchdog board made up of both city and county residents?

Let's work together to solve these issues. Let's all elect officials who will actually work together instead of giving lip service to a joke of a consolidation plan. Let's make Pittsburgh and the region stronger instead of just tearing each other apart.


Schultz said...

City dwellers take the bus or walk to work.

That is half the truth - while a higher percentage of city dwellers walk or take public transportation compared to the burbs, many of them still drive and use parking garages. A lot suburbanites do take the bus or ride the T (most parking lots out there are full by 8am). My solution to this issue of parking garages is this - expand our subway and light rail beyond downtown, and sell the parking garages. The city will reap both cash up front and future property tax revenues. As long as we have a comprehensive commuter / light rail / subway system, in addition to the busways, then I can't feel to bad for the people who still drive and get stuck with paying higher parking rates when they have an affordable alternative in public transportation. I think part of the problem with cheap gas and cheap parking is that most people will use the "inconvenience" excuse for not taking the bus or train into work. Until it gets expensive to do otherwise, they won't do it.

Jermaine said...

I agree 100% Schultz! Expand the light rail/subway.

n'at said...

One of my guilty pleasures is reading about the decline of the older suburban neighborhoods where the first wave of Pittsburghers left and settled into. They've sold their municipal water and sewage, privatized the garbage collection and facility maintenance, laid off the police force, and downsized the volunteer fire department.


Following the tails of the city's recent unpleasantness, why not have the County demolish a few of their bridges leading into downtown? We'll start with 16th street and South 10th Street, then see if there's an uptick of city housing purchases and transit ridership? It'd be expensive to demo, but it'll save us taxpayers in the long run and will allow for further rightsizing at the county - which always scores points with the electorate.

The city could demolish a few more, too. One or two in Homewood and Lincoln-Larimer, one in Bloomfield/North Oakland, ... the list is quite long. And because the city loves throwing parties, we'll make each demo an event with fireworks and Mark Pipas, Bill Deasy, Formula 412 or somesuch.

By reducing the burden of fixed infrastructure, which are no longer assets due to their state of decay, we eliminate new debt for repair or replacement. Additionally, from a planning perspective we restrict mobility between communities and compact neighborhood growth.

So to bring this back to your post: When we restrict mobility on surface streets, then the prospect of elevated or subterranean mass transit becomes a worthy pursuit to service the demand.