Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto says the debate over leasing the city’s parking assets to help shore up the city’s faltering pension plan has been overly focused on the garages downtown and he hopes to change that. Today he produced numbers that show metered parking rates as much as tripling in some neighborhoods. The plan proposed by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl would allow the company that buys the lease to phase in higher rates that, by 2014, would hit $2.00 and hour for a spot in a neighborhood business district and $4.50 downtown. Peduto says right now the city’s parking rates are “about in the middle” when compared to comparable cities but in 2014 it would “soar above the rest of the nation.” Peduto says the higher rates will have a negative impact on business and residents as people avoid the meters by either not making a trip to the business district or trying to find parking “in front of someone’s house.”
Ravenstahl has proposed leasing 12 downtown garages and some 9,000 meters for the next 50 years in an effort to raise $200 million. The money would be used to get the city’s pension program up to the 50% funded level. If that does not happen by the end of the year the state has threatened to take over the pension plan and demand higher payments. Peduto says even if the city makes the one time payment it will still have to find a way to increase annual payments to the fund to keep it from slipping below the 50% level in the future.
City Council has commissioned a study of the value of the parking assets and other possibilities for raising the needed funds. That report is due in September but the mayor has asked on council to approve his plan by Sept. 15. Peduto says he thinks council members will be able to find a solution and have it in place by the end of the year. However, at the same time Peduto says he “will not be held by any false deadline.” He says, “This pension problem has been going on for decades. I’m not going to be told I have to have an answer by December 31st. ”
Four public meetings have been set to discuss the parking lease. The first will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday in council chambers. The second will be held Tuesday at the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers headquarters on the Southside, the third Thursday at the Pittsburgh Public Schools headquarters, in Oakland and the fourth, Aug. 2 in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School Cafeteria on the North Side.