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Some Businesses Wary Of Privatized City Parking

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The mayor’s plan to lease the city’s parking garages and meters to a private company has raised some concerns for some small businesses.

About a year ago, Carol Conroy moved her hair salon from her hometown of Knoxville to Brookline.

Parking for a dye job will cost you about 50 cents an hour.

But if Mayor Ravenstahl’s plan to sell off the parking system to a private group takes a step forward, that 50 cents will become $1 then $2 an hour in Brookline.

“I think it’s not real good to the small businesses in small communities like this, because all it’s saying is it becomes an inconvenience for your guests coming in to your business,” Conroy said.

Part of the $452 million plan would go towards rebuilding lots and garages – a nearly $60 million responsibility turned over to the private company.

“If they do that, it might be worth it, but I don’t know,” Ruth Lefkowitz, of West Mifflin, said. “To me, once you give an asset away that brings money in, it’s gone.”

Right now, Lefkowitz will pay $1 an hour to park in a lot off Walnut Street, but come 2014, people like her and Elissa Ashwood would pay $3.

“Well, you know I have to already carry this whole roll of quarters in my bag just to be able to park, but if we’re talking $3 an hour, you’re going to have the reverse effect and not going to have anyone able to pay for parking,” Ashwood said.

Since the idea came about to privatize city parking assets, the mayor has said this is the best possible chance for the city to cover that pension plan and cover parking authority debt.

But with that comes the ultimate catch-22 for business owner – lose vital city services or possibly lose customers?

The mayor says that if the parking plan isn’t passed, there could be city layoffs, including about 400 police officers and services on the chopping block.

“You know, cut costs somewhere else, but don’t cut our police at all,” Conroy said. “I came from Knoxville. We love our cops!”

City Council has the final say and will release a report of its own on Friday.