PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Last week on the North Shore, city officials cut the ribbon on a new meter-less parking system.

Now some worry the Pittsburgh Parking Authority will use it to expand paid parking along streets in the Strip District, Oakland, Downtown and South Side.

The authority has a plan to put 338 metered parking spaces in the Strip. Right now, it’s free parking all along Penn Avenue until you get to right in front of Wholey’s.

While Wholey’s has free parking for its customers, from 17th Street back into town, it’s metered, but that could expand away from town.

“Aw that’s crazy,” says Mike McKenzie of New Brighton. “That’s crazy. You’re supposed to help people that want to come in to shop. To charge them to come in to Pittsburgh to shop, you’re going to be losing people.”

Dave Regan, owner of Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle, says it’ll hurt small businesses.

“A lot of people may stop shopping here. They may go to a mall or somewhere else. The Strip is very distinctive in its draw, especially on a Saturday and we may lose some of that.”

Free parking is also important to private residents as well as working people who staff the stores.

“There’s businesses all along this corridor, and we need parking as it is. It’s short and to put that up would be a major inconvenience and major expense to the folks who are working people here,” says David Fisher who has worked at Pitt Chemical & Sanitary Supply Co. for over 30 years.

“We don’t expect any widespread push on areas that don’t have meters now,” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl told KDKA Money Editor Jon Delano.

For the time being, Ravenstahl says he’s stopped plans to expand paid parking.

“We’ll work on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis, but there’s no widespread plans of putting meters in any neighborhoods that don’t exist now.”

The mayor says before the Parking Authority expands paid parking into any neighborhood, businesses and residents in the area will be consulted first.

Critics of the mayor say, ironically, it was the mayor’s plan to privatize parking garages and meters that recommended this expansion in the first place.

But in any case, the city will first focus on converting the existing 3,000 meters to the new meter-less system before moving into other areas.

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