Carnegie Mellon University researchers will be able to go through with a study of the optimum rates for parking meters near the school, after Pittsburgh City Council passed the necessary legislation Monday.
Over the course of a year, two CMU economics professors will tweak meter prices on a month-by-month basis according to demand, with the goal of keeping metered spots 75 to 80 percent full. The ultimate goal is to increase parking revenue in an area that now produces little. The area in question includes the streets surrounding Carnegie Mellon and its neighbor, Phipps Conservatory.
Sponsoring Councilman Bill Peduto said the parking area in front of Phipps has been nearly devoid of cars since parking meter rates were increased last year.
"The number of meters being used on a daily basis is under ten percent. We're bleeding money on this right now," said Peduto. "Our site inspections have also shown that on average, there are no more than eight vehicles parked in front of Phipps at any one time, making available approximately sixty spaces."
Peduto said the study could be emulated throughout many Pittsburgh neighborhoods if it's successful in increasing parking revenue.
Council President Darlene Harris said she supports the study, because the mass exodus from metered parking to free parking due to rate increases may decrease the revenue that's dedicated to keeping the city's pension fund above 50 percent. For example, motorists began parking for free in Schenley Park after the rate increases made parking in Oakland unappealling.
"If we have free parking that people are going to instead of utilizing the meters, we should think of doing new meters somewhere else, or no parking in other areas, to make sure that as much revenue can come in so that we can keep that balance over the next thirty years," said Harris.
In late 2010, Harris and other Council Members avoided a state takeover of the city's pension fund by dedicating increased parking revenue to the pension over the next three decades.