Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has expressed reluctance to restore the county's tax on poured alcoholic drinks to 10 percent to generate the county's share of a financial rescue for the Port Authority. (The tax was originally 10 percent but lowered to 7 percent in 2009).
Instead he has floated the possibility of charging for what are now free spaces in the authority's park-n-ride lots. Full disclosure: your blogger is a daily park-n-ride user. That bias notwithstanding, this is not a good idea.
The Port Authority has roughly 14,000 park-n-ride spaces, of which about 9,000 are free. Some of the better-situated lots have high demand and fill early in the morning, but about half of them have spaces open all day. The overall occupancy rate is about 70 percent. That means about 6,300 parkers as a potential new revenue source.
Assuming the occupancy rate stayed the same even if there was a parking charge, a $1 daily fee would gross about $1.6 million a year — chump change for an agency that's $60 million in the red. And that's before deducting for personnel, equipment and other overhead expenses associated with collecting the money. A $2 per day fee is probably out of the question. Look only as far as South Hills Village garage, the ONLY park-n-ride on the T system that doesn't fill to capacity. Parking there costs $2 a day and the garage stays 60 percent empty as a result.
Then there's the fairness issue. Transit riders have been nicked with several fare increases in recent years, most recently on July 1, when the Zone 1 fare went up 25 cents (11 percent) and the Zone 2 fare 50 cents (15 percent). A $1 parking charge would represent an additional 20 percent increase in daily transit costs for park-n-ride users.
Finally, the reason people use park-n-ride lots is that transit service doesn't exist near their homes. Some made a conscious decision to live where there is no transit, but others lost their service because of Port Authority cutbacks and route revisions and now must drive to catch the bus. Penalizing them again seems terribly unjust.
Pushing the drink tax back to 10 percent would raise at least $10 million, free and clear, fulfilling the county's piece of a three-pronged solution that includes more state aid and employee concessions to help Port Authority out of the hole. Let us propose a toast.
PennDOT is hoping for good weekend weather so it can advance the Downtown ramps and Banksville Road construction projects.
These ramps will close at 10 p.m. Friday and reopen by 5 a.m. Monday: Parkway East to northbound Fort Duquesne Bridge; Fort Pitt Boulevard to Fort Duquesne Bridge; and Commonwealth Place to Fort Duquesne Bridge. Parkway East and Downtown traffic that typically uses those ramps to access the North Shore is being directed across the Fort Pitt Bridge to Carson Street and the West End Bridge.
Also, the ramp from the Fort Duquesne Bridge to the outbound Fort Pitt Bridge will be down to one lane for the weekend. Pirates fans will want to leave plenty of extra time on Friday and Saturday.
Banksville Road paving will reduce traffic to one lane in both directions from the Parkway West to Beverly Road from 8 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday. Short-term closures and stoppages are possible on intersecting streets.
The southbound Veterans Bridge will have single-lane traffic from 8 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday, and the ramp from the northbound Liberty Bridge to Interstate 579-Crosstown Boulevard will be closed for the same period.Interstate 79 in Butler County may have congestion at two work zones: southbound in Jackson and Cranberry, where crews will be patching from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays through next Thursday, and for a mile in both directions just south of the expanded Seneca interchange, where single-lane traffic is in effect for bridge work.
Water line work will continue to reduce traffic to an alternating one-way pattern on Ingomar Road between Route 19 and Sunset Road in McCandless from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through July 27, with weekend work also possible.
The Wabash Tunnel will be closed in both directions on weekdays from Monday through August 10 (except July 27) from approximately 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for inspections.
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