Pittsburgh sees significant parking revenue increase after switch to new meters

PITTSBURGH — Four years after Pittsburgh installed pay-by-plate meters across the city, Target 11 found that the system is being hailed as a success and taxpayers are reaping the benefits.

From the Strip District to the Boulevard of the Allies, 950 of the multi-space parking meters, which accept credit cards, dot the streets of Pittsburgh that were previously lined with coin-only meters.%



Target 11’s Rick Earle learned that the Pittsburgh Parking Authority generated $5.5 million in 2011 from the old meters, but with the newer ones in place, the figure skyrocketed to $17.1 million last year.

Drivers who spoke with Earle were surprised to learn the parking revenue more than doubled.

“Wow, oh, wow. That's a lot. I had no idea it would make that much money,” driver Brenna Fritz said.

“We anticipated an uptick in revenue, but this is a little higher than we anticipated,” Pittsburgh Parking Authority Executive Director Dave Onorato said.

Onorato said Pittsburgh was the first city to use pay-by-plate technology, and he said it’s since become a model in the industry.

He said while there have been some rate increases over the years, increased revenue is due in large part to the use of credit cards.

“Some of our rates where high enough where people didn't have the quarters. They were willing to pay, but the old meters you needed 27 quarters. Nobody carried that,” Onorato said.

As for where the meter money goes, the Pittsburgh Parking Authority gets $6.6 million, a percentage of that for operating expenses, but because of the increase, they have been able to renovate two parking garages without borrowing cash. The rest of the money, approximately $10.5 million last year, goes directly into the city’s general fund.

“It's allowed us to put more money in the pension plan. It's allowed us to put more money against debt services, and it allows us to charge the taxpayer less,” Pittsburgh Finance Director Paul Leger said.

Leger called the increase a planned revenue, and he said it has allowed the city to hold the lid on taxes.

“We don't have to go to property tax. We don't have to talk about income tax or any other source if we can get that from parking meters,” he said. “Taxpayers both in the city and outside the city reap the benefits. Outsiders get better maintained streets. Taxpayers in the city have to pay a little less than the others should have to pay to maintain city services.”

Earle reported that the multi-space meter system costs the city $5.5 million. The city expects the parking meter revenue to level off during the next couple of years.