Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Just Park It Already

The Port Authority of Allegheny County, a.k.a. the "Pork Authority", is at it again. During a time of labor unrest, questionable means of obtaining funds, and service cuts, the Pork Authority has found time to construct a parking garage at the end of the Light Rail Transit line behind the South Hills Village shopping mall. This might have been a nice idea in theory, but in practice it has turned out to be yet another white elephant in the grand local tradition of stupid use of taxpayer money. As the Trib reports, almost no one is using it.

Pull into the pay parking garage at Port Authority of Allegheny County's South Hills Village T station in Bethel Park and you can almost take your pick of the 2,200 spots.

Roughly four of the garage's seven floors are vacant most days, a stark contrast to the free, 600-space park-and-ride lot next door, which is often jam-packed.

Hmmm...park in the garage that I have to pay for, or in the big free parking lot. Gee, that's a tough choice. What in hell was the Pork Authority thinking when they cooked up this garage scheme? Yes, parking was tight, but how much sense does it make to put something you have to pay for right next to something that serves the same purpose for free? What is the reasoning?

Port Authority projected about 1,100 people would park in the garage within a year, which will come in May 2006. The parking fee is $2 a day, or $22 a month. A monthly parking and transit pass is offered for $97.

Use of the garage might seem low to some, but the Port Authority is satisfied, so far, and says four months might not be enough time to judge.

"It's much too early for us to be worried about any numbers," said agency spokesman Bob Grove.

Here we have evidence that bureaucrats belong to a difference species than the rest of us. What are you satisfied with? When something like this opens, people should flock to try it out and then use will even out after a couple of weeks. Poor planning and terrible location has eliminated any semblance of grand opening fervor.

Then there's the problem of the cost. Sure, the Pork Authority should seek alternative means of making money that don't require picking the pockets of taxpayers from all over the country. What better way to cover the cost of the parking garage than to let it pay for itself? But there's a problem with that. People have been complaining about fare increases for several years now. Fare increases have led to a steady decrease in ridership. The people who catch the trolley at South Hills Village are paying about $2 for the morning commute, and $2 for the afternoon ride home. By charging garage users $2, the Pork Authority is effectively increasing LRT fares by 33%. Does that make people want to use the garage instead of the -- let me remind you -- FREE parking lot? That garage will never pay for itself at this rate.

Read the whole article to see how people really feel about the garage. Then ask yourself why an authority that is so hungry for money operates more like a charity than like a business. If the Pork Authority can't run itself like a business, it may be time to go ahead and park all of the buses and trolleys for good.

1 comment:

Honnistaibe said...

The real pickle here for PAT is the availablity of the free parking associated with South Hills Village and the fact that there is no charge for parking at any other form of "park and ride" type stops in the PAT system.
Of course the main crush of Lightrail riders is gone before the Mall opens for business during the weekdays but during the holiday season something is going to have to give especially if Simon Properties suddenly decides to officially designate and fence which spaces it is renting to PAT and then starts towing cars after the morning rush is over.