Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

October 15, 1998

Despite construction, parking here should be adequate, study indicates

Parking, Transportation and Services director G. Robert Harkins is optimistic about the parking situation in Oakland.

Harkins cited a parking study carried out at the University's request by Trans Associates Engineering Consultants, Inc., of Pittsburgh, who measured supply and demand parking statistics back to 1992. The report, dated Sept. 28, includes projections for 1998 and beyond and an analysis of the effects on parking from approved construction projects. The upshot, according to the report, is that the University and surrounding public and private lots have enough spaces to meet the daily demand, even given Pitt's $600 million building plans for the next decade.

"Off-peak and weekend parking is the least of my worries," Harkins said. "If we can handle 56,000 people in the stadium, we can handle event parking in the new Convocation Center, which will hold 12,000 more or less, with most of the events in the evening or off-peak. My problem is day-to-day. We'll be 784 spaces shorter because of the new building." Nevertheless, Harkins maintained that the University's parking inventory will adjust to match its needs. In all, the University owns or leases 5,540 spaces and UPMC owns or leases another 5,401 spaces, according to the study. The report estimates the 1998 demand for spaces at peak hours to be 10,361, leaving an excess of 580 spaces between the two entities. Currently, the overall demand by the combined University/UPMC population is lower than 1992-95 and 1997 statistics by about 500 spaces. Harkins said there are several reasons for the decline in demand. The overall University population, counting full- and part-time undergraduates, graduate students and faculty and staff, decreased by 1,990 between 1992 and 1997. Among these groups, only faculty and staff increased, by 132, in that time. Additionally, UPMC parking demand decreased by 480 spaces between fall 1997 and fall 1998 due to relocation of personnel, patients and visitors to other UPMC facilities outside Oakland. And the University estimates a decrease of about 400 parkers per day because of the Pitt-Port Authority Transit (PAT) agreement, effective Aug. 1, which allows holders of Pitt I.D.s to ride free-of-charge throughout Allegheny County.

According to the Trans Associates report, private parking facilities account for 2,870 spaces, while city-owned, on-street parking provides 1,034 spaces in the Oakland vicinity. These 3,904 public and private spaces serve visitors to the area. In anticipating parking needs after completion of the University's 10-year facilities plan, the report concluded that although the construction of new buildings will result in a net loss of 890 University-operated spaces, changes in the population and functions at UPMC will decrease the medical center's parking demand by at least 1,000 spaces over the next 8-10 years. The University will enter leasing and purchasing agreements with UPMC to acquire these parking spots, Harkins said. Pitt also expects the PAT agreement to continue the trend of increasing bus commuters, thus lowering the daily parking demand. In addition, Pitt's ridesharing program and shuttle system should continue to alleviate any parking shortages, according to the report.

Most of the problems of accommodating parkers are logistical, and unrelated to the number of available spaces, Harkins indicated. He mentioned that the shuttle system has helped parkers in lots at a distance from their campus destination, and that a study of students' parking habits indicated they often do not use their cars during the week. Harkins presented the draft report at a Pitt-sponsored community workshop held Oct. 8, which drew about 25 Oakland residents.

In general, the response of community residents was favorable to Harkins's presentation. One resident asked what had happened to plans to construct an underground parking lot in the area between Hillman Library and Carnegie Library, which would allow for more surface green space. Harkins responded that a feasibility study found the cost to be prohibitive. "Although I'd love to do it, it is economically unfeasible: we're looking at something like a cost of $20,000 per space for 1,000 to 2,000 spaces," he said.

Residents' comments at the workshop ranged from suggestions that Pitt provide incentives to graduate students and new faculty to live in Oakland, thereby lessening the number of commuters, to a request that Pitt divest itself of its off-campus property holdings. "Landlords know that if they're forced to sell property because it doesn't pass housing codes, that Pitt will be there to buy it up and get them off the hook," one resident said.

In response to the latter proposal, Paul Supowitz, Office of General Counsel, responded that Pitt has urged the city to increase inspections of residential properties that Oakland landlords fail to maintain properly. The University picks up the cost of one-half the pay of an additional Oakland-based housing inspector.

Supowitz also touched on changes in the Pittsburgh Zoning Code, which will go into effect March 1, 1999. "The new code requires institutions to have a master plan and update it at three-year intervals. We will still need to seek conditional use exemptions for construction from the Planning Commission and City Council in public hearings, but now all our new buildings will have to be in what's called the E/MI district," he said. The Educational/Medical Institution zone is roughly the current campus area plus sections of South and West Oakland, meaning Pitt's expansion plans will likely be limited mainly to on-campus or nearby construction.

Supowitz tied in the new zoning requirement with Pitt's plans to build fraternity housing on the site of Pennsylvania Hall, set for demolition this fall, in addition to the 64-space underground garage and tennis courts to be built there. The community workshop was the second in a series of public forums on the 10-year facilities plan to be held periodically over the next few months.

–Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 31 Issue 4

Leave a Reply