Bills give more flexibility to some parking authorities

Bills give more flexibility to some parking authorities

Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, December 6, 2017/Categories: News and Views

Two Senate bills seeking to provide more flexibility to some of Pennsylvania’s local parking authorities moved closer to the conclusion of their legislative process Wednesday as they were unanimously approved the House Local Government Committee.


The first bill, Senate Bill 252 by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), seeks to provide the Pittsburgh Parking Authority with the ability to enter into private agreements for the lease or license of parking spaces and develop, operate, and/or finance mixed-use projects.


Sen. Vulakovich’s bill is modeled after state legislation granting similar authority to the Philadelphia Parking Authority.


Representing Sen. Vulakovich before the House panel Wednesday was his legislative director, Charlie O’Neill, who said the legislation will help alleviate parking issues within Pittsburgh and help the Pittsburgh Parking Authority with engaging in new projects to expand parking options while sharing some of the cost with private investors.


“I’ve heard of a department store wanting to come in and partner with the authority to defer some of the cost of building the parking garage and there is no ability for them to enter into an agreement to come in and take on some of that debt and split the process,” he said.


“Additionally, there’s no authority for the parking authority, right now, to put parking spots aside for development as they are building new garages or in garages that currently exist, so this just provides a little more flexibility for the authority act like other authorities.”


While the exact details of ownership for mixed-use projects will have to be dealt with in the specifics of any agreement between the authority and a private partner, O’Neill noted the process by which projects are developed and entered into will have public accountability through the authority’s public meeting process.


“This legislation is about expanding options in parking, not taking them away,” O’Neill added.


The second bill, Senate Bill 736 sponsored by Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), seeks to provide cities of the second class-A (Scranton) and cities of the third class (those like Lancaster, Harrisburg, and Allentown) to enforce and adjudicate parking violations.


Currently, parking authorities in these local governments—like those in Lancaster—have the ability to issue parking violations, but not adjudicate them.


Sen. Martin noted that has forced the adjudicatory burden on the Magisterial District Judge system, where further consolidation might be possible if this function were removed from the system in these areas.


“This action is going to allow our local president judge to consolidate further a specific MDJ seat that has about 92 percent of its caseload dealing with parking tickets,” he said.


He added the legislation could have another side benefit of ensuring that parking tickets do not escalate in cost by allowing more ready and immediate enforcement of the violation.


“I believe this avenue also precludes tickets that start accumulating numerous fines and costs associated with these tickets—constable fees, you name it—it kind of takes it off the table when someone turns a $150 ticket into a $400 mess for someone to get out from under,” he stated.


“We are just looking to bestow the same process Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are offered on cities on the third class and [cities of the second class-A].”


Should both bills pass the House without further amendment, they could be sent to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk as soon as next week.