Like many residents in Squirrel Hill, Linda Joshowitz has a driveway. And like many residents in Squirrel Hill, her driveway is often obstructed by other people’s cars.
“They literally park so far into our driveway that we can’t get our car out,” she said last week. “On occasion our kids have missed appointments or had to go to an extracurricular function and we haven’t been able to get out of the driveway.”
Similar predicaments were expressed by Julie, a Squirrel Hill resident who, citing privacy concerns, requested that her last name not be used. Julie lives on Marlborough Avenue, a premier residential street immediately north of Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill. Flanked by both a branch of the Carnegie Public Library on the corner of Marlborough and Murray avenues and offices, coffee shops and retailers located near the corner of Marlborough and Shady avenues, the 5800 block of Marlborough Avenue garners significant daytime traffic. Increasing the street’s vehicle volume is the fact that Marlborough Avenue has only a few meters near the library.
“I can’t believe that people are so cheap that they’ll drive around and around and look for a spot on my street just to go to Littles for half an hour,” she said.
Like Joshowitz, Julie has had her fair share of driveway disasters.
“I’ve had many, many people ticketed, and believe me, people are not happy about that,” she said.
Amber, another Marlborough Avenue resident who requested that her last name not be used, said that she has often had people towed for blocking her driveway. “I remember when I was pregnant with one of my children, and I said, ‘How can I get out?’” she recalled.
Every few years the parking plight reaches a peak in Squirrel Hill and the potential for permits is raised, she said.
Most recently, a Sept. 29 meeting at the Children’s Institute in Squirrel Hill focused on the possibilities of permits.
The City of Pittsburgh has “been approached by some residents in your community who have requested that we implement a Residential Parking Permit Program (RPPP) in your area,” Ashley R. Holloway, city planner and RPPP coordinator, told residents in a letter.
“This is the first step of a lengthy
resident-driven designation process,” Holloway explained.
“The next step is an informational community meeting to discuss what the program entails and to determine the interest of residents in the implementation of the program for their street. This meeting will not determine the final outcome, but rather it will provide further possible avenues of action.”
Amber attended the meeting in order to present a petition against permit parking.
“There are 27 homes on my street,” she said. “Seventeen did not want permit parking.”
A commonly cited reason for opposing permit parking is that it will adversely affect an already dire situation.
“If you have workers coming to your house, you will need to get special permits for them to be there all day. If you have a meeting at your house, you’ll need everyone’s license plates” so that they won’t be ticketed, she said, adding that many other “ins and outs” of permit parking were covered by Councilmen Dan Gilman and Corey O’Connor at the Sept. 29 gathering.
Both of the councilmen are involved with the issue as numerous potentially affected residents are located in Gilman’s district, while the commercial stores on Forbes Avenue are located in O’Connor’s district, said Marian Lien, executive director of the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition.
What the Sept. 29 meeting did was “begin a 90-day window” in which a requisite number of residents must agree to further exploring the process, explained Lien.
After the initial meeting, “the signatures of at least 70 percent of residents in the area will trigger a parking study to determine eligibility for residential permit parking,” noted a 2016 report from Michael E. Lamb, City of Pittsburgh controller.
From there, the process continues.
Reviewing civic procedure, however, is like putting the cart before the horse, wherever it happens to be parked, said Amber. “This is the third or fourth time that we’ve encountered people wanting permit parking in that area of Squirrel Hill.”
And each time it has failed to pass.
Permit parking is really a question of public works, noted Ben Samson, a local architect and developer whose master’s thesis on Pittsburgh public transportation went viral in 2013.
The question is really whether we “encourage people to drive or encourage them to walk or take public transportation,” he said.
“It’s a difficult battle.”
Public transportation, though, may also be to blame for Squirrel Hill’s parking problem. An attendee at the Sept. 29 meeting described seeing someone park a car in Squirrel Hill, remove a suitcase and eventually board a bus bound for Pittsburgh International Airport, said Amber.
We call that “hide and ride,” said Adam Brandolph, who handles media relations for the Port Authority of Allegheny County.
But if the secretive process is happening on Shady Avenue, it is news to Brandolph.
“I haven’t heard of that being an issue there,” he said.
Back on Marlborough Avenue, Julie was suspicious of permits being a parking panacea.
“I’m not sure it would help the residents on my street, because I don’t know if they would enforce it,” she said.
Joshowitz, who does not live on Marlborough Avenue, also worries about implementing a permit system.
“I don’t want anything to happen to the business district on Forbes,” said Joshowitz. “It’s so lovely and such a nice street where neighbors walk up and down and have a cup of coffee and say hi to each other.”
Residents should just adopt a “good neighbor” approach, she said. “I think it’s a matter of being considerate: Just don’t block somebody else’s driveway.
“Even if you’re desperate to find a parking spot, you just don’t make someone else suffer. It’s a matter of human decency.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.