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Lawrenceville wants to harness its popularity to fund safety improvements

People walk along Butler Street in Lawrenceville during the spring.
Jakob Lazzaro
90.5 WESA
Dynamic parking is expected to help generate money to invest in walking, biking, and transit infrastructure.

Pittsburgh City Council is considering a plan to raise the cost of parking in Lawrenceville as a means of helping to fund neighborhood improvements.

If approved, the legislation would allow so-called “dynamic parking” hours and pricing, with higher rates when there’s higher demand. That revenue would flow into a dedicated fund set aside to pay for a wide range of improvements, from pedestrian signals and improved crosswalks to bikeways and bus shelters.

Councilor Deb Gross introduced the bill last December, but community groups have backed the changes for the better part of a decade, including Dave Breingan, the executive director of Lawrenceville United.

“Despite Lawrenceville’s vibrancy and walkability, our public infrastructure around mobility, safety and accessibility is sorely lacking,” he said at a public hearing Wednesday.

Breingan noted that more than 150 local businesses lack ADA-accessible front entrances, and said that between 2006 and 2020 there were 147 crashes between vehicles and pedestrians. At least six of those incidents resulted in the death of someone who had been just walking through the neighborhood.

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Fears about safety have encouraged more people to drive, said Eric Boerer, advocacy director for Bike Pittsburgh. The cycling advocacy group’s offices are located in Lawrenceville, and Boerer is a neighborhood resident

“The expectation that people can drive here and park for free only encourages more people to drive to the neighborhood, compounding the problem as they circle the neighborhood looking for parking,” he said.

Higher parking prices during peak demand will not only allow the community to harness its popularity to fund neighborhood investments, but also encourage parking turnover, thereby making it easier for the next person to find a spot in the commercial district, Breingan said.

“This policy is a win-win for our residential and our commercial community,” he said.

Lawrenceville Corporation’s executive director, Sarah Trbovic, said there’s work to be done to determine the location of new parking meters, but she said the legislation “is a major step toward solving some of the issues the neighborhood is facing today, and has faced for the past many years.”

Gross said city councilors will have a chance soon to re-engage with the legislation, though a vote is not yet scheduled.