Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Parking-Lot View of Car-Use Decline

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Parking-Lot View of Car-Use Decline

Article excerpt

America's love affair with the automobile is turning platonic."

It would be one thing hearing that from the head of Bike Pittsburgh, but this was coming from the biggest parking magnate in Western Pennsylvania.

Merrill Stabile, whose grandfather went into the parking business in 1925, owns, manages or leases 15,000 spaces in the city. You'd think a third-generation parker would be more upset that cars aren't revving millennials' hearts the way they did their parents and grandparents', but Mr. Stabile is entirely at peace with the trend.

It's not as if a parking surplus is going to hit any time soon, but the president of Alco Parking has been seeing signs he's never seen before: "For Sale" signs on cars parked Downtown. He figures that's due to empty nesters moving to the city and realizing they don't need two cars.

Or maybe those signs were put there by millennials who never fell very hard for any internal combustion engine in the first place. Either way, given what it costs for insurance and parking, these people aren't losing a car, they're gaining a European vacation.

I don't want to make too much of a handful of cars going up for sale. As I type at around 2:50 p.m. on a weekday, I can look out my North Shore office window and see a long line of cars stuck on the ramp to the Fort Duquesne Bridge. None of the hundreds of vehicles backed up past the west side of Heinz Field has moved in the last 10 minutes.

That's a familiar sight this time of day. Were I able to look inside those cars, I'd mostly find drivers without other passengers. No one can hear them scream. But it would take a lot more than traffic jams to persuade many of them to move to places where cars are optional.

Mr. Stabile figures it will be five or 10 years before the high demand for Downtown parking slackens noticeably as more people walk, bike or use ride-hailing services such as Uber or Lyft. As I didn't have to point out to him, he's sitting on prime real estate either way.

Meantime, when parking lots are taken away these days, they're most often replaced with more parking nearby. A 798-space parking garage is under construction east of Heinz Field to create enough spaces and then some to replace the ones that will be lost when a 250-unit apartment and retail complex goes up west of PNC Park. …

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