You know how much it costs to park in front of my store? 25 cents for every 5 minutes of time spent at a meter! So, can you use a credit card to pay for parking as if it were, say, the year 2011? Of course not!  Furthermore, I’m hearing rumors of plans to increase parking rates such that a quarter will only buy you two minutes of time in the near future.

This is quite a hefty hidden tax if you’re someone who chooses to support retail downtown. And God forbid your meter run out because you didn’t have a fistful of change handy. Then you’ll really be paying through the nose with a ticket that will cost at least $30. It’s as if this city wants people to steer clear of its center.

Seriously, sometimes Pittsburgh’s administrative stupidity is nothing short of breathtaking. I understand that there are expenses to cover, but if you’re going to charge $3 an hour for on street parking you should have the decency to provide your citizens with a way to pay that doesn’t involve carrying around a tube sock full of quarters. If you max out your meter at two hours, you’ve fed it two dozen coins! Who the heck carries two dozen quarters with them on a regular basis? Also, once I put my money into a parking meter I have no idea where it goes. There’s a paper trail I’d love to see!

On top of this issue, all parking meters in downtown, Oakland, and the South Side are now enforced until 10 pm, instead of 6 pm. I’m not a fan of that, but if it’s necessary, I’ll deal. Somehow, though, I suspect that whatever the city is paying to keep its meter maids on patrol late into the night is coming directly out of new tickets written between 6 pm and 10 pm.  No offense to these late-night maids, but I’d like it very much if they’d find other, more productive work.

You know how much it costs to park in Oakland? No more than two-thirds of what it does in downtown Pittsburgh. Yet you can pay for street parking with a credit card there… if you’re lucky enough to score a spot around Schenley Plaza. I have recently parked in several other major cities and nowhere else have I seen the crippling one-two punch of such a high parking rate coupled with an expectation that this fee be paid only through the outdated medium of spare change. It’s ridiculous.

I hope this situation isn’t indicative of what public employees in this city think of the rest of us. The people making Pittsburgh parking enforcement decisions are essentially the people who stole other kids’ lunch money in elementary school, all grown up. They’re bullying others because they can. While they may talk a good game when they’re being watched and they may feel that what they’re doing is necessary, they clearly have no respect for the people over whom they wield power through force.

Pittsburgh: “Behind the times, with the parking rates of tomorrow!” Is that really the perception we want to create? Thanks for helping with that, public sector! Most livable city, my foot.