It’s no secret that Pittsburgh street parking fees have gone up in recent years, and the Parking Authority has not ruled out even more rate increases and reduced hours for free parking in the future. However the new Pay-by-License-Plate Multi-Space Meters, which the City introduced almost overnight, have proven very popular, both with drivers who can now pay by credit card, and with dogs wishing to urinate.
But not everyone who needs to use on-street parking downtown or in the busy neighborhood of Oakland is a well-off urban professional living in Shadyside with plenty of disposable income. Recognizing the need for more options for financially disadvantaged residents, the Parking Authority has introduced it’s latest initiative, ‘Park ‘n Pawn’.
“Perhaps you need to interview for a job downtown or at Presby Hospital, but your busline has been cut and you don’t have a wad of notes or a credit card to pay for parking. This solves your problem. As long as you have some stuff.”
The idea is simple. Next to every downtown and Oakland area payment kiosk is a set of see-thru lockers. When asked to pay, press the “Pawn Instead” button. A locker will open in which you deposit an item or items equal in pawn value to at least ten times (10x) the cost of your parking. Be warned that Parking Enforcement Officers will be checking regularly to ensure the items deposited are valuable enough. If not, you will be issued a ticket.
“We are very proud to be able to provide options to help our poorer residents. Much like payday loan companies do.”
When you’ve finished your business and hopefully scrounged up some cash, you return to your car and pay for your parking to retrieve your pawned item(s).
“Just like any pawn shop, if you make payment the locker will open and you can retrieve your item or items. If you fail to make payment, they end up being forfeit, and become City property.”
Some have wondered what happens if you pawn a very expensive item. It turns out all is not lost. The Parking Authority spokesperson offers the recent example of someone who pawned a $5000 diamond ring that ended up in the City’s possession.
“That person can tell their spouse that their cherished diamond ring is gone for good, but on the bright side, the City credits them in parking for ten percent of its estimated value, in this case $500. That’s quite a lot of parking. Not a huge amount. But quite a lot.”
They’ve had some pretty imaginative items pawned.
“We get a lot of cats. They can’t be too old and must be purebreds with resale value, like Siamese. Unfortunately some people leave their worthless tabbys, thinking that will cover a quick dash into Family Dollar. That never turns out well, for them or the cat.”
Even more surprising is that some people leave drugs, and it is allowed.
“We’re desperate to raise cash for the City coffers, so we will happily accept cigarettes, liquor as long as it’s unopened, and even drugs based on their current street value.”
This raises the question of whether this might lead to a visit by a DEA SWAT team.
“That question is above my pay grade, but, as far as parking on Smithfield Street for fifteen minutes is concerned, if you’ve left us a dime bag, you’re golden.”