Downtown Parking Rates

What are these maps?

Visual representations of parking rates in Downtown. We mapped the daily maximum rates and the 3-hour rates of all parking facilities that make up the Downtown parking ecosystem. For purposes of this project, we only considered “public facilities,” defined as those parking spaces available on a regular basis to Downtown commuters and visitors. We have included garages and parking lots operated by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority as well as by private individuals and companies. This map covers parking facilities in Downtown, the Strip District, the North Shore, Uptown, and Station Square. Many people that come to Downtown choose to park their cars in these neighborhoods, so we consider these areas a vital part of the Downtown parking ecosystem. 

What can we learn from these maps?

The map below shows daily maximum parking rates by parking facility.  It tell us that cheaper parking rates start as low as $3 - $7 on areas such as the Strip District, the North Shore, and Uptown, where the distance to commercial and employment centers is larger. At the same time, we can observe how prices go up as we get closer to the Downtown Core. The Convention Center, the Consol Center, and Market Square garages all offer medium to high parking rates. Some facilities located on the Cultural District and the First Side Corridor charge lower prices, despite their location close to the Downtown Core. 

Similarly, the heat map below shows the concentration of daily maximum parking rates across Downtown and its surrounding areas. Blue and yellow sections group cheaper parking facilities, while orange and red areas indicate more expensive parking options. Again, we can see how areas of high pricing are located close to key employment corridors, particularly around Market Square, Grant Street, the Cultural District, and the Gateway Center. In contrast, parking facilities located on the North Shore and the Strip District tend to charge lower rates. Station Square and the Consol Center Garage offer medium range rates.

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In further analysis of distribution we classified parking facilities by operator. The highlighted points on the map below show structured parking facilities owned by public authorities (Public Parking Authority of Pittsburgh - PPA - and the Sports and Exhibition Authority - SEA - in this case), while all the other ones are operated by private individuals or companies. The map demonstrates the wide distribution of publicly owned garages throughout Downtown.  In comparing price, PPA and SEA garages generally offer lower rates than the private facilities; this difference can notably be seen in the Market Square and Cultural District areas.  

In an effort to better understand parking rates and find interesting trends, we also mapped the 3-hour parking rate for all public facilities. It is relevant to include the 3-hour rate in our analysis because it impacts visitors and commuters that spend just a few hours in Downtown. As we can see in the map, the 3-hour rate price distribution is consistent with the pattern observed on the daily maximum rates map. Once again, the most expensive areas are located close to key employment corridors or event areas. However, it is worth noticing that some of the parking facilities located in the Downtown Core that offer medium to high daily maximum rates also charge medium to low 3-hour rates, particularly those close to Mellon Square. 

Why is it important?

All this data allows us to explore, among other things, if parking prices are correlated to demand. If so, it is worth analyzing how we can use pricing to impact downtown commuters’ and visitors’ behavior. This data is also useful to better coordinate how garages operate as a system that supports the development and vitality of Downtown and its adjacent areas. In particular, an exploration of parking rates presents a key opportunity to leverage public ownership of key garages and to understand how public pricing decisions impact the entire parking ecosystem.

The information obtained from the Make My Trip Count Survey (MMTC) gave us an understanding of where people park and work. Further steps could involve layering the MMTC information on top of the pricing data, in an effort to better understand why people are choosing to park where they do. It would also be interesting to analyze how these prices change during sports or cultural events to accommodate the accompanying greater parking demand.

Editors Note: Martina Gesell is a masters candidate at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Martina has joined the Envision Downtown team for the summer as a research intern and will be focusing on expanding our understanding of parking supply/demand, future mobility trends related to parking and leveraging relevant Make My Trip Count data. Expect more great things from her over the next few months