October proved to be a frustrating month for a group of Deutschtown residents who have been trying to convince the city to convert a traffic lane into a parking lane for eight years.
The lane in question, the eastbound curb lane of E. North Avenue between Cedar Avenue and Middle Street, carries hundreds of cars heading for I-279 each day during the afternoon rush hour.
In 2003, the East Allegheny Community Council convinced the city to turn the westbound curb lane into parking between Cedar Avenue and Middle Street, but EACC has been unable to do the same with the eastbound curb lane.
On Oct. 12, Pittsburgh City Council granted EACC a public hearing, but only Council President Darlene Harris and a small group of Deutschtown residents attended.
Nick Kyriazi, EACC board member leading the charge, expressed frustration at council’s lack of interest in the issue.
“We just need to confront Mayor Ravenstahl and make him do it,” Kyriazi said.
Kyriazi said that the issue was not actually parking, but moving traffic away from the houses that line North Avenue on both sides. Currently, parking is allowed in that lane between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m.
“They’re compromising our quality of life,” he said of the hundreds of cars whizzing past the houses each day.
The city’s Department of Public Works said that changing the lane into a parking lane would only cause commuter traffic to turn onto local streets, creating a nuisance there instead of on North Avenue.
Municipal Traffic Engineer Amanda Purcell said in an e-mail that during peak rush hour, which is between 4 and 5 p.m., a total of 800 cars travel on eastbound North Avenue toward the highway. That number includes 315 in the curb lane and 485 in the left lane.
Kyriazi argued that commuters mainly use the left lane, and that diverting those 315 cars onto other neighborhood streets would not cause a significant problem since, he said, many of them are locals heading across the Spring Garden Avenue highway overpass into East Deutschtown and other neighborhoods on that side of the highway.
Purcell said that traffic in the curb lane does move more efficiently because drivers are allowed to turn on red at the intersection of East Street and North Avenue (towards Rt. 28, Rt. 65 and I-279 S), but that allowing parking in that lane would cause commuters to seek alternate, faster routes through neighborhood streets like Tripoli and Suismon streets and Foreland Avenue.
The reason the curb lane on the westbound side was turned into parking and the curb lane on the eastbound side should not be, Purcell said, is that there is more traffic traveling eastbound on North Avenue than westbound.
“On an average day, the westbound volume was found to be 2,000 vehicles (27 percent) less than the eastbound volume,” Purcell said in an e-mail.
She speculated that the reason for the lesser westbound traffic volume was because commuters traveling north on I-279 and on Rt. 28 used East Ohio Street in the morning, and North Avenue in the afternoon, but could not say if that was actually the cause.
Kyriazi asked Harris for a trial period in which the south curb lane would become a parking lane.
“Who’s more important, your residents, or your suburban commuters?” Kyriazi asked.
Harris said that she had spoken with the director of Public Works on the community’s behalf multiple times.
“It didn’t sound positive when I talked to the director,” she said.