City parking solution disputed

Letter takes jab at 12th Avenue rules

The Altoona Parking Authority doesn’t plan to change its rules for 12th Avenue, despite a recent letter that tweaks the authority — and Penn State Altoona — for “self-congratulatory” statements about having solved the perennial downtown parking problem.

Those statements, alleged to be self-congratulatory, appeared in an Oct. 4 Mirror article about a change in parking arrangements made for this school year — redirecting students from 42 spots in the skinny lot behind Bill Sell’s Bold restaurant that had been designated for them previously, to the Transportation Center parking garage, where there’s plenty of room, while keeping 60 spaces designated for students along 13th Avenue next to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.

“We believe we have come to a good solution that can be consistent from year to year,” stated authority Executive Director Patrick Miller in the story. “I think it’s working.”

It’s not working for the organizations with offices a block away on 12th Avenue that rent space in the Gable’s Building, according to letter signers State Rep. John McGinnis, Pam Mitchell of Keystone Connect, Ami Ingold of Express Employment, Kelly Williams of Tommy Talks PA and Michael DePiro of DePiro Entertainment & Designs.

The authority’s and college’s belief that the problem has been largely solved may stem less from its actually having been solved than from “12th Avenue businesses giving up,” the letter states.

Twelfth Avenue is “where clients of Blair Senior Services and the Gable’s Office Building seem most inconvenienced,” the letter states.

“When people come to the Gable’s Building, their first comment is often about the lack of parking or how far they have to walk,” the letter states.

Many are seniors or people with disabilities, the letter adds.

A significant percentage of street spaces — the ones that are most desirable — are taken by students, according to Mitchell, who spoke to the Mirror by phone, adding that she does not blame Penn State alone for the problem.

Student vehicles can be identified by their college parking stickers, she said.

Her main concern is for the seniors and people with disabilities who jaywalk slowly across the avenue as traffic bears down because they couldn’t find a space on the side of the avenue where they need to go, Mitchell said.

“It’s very scary,” she said. “I brace myself and pray.”

“Students are human,” and like everyone else, they want to park where it’s most convenient, Mitchell said.

But she would appreciate it if they would leave the street spaces and “utilize the options Penn State has provided,” she said.

While the students are directed to use the Greek church lot or the Transpor­tation Center parking garage, they’re not prohibited from using the street by any city ordinance, Miller said.

The authority has no intention of trying to prohibit them from parking on the street, given that the legality of doing so may be questionable, and given that the students themselves are sometimes customers, Miller said.

One possible relief for the patrons of the 12th Avenue organizations is the surface lot across from the Mishler Theatre, Miller said.

It has metered spaces.

Mitchell said she was unaware the lot was available for public parking.

Maybe better signs would make more people aware of that availability, she said.

If seniors and people with disabilities used that lot, they would be more likely to cross the street at a crosswalk, which would be safer, she said.

The parking garage is also available to those who patronize the 12th Avenue organizations, but the climb up 13th Street hill from 11th Avenue is difficult, especially in winter, Mitchell said.

The city periodically tries to help matters on 12th Avenue with a flashing speed warning sign and sandwich board signs in the middle alerting motorists to pedestrians, Mitchell said.

But the problem persists, she said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.