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Pirates When it comes to parking, the Pirates want walks

Sunday, April 15, 2001

By Joe Grata, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Listen up, Pirates fans. Your schooling begins today, because getting to and from PNC Park on the North Shore is a whole new ball game.

"If people do things the old way, we can fail," said Steve Greenberg, the Pirates vice president for ballpark development. "People have to learn that they won't be able to drive to their seats."

Unlike Three Rivers Stadium, which was surrounded by sprawling parking lots and a sea of cars whose drivers bought spaces on a first-come, first-served basis, PNC Park is an urban ballpark with limited, advanced purchase, reserved parking that's close and convenient -- for up to $1,245 a season.

The pricey reserved lots and the new, nearby parking garage are served by city streets with only so much traffic capacity. Several of those streets will be closed to create a pedestrian-only zone around PNC Park.

And because PNC Park is in a North Shore neighborhood, much like old Forbes Field was in Oakland, smart people will avoid trying to drive right up to the admission gates.

What are most fans to do?


Whether people set out by car, bus, light rail, taxi or boat, they'll have to walk at least a little bit. Normally, no more than 1,000-1,500 feet each way, and that's by crossing from Downtown to the North Side on the Roberto Clemente Memorial Bridge at Sixth Street, which will be closed before and after games to all but fans, plus a few vendors, musicians and street performers.

The Clemente Bridge over the Allegheny River is 800 feet long, about the same walk many people took from the far reaches of parking lots around Three Rivers Stadium.

"We've probably put as much time and effort into transportation, parking and access plans as we've put in the ball park," Greenberg said. "We know what went wrong at Three Rivers Stadium. It was the whirlpool effect created by too many cars circling the stadium," often in vain and causing confusion when the parking lots became filled.

When events ended, too many cars had too few escape routes, resulting in slow-moving queues and frustrating trips home.

"What's amazing about PNC Park is that we actually have more parking" close to PNC Park than Three Rivers Stadium, Greenberg said. About 6,000 spaces on the North Shore, including private lots and the Allegheny Center garage, and 10,000 spaces Downtown within a 10-minute walk.

Altogether, Downtown can accommodate 22,000 cars at 61 lots and garages, although the best price will be $3 at garages operated by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, including two within a ballplayer's throw of the Clemente Bridge, Stanwix Garage and the Fort Duquesne-Sixth Street Garage.

The Port Authority will offer special shuttle bus service on three "96" routes from peripheral parking lots at Station Square, Mellon Arena and the Strip District starting 90 minutes before each game for $1 each way. The authority will honor transfers and discount fare plans such as monthly and weekly passes.

"We've worked closely with the Pirates to come up with complete packages," Pittsburgh parking czar Merrill Stabile Jr. said. He'll charge $3 for 1,500 Strip District spaces to be competitive with the parking authority.

The Port Authority also is offering special PNC Park bus trips from Century III Mall, Showcase Cinema North, Monroeville Mall and on the 97D Ohio Valley route that begins at the Coraopolis park-and-ride lot for tomorrow's home opener, and all weekend and holiday games thereafter. Passes and zone tickets can be used.

All buses will discharge riders, and pick them up after games, along Fort Duquesne Boulevard on the Downtown side of the Clemente Bridge.

The Gateway Clipper Fleet has guaranteed three boats will operate each game, carrying up to 3,500 people by water.

The Pirates and the Port Authority have no idea how many will travel by light-rail, whose Wood Street subway station is a three-block walk from the Clemente Bridge, or about 1,500 feet from PNC Park.

Three zones have been created around the ballpark for game days: Zone 1, a pedestrian-only area encompassing the Clemente Bridge, the lower part of Federal Street, the southbound two lanes of General Robinson and upper end of Mazeroski Way; Zone 2 for the pre-sold reserved parking close to the ball park; Zone 3, the so-called "public zone" on the North Shore, Downtown and at peripherial parking lots.

"Federal Street (north-south) and the Allegheny River (east-west) are invisible lines that we don't want people [in cars] to cross," Greenberg said.

The goal, Greenberg said, is to get ballpark crowds in and out in 30 minutes or less.

Following are some additional PNC Park transportation notes:

*The Pirates have set aside 2 percent, or a total of 66 spaces, in the reserved parking lots and new parking garage as handicapped spaces. People must call in advance to reserve them.

*Charter buses will be parked two abreast on General Robinson Street .

*Taxis, limousines and paratransit vehicles will drop off and pick up passengers at a specially-designated area at the south end of Mazeroski Way, near near the river.

*Although work is continuing on relocating North Shore Drive, two lanes have been opened for the opener.

*The high occupancy vehicle lanes on I-279 will be open outbound after games. Fans can enter the HOV lanes on Anderson Street (north of the Ninth Street Bridge), two blocks east of PNC Park.

*The Pirates suggest people from Butler who normally use Routes 8 and 28 to use I-279, parking at Allegheny Center Mall or crossing the Fort Duquesne Bridge to Downtown.

*Highway signs have been changed from "Three Rivers Stadium" and "Stadium" to "North Shore Destinations" and "North Shore."

Next: Buy me some peanuts and uh, sushi?

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