A photo posted last week on Twitter depicted what looked very much like a Philadelphia Parking Authority officer ticketing two official city vehicles parked illegally on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway median. It followed Inga Saffron’s latest Inquirer column, in which she characterized flagrant flouting of parking regulations and lax enforcement on the Parkway as part of a “culture of impunity” that pervades municipal government from the top — epitomized by having two sitting city councilmembers under indictment — on down. The parking insanity Philadelphia has perversely prided itself on for years — like the dangerous median parking on parts of South Broad Street in South Philly— needs to become a thing of the past. And that means the agency in charge of parking needs to step up.
Inevitably, matters of street parking involve the Philadelphia Parking Authority, an independent agency made semi-famous by the Parking Wars reality TV show more than a decade ago, and recently infamous for the abundance of longtime board chairman Joseph Ashdale’s family members on the payroll and the sexual harassment scandal involved former executive director Vincent Fenerty. The authority has long been a bipartisan patronage palace and is perennially useful as a punching bag for love-to-hate-it Philadelphians. The PPA also is involved in an ambitious effort to improve “curbside management” of legal parking spaces as well as space, period, on the streets of Philadelphia. It’s about time: A new vitality in the city means more drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, residents, buses, delivery trucks, and ride-share vehicles competing for space. And as we know, congestion is not just an inconvenience — it has a direct impact on safety, health, and economic activity.
Parking also matters to the coffers of the city and the School District, and to public officials such as Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart. The auditor general’s review of the PPA’s financial and employment practices was completed in 2017 and found the authority had failed to collect $580 million in ticket and fee revenue since 1990 — $108 million of it between 2012 and 2017. Some of that money would flow to the School District, which is third in line, after the authority and the city, for a share of annual PPA revenue.
DePasquale’s office also made 117 recommendations; last year, DePasquale praised the “tremendous progress” being made but also sought to keep the pressure on. A PPA spokesperson said Monday that all but one recommendation has been addressed. The city controller’s audit is still pending.
Enforcement along the Parkway should continue, because the busy boulevard could well have become an uptown version of South Broad Street’s median-as-free-parking zone. Meanwhile, spokespeople for City Hall and the authority are eager to claim the high ground: The PPA “will begin issuing tickets” after two weeks of issuing warnings, a spokesperson said. The Kenney administration put out a memo last Friday warning all departments that enforcement actions are getting underway — and reminding employees they are responsible for paying any parking tickets when using city vehicles.