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Philly’s free holiday parking is goodwill when we need it most | Opinion

The PPA's holiday parking discount encourages more people to visit Philadelphia and enjoy our attractions.

Friction Jewelry is pictured at the Christmas Village in Love Park on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017.
Friction Jewelry is pictured at the Christmas Village in Love Park on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

As the holiday season approaches, the Philadelphia Parking Authority prepares and plans for our mission to support the city's economic vitality. The authority has a role in encouraging more people to visit Philadelphia in order to generate tax revenues. On each Saturday during this special time of the year, the PPA suspends parking-meter enforcement to permit free metered parking citywide. The PPA also offers a flat $8 garage parking rate every Saturday after 11 a.m. until New Year's Day at six Center City garages.  We do this to encourage more people to visit Philadelphia and enjoy our shops, restaurants, art centers, and entertainment venues.

Several business groups within Philadelphia are certain there is a positive outcome from these promotions. Visit Philly president and CEO Jeff Guaracino has said: "Free parking during the holidays has been a longtime effective tool and strategy in Philadelphia. Other cities and business districts employ free parking as part of their holiday strategy to attract people downtown."

>> COUNTERPOINT: Philly doesn't need PPA's free holiday parking to entice suburban visitors | Opinion

Center City District president Paul Levy said, "The PPA's free holiday parking promotion is a great positive message that supports hundreds of independently owned, small retailers whose bottom line is often determined during the last four weeks of the year."

We recognize that sound and smart business-based thinking is critical for operational programs. Our economy is competitive and we know that we must provide attractive alternatives for consumers. There are direct financial benefits as we compete against shopping options outside of the city. This relaxed parking tradition makes it easier for people to visit our great city and for Philadelphians to stay here to shop. The goodwill that this small gesture generates, along with millions of dollars in state and city sales tax revenue generated by the thousands of visitors and Philadelphians who will shop and dine here during the holidays, far outweighs the temporary loss of parking revenue.

In a recent tweet, a School District official made the point that if the PPA program encourages people to come into the city to shop and eat, that the district would benefit far more from the increased tax revenues associated with those activities than the forgone PPA revenues.

>> READ MORE: Is free December street parking a boon or bust for Philadelphia?

As an economic and transportation partner with local, state, and federal agencies, we are mindful of the bottom line. Our mission is to serve the people of this great city, help improve the quality of life here, and help make Philadelphia the best city it can be. As a result, in fiscal year 2018 the PPA produced over $119 million directly to the city, local schools, state, and federal government, a 32 percent increase over the past decade.

During this time of year, we recognize more than ever that a small gesture can have a very positive impact. We hope that you will experience all of the great things Philadelphia has to offer.

Scott Petri is executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.