Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Zoorific! Parking will be more plentiful at the Philadelphia Zoo, but will it tame traffic?

So the Philadelphia Zoo is going to build a great-big parking garage. Will it tame the traffic?

Zoorific! Parking will be more plentiful at the Philadelphia Zoo, but will it tame traffic?

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This afternoon being downright springlike, a Mom's thoughts turn to the Philadelphia Zoo, a place as lovely to whittle away a day as any in the region, presuming you can get there before dark.

I speak of Zoo Traffic, that KYW shorthand for traffic on I-76 backing up for miles for no discernible reason other than the fact that every parent in Pennsylvania had the same idea for getting their kids out of the house.

Zoo Traffic is a seasonal affliction, as evidenced by the lead of my 2010 column documenting the disease:

At 10 a.m. the day after Easter, the spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania State Police saw something she'd never seen before: troopers closing the Girard Avenue exit ramps on both sides of the Schuylkill Expressway for the sole purpose of thinning automotive herds en route to the Philadelphia Zoo.

That minivan jams stretched across county - even state - lines was not entirely surprising. But on a Monday morning,after a gloriously warm four-day holiday weekend (Thursday through Sunday) that lured a record-shattering 58,000 people to Monkey Junction? Rarely has one institution's success caused such collateral irritation.

That column explained how 1.3 million people visit the nation's first zoo each year and 80 percent of them arrive by car. Daily attendance can top 10,000, but the zoo inexplicably has less than 1,500 parking spaces.

Zoo management assured me help was on the way, in the form of an "intermodal transportation center" with a 1,000-spot garage on Girard Avenue, to be paid for in part with a $7 million federal grant.

Last week, the Zoo made good on that promise, or at least, a version thereof: The Zoo won zoning approval for a 683-space garage to be built by the spring of 2013. The $24 million project -- financed by the Zoo, the state, city and federal government -- includes new lighting, landscaping and unspecified "traffic enhancements." 

Zoo president Vikram Dewan did not say more about how 683 more parking spots would ease the congestion on the road, but he did note in the press release that "the ultimate goal" is to get a train stop in front of the fun spot.

--Monica Yant Kinney

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Blinq is a news commentary blog featuring contributions from Inquirer Metro columnists Kevin Riordan and Daniel Rubin.

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