RANDY MALONE has a backhoe problem.
A backhoe is a large piece of construction equipment on wheels, and a few times a week you can find one parked overnight on Malone's residential Fishtown block. Malone said that it's been like this ever since he moved to this block, almost two years ago.
His main issue with the backhoe is that it takes up more than one parking spot. It's an "old, classic . . . backhoe," Malone said, which means that it's about 18 to 22 feet in length.
"So you can imagine the space it kinda eats up on a small block," he said.
We've talked with other people who have dealt with commercial vehicles, usually trucks, parking on residentiall blocks, and they cite other problems, too, like crosswalk visibility and a truck's attraction to graffitists.
The trucks are not supposed to be there.
According to the city code, commercial vehicles with a carrying capacity of more than 1.5 tons aren't allowed to park on residential streets overnight.
The problem, however, is getting the law enforced. Last spring, Councilwoman Marian Tasco sponsored three bills outlawing truck-parking on specific blocks in Lawndale. Wait - isn't that already against the law? Yes, the bills were "redundant," Tasco said, but she hoped they would increase enforcement from the cops that had been lacking.
The bills passed, but they haven't really made a difference, Tasco said.
"I'm still calling the 14th District [police]," she said.
Hoping for some enforcement in his neighborhood, Malone called the Parking Authority, 3-1-1, and his police district. Nothing happened to the backhoe.
The PPA, he learned, doesn't come to Fishtown, so this would be a job for the cops. But the only way to get the cops to come out is to call 9-1-1, a cop told Malone.
That won't work for Malone, who refuses to call the emergency number for a nonemergency.
HELLO, 9-1-1? I HAVE A NON-EMERGENCY: First question: Do you really have to call 9-1-1 to get a cop to ticket a truck on a residential block?
Yep, you really do.
"I know it sounds silly," said police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers, "but everything has to go through 9-1-1."
That's just the way cops are dispatched, Evers said.
But there's hope yet. We called 3-1-1 director Rosetta Lue to ask if we'll ever be able to call 3-1-1 for nonemergency police issues, like parking or noisy neighbors. The city has just started working on that, she said.
Right now, there's only one police issue you can call 3-1-1 about - abandoned vehicles. But Lue hopes that 3-1-1 will handle more of those issues in the future.
The bad news is that it'll be 18 months before that takes effect.
But it's good that it's on the city's radar.
A BACKHOE BY ANY OTHER NAME: Second question: Does Malone have to live with that backhoe?
The short answer is, probably not.
But the longer answer is, the city makes this issue complicated.
Andrew Stober, chief of staff at the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, said that even though overnight truck parking on residential streets is against the law, the police and PPA will enforce that law only if there's a "No Truck Parking" sign on your block.
Stober said that this is probably so neighbors can decide what's acceptable on their block. If, say, there are a lot of small-business owners there, maybe residents wouldn't mind if a truck or two was parked on the block overnight. They've gotta park somewhere, right?
You can request a "No Truck Parking" sign from the Streets Department by clicking on "report a problem" at philadelphia streets.com and choosing "sign request." If you don't get a response, give us a call.
The Police Department said it doesn't require a sign to enforce the truck rule, though the PPA said it does. But would one of these signs even work for Malone? Does the backhoe count as a truck?
PPA spokeswoman Linda Miller said the PPA relies on commercial plates to identify commercial vehicles, has never ticketed a backhoe and probably never would.
Police spokeswoman Officer Tanya Little, on the other hand, said that police would ticket a backhoe.
Since none of this is very coherent, we recommend that Malone cover all his bases, request the sign and just call 9-1-1. He can also wait the 18 months until 3-1-1 takes police calls.
As for the city and its enforcement agencies, maybe it's time to get on the same page about this stuff.