Stu Bykofsky: Three Bright Ideas for Philly in 2013

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Philadelphia Parking Authority kiosk on 12th Street near Reading Terminal Market. (Tom Gralish / File)

IT'S OFTEN said, with some justification, that columnists bitch about what's wrong but seldom offer sensible solutions.

To close out 2012, I change that with three sensible, low-cost, Bright Ideas:

At the corner you see a crosswalk in white paint. Just before the crosswalk the driver sees a solid, 18-inch-thick white line.

Do you know what that line is called? The stop bar.

Many drivers don't seem to know what it's called or what it means. Many roll over it and up to the crosswalk. In football, that's encroachment. In the Land of Motor Vehicles, it's a violation, but very few tickets are written.

To educate drivers, and to improve compliance and safety for pedestrians, my Bright Idea: When repainting the bar, use a stencil with the words "STOP BAR" cut out. After painting, the words would be in black (road surface), and the rest of the bar would be white.

Everyone would know what the line means, and we might even save some money on paint, because less of it would be used.

 

My colleague Ronnie Polaneczky has feasted many times on the aggressive, efficient (and sometimes erroneous) Philadelphia Parking Authority. I, myself, have snacked on PPA with stories of people who were ticketed when they had done nothing wrong. (I also did a long, sympathetic piece on Parking Enforcement Officers who were verbally or physically assaulted on the job.)

When you look into disputed tickets, you often get an argument between the officer and the car owner. Each thinks he or she is right. Sometimes the motorist has pictures of where the car was parked, but that's not conclusive, because you don't know when the picture was taken.

And that doesn't account for the few officers who write tickets for cars that weren't where they claimed they were to meet their quota. The PPA maintains there is no quota, but the agency knows how many tickets are written during a certain tour, during certain hours - if the officer continually comes up short, the PPA suspects malingering.

My Bright Idea: Give every officer a smartphone. When the ticket is written, the officer snaps a picture of the offending car, clearly showing it in violation - too close to a hydrant, or across the building line, or in a handicapped zone, whatever.

That would prove that the ticket is justified. I also would post the picture online for car owners to view. If they see clear proof that they were wrong, maybe they won't go to adjudication to fight the ticket.

Result? More income for the city and state from fines collected, and fewer people showing up at adjudication.

 

I credit the final Bright Idea to Streets Department Deputy Commissioner David Perri: To resolve the problem of sidewalk cafés taking more sidewalk space than they are entitled to.

He suggests brass markings in the sidewalk, installed at the restaurant owner's expense, showing precisely how far into the sidewalk tables can go. The brass markings would show café sitters and passers-by that the restaurant is in compliance - or not.

That's a simple solution. I'd tack on this idea: Maybe have the brass plates done by local artists, kind of like the Mural Arts Program, but for sidewalks. It could even be something novel that the savvy Greater Philadelphia Travel Marketing Corp. could tout.

Three for you. Happy New Year!

 


Email: stubyko@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Columns: philly.com/Byko