Jake Liefer, the co-founder of self-proclaimed “urbanist” political action committee 5th Square, filed suit on July 20 against the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia Parking Authority to get the two groups to stop motorists from parking on the Broad Street median in South Philly.
Parking on the Broad Street median is a longstanding tradition, although it’s technically against the law.
The strip in question runs approximately 1.5 miles, from Washington Avenue to Oregon Avenue. When full, the strip can hold approximately 200 cars, according to PlanPhilly.
In the suit, Liefer says that a central mission of 5th Square “is to advocate for the public safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists in Philadelphia,” citing public safety.
Median parking is necessitated by the scarcity of public parking space in South Philadelphia. The suit says it’s the PPA’s job “to provide adequate parking services for residents of and visitors to Philadelphia” and to “enforce traffic statutes, ordinances and regulations.” The suit adds that the Philadelphia City Code says cars parking on a two-way highway, for which Broad Street qualifies, “shall be positioned parallel to and with the right-hand wheels within twelve (12) inches of the right-hand curb or, in the absence of a curb, as close as practicable to the right edge of the right-hand shoulder.”
Like everyone else in the city, the PPA and local police routinely see the cars parking in the median on Broad. Their failure to issue tickets to those vehicles, the suit says, “is in violation of their mandated duties … [and] creates a dangerous condition for those walking, driving or bicycling down Broad Street.”
Neither the PPA nor Philadelphia police have yet responded to the suit.
Police did clear out the medians during the Democratic National Convention, and 5th Square circulated a petition to make the move permanent. Mayor Kenney and others declined to take a stance on that, and there has been little movement since. (A Philly.com poll at that time found 68 percent of respondents in favor of enforcing a parking ban.)
Longtime South Philly residents have had some choice words for the lawsuit, saying the loss of median parking would adversely affect neighbors and local businesses.
In an Op-Ed for the Inquirer, longtime resident Joe LiTrenta wrote: “I do not want the future of my neighborhood to be decided by people who don’t understand the challenges we face each day. I propose that South Philadelphians, old and new, work together to find practical solutions to the chronic parking problem. For now, I must defend median parking so that we can use the spaces available to us.”
LiTrenta also said the suit’s allegations of safety issues are overblown, that half of the pedestrian fatalities on South Broad between 2008 and 2016 occurred in areas where there is no median parking, and that there’s no real evidence the pedestrian fatalities were related to median parking.
“As a proud graduate of the Philadelphia School District, I know that correlation does not equal causation,” LiTrenta wrote.