A judge has dismissed a lawsuit aimed at getting the Police Department and the Philadelphia Parking Authority to end the long-standing practice of allowing motorists to park in the Broad Street median in South Philadelphia.
Common Pleas Court Judge Daniel J. Anders tossed the suit “with prejudice” on Wednesday in an order upholding objections raised by the PPA.
The plaintiffs’ attorney did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Jake Liefer, the cofounder of “urbanist” political action committee 5th Square, filed suit July 20 in a bid to end parking on the median, which, while a long-standing tradition, is technically against the law.
5th Square also did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The strip in question runs approximately 1.5 miles, from Washington to Oregon Avenues. It can hold about 200 cars, according to PlanPhilly.
In the suit, Liefer said a central mission of 5th Square was “to advocate for the public safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists in Philadelphia.”
A running argument for median parking, though not supported by statistics, is that it is necessitated by the scarcity of parking spaces in South Philadelphia. Liefer has said, “While there is a parking crunch in some neighborhoods, the attribution for this is the limited effort to introduce true solutions to parking management. As can be seen with the median parking, the city’s response has been to ignore the issue rather than find a solution.”
The suit said it was 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 added that the City Code says cars parking on a two-way highway “shall be positioned parallel to and with the right-hand wheels within twelve 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.”
The PPA and police routinely see cars parking in the median. 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.”
Police 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 the 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 businesses.
In an op-ed column 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.”
This story has been revised to reflect that there is no statistical support for the argument that parking on the Broad Street median is necessitated by the scarcity of public parking spaces in South Philadelphia.