Over the last year 5th Square, has called for the enforcement of the existing laws that prohibit median parking on South Broad Street. To those not familiar with this practice, drivers park their cars in the middle of busy Broad Street in South Philadelphia, sometimes to avoid metered spots or permit parking. After parking their cars in the middle of this highly trafficked corridor, they must dart between moving cars to get to the sidewalk, resulting in an unsafe condition for motorists and pedestrians alike.
Last year after illegal parking was enforced during the Democratic National Convention, we launched a petition calling for the continued enforcement of this illegal practice. With more than 1,000 signatures from residents, we saw a groundswell of support. However, one year later, the illegal practice still remains. In light of this, last week we filed a lawsuit to call on the city and Parking Authority to perform their mandated duties to end illegal and unsafe parking on South Broad. We strongly believe that the city and Parking Authority must act for the safety and well-being of Philadelphians to enforce the laws.
We know from crash statistics that the laissez faire approach to traffic safety is not working. The statistics paint a grim picture of the fatalities that have occurred along South Broad where a blind eye has been turned to enforcement. PennDOT crash data from 2008-2016 reveals that every single pedestrian death on South Broad occurred south of Washington Avenue, the stretch where illegally parked cars consume the median’s buffer zones, turning lanes, and crosswalks. From City Hall to Washington Avenue, where enforcement occurs, there have been zero pedestrian deaths in this same span. This is particularly astounding given the much higher foot traffic and vehicle counts in Center City compared with South Philly.
The allowance of illegal parking on the South Broad Street median is a microcosm of Philadelphia government’s hands-off approach to street safety. This has resulted in Philadelphia consistently ranking as one of the most dangerous cities for drivers in the entire country. While Philadelphia has adopted the Vision Zero platform, with a goal of reducing traffic fatalities to zero, we have seen very little implementation of this platform on our city streets.
It is not from a lack of funds that this is done, but rather a lack of will. There exist a number of inexpensive solutions that can be rapidly implemented that would save residents from injury and death, such as safety posts, speed cushions, and intersection daylighting. These simple solutions need to be rapidly rolled out citywide to ensure residents and visitors have safe and accessible streets. Rather than perform expensive retrofits, every new paving project should incorporate these designs unless found to be technically unfeasible. Doing so will reduce overhead, increase rollout, and ensure residents get the safe streets they deserve.
A common critique to enforcement on the median is that these parking spaces are necessary due to space constraints. 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.
We need the city to move forward with solutions that will address these concerns. Unfortunately, the proposed ideas from City Council will take us in the wrong direction. Shortly before Council’s summer recess, a bill was introduced that will adversely increase housing prices by mandating more expensive off-street parking and do nothing to address parking concerns in rowhome neighborhoods. Rather, if Council wants to alleviate the parking crunch, the city needs to implement neighborhood-wide permit parking, roll out demand-based pricing for meters and permits, and support our neighborhood commercial corridors and transportation options through improved land use management. These solutions are readily available, easily implemented, and have been proven to provide more spaces.
In a growing city such as Philadelphia, it is imperative that the city takes a proactive approach to resident safety, parking management, and land use. We cannot continue the status quo of turning a blind eye to these important matters. I believe that we can and must address these issues and provide a safer and better Philadelphia for all.
Jake Liefer is co-founder of 5th Square, Philly’s urbanist political action committee.