The recent Inquirer article on the Parking Authority enforcement patrols on the streets of Center City really got me riled up, so much so that I thought I would report an episode that happened a week ago today. To the best of my recollections, this is how it went.
First of all, advice to all Center City drivers: If you are parking on the street, chances are that in bitter cold and heavy rain, Parking Authority enforcers are usually nowhere to be seen, because they don’t like bad weather. Park at your own risk, but I thought you would like to know.
So, here’s what happened:
2:05 P.M. — Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The exact location is being withheld to protect the names of the guilty. I have just parked in a lot nearby. As I cross the street, a driver is arguing with a Parking Authority ticket writer.
DRIVER: “Wait a second. Hold up. I was just coming out to put some more quarters in…”
ENFORCER: ” I don’t give a d____n!”
DRIVER: “But this is horrible. I mean, the meter JUST ran out.”
ENFORCER : (Writing ticket quickly) ” Not my problem.. get the hell out of my face… got it.”
DRIVER: ” This is the worst ______city…. I will never come back to shop here… ”
ENFORCER : Not my problem….
DRIVER kicks pavement and extends finger signal to enforcer.
ENFORCER : “Not my problem…”
The enforcer retreated to a nearby coffee shop (national chain.) The driver put some quarters in and went back to where she was shopping.
The story looked like business as usual to me until I read the Inquirer article about a driver who faced a similar and agressive enforcer. It reminded me that Center City really needs shoppers to stay viable, and that overly zealous parking enforcers could be a serious problem.
So I have several recommendations to the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
1. Give people a grace period, maybe five minutes slack time, especially in areas of business where revenue is very important.
2. Teach some of your enforcers how to deal with people.
3. Attach pleasant messages on your tickets explaining the role of enforcers. In addition, how about making a deal with some merchants for “parker’s discounts.” SEPTA does some good marketing in that arena.
People who come into the city need some incentives. The scene I described above is fairly common. Many people are turned off by harsh parking enforcement.
The Parking Authority needs to understand its role in making Philadelphia a better place to visit, not a place that is hard to navigate.
Not everyone can afford garage parking. Not everyone takes Septa. The Parking Authority needs to think less about patronage, and more about patrons!