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Philadelphia Parking Authority: Hide Your Dollars


I am pretty sure that I could sell for a quarter for a dollar in some parts of the city.

These parts of the city would be the areas of town where meters only take quarters. And these quarters only give you seven minutes worth of time. And these meters take no other form of currency. In order to pay for two hours worth of parking, I have to have 17 quarters available.

Economics 101 says that this should result in a price increase for quarters. The supply of the coin remains the same – if you have some in your pocket, you’re good to go. But the demand for quarters is now infinite in certain sections of the city. Thus, the value of the $.25 coin should be worth way more than $.25. But what’s more frustrating, in a few short blocks, one can walk into a section of Center City where the quarter is back to being nothing more than a coin. This is because of the brilliant decision by the Philadelphia Parking Authority to make the parking rules in our city as difficult as possible to obey. On one block, I’ll need to loot an old Frogger video game machine in order to park for two hours. On the next, I can park for 12 hours and use nickels and dimes to contribute to the cause.

A few years ago, I visited Seattle. While Philly’s superior in most ways – we have four professional sports teams and we also aren’t responsible for the continued career of Soundgarden – Seattle had us beat in the parking department. They don’t even have parking meters. All you have to do is buy a sticker from a machine for a certain amount of time. Then this sticker gets placed in your window for a meter maid to see. It’s a simple, easy-to-use system. In fact, we sort of have it here already – there’s one of these machines in front of the City Blue on Main Street. But, of course, it’s only good for one block, whereas the next has completely different parking rules. (And, if you’re going to that part of South Street, you can just park in the Whole Foods parking lot as long as you get your ticket validated. And, also, why the hell would you go to that part of South Street anyways?)

Having a unified parking scheme makes perfect sense to me. But, of course, our meters are run by the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The PPA is widely known as a corrupt, bloated bureaucracy which only serves to burn money. The executive director of the PPA makes $183,000 a year, according to the Inquirer, which still exists. The rest of their high ranking staff also rakes in enough dough to buy enough quarters to park downtown.

In 2007, the governor’s office mandated that the PPA undergo an audit of its procedures. In 2009, a report was filed instead, which said that not enough information was available to actually audit the agency. As quoted in the Inquirer, which probably won’t exist next week, Democratic comptroller Alan Butkovitz said the reason why the audit took so long to complete, and wasn’t even an actual audit, was because of interference from the PPA.

Butkovitz, by the way, is up for election. His Republican opponent, Al Schmidt, was a former auditor for the Government Accountability Office. He’s had to deal with a lot of people a lot more powerful than some glorified paper-pushing meter maid. That’s something to think about when you don’t vote this November.

In the meantime, save your change until real change happens.


 photo: www.ridelust.com 

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