I never thought I’d be eager to see The Man come to town to straighten things out and restore law and order.
By The Man, I’m talking about the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the much loathed and, thanks to a reality TV show, an internationally infamous gang of big-ticket-dealing parking law enforcers. They’re friends of no one – enemies of all who drive.
In case you missed it, the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation, a local, nonprofit organization responsible for the free lots in Chestnut Hill, decided late last year to transition its lots to a system in which parkers will pay for parking at kiosks. The Philadelphia Parking Authority has been invited to enforce the parking in the foundation’s lots. The foundation simply doesn’t have the resources to enforce parking regulations.
It seems to me like the change might be coming just in time. For the last two months, something has started to happen in Chestnut Hill’s Parking Foundation lots that I haven’t seen before. There are nearly no parking spaces left. In the many years of parking in Chestnut Hill, and parking specifically in those lots (I buy a pass from the Parking Foundation), I don’t remember the lots ever being so full. It has reached the point where I’m nervous about leaving for lunch or an interview. I’m not guaranteed a spot when I get back.
I hear that I’m not the only one who has noticed the pattern. There’s rumblings among the business owners that parking has become a problem. My guess is that it’s the double edged sword of success. The Hill has had a number of good restaurant and retail additions in the last few months. Iron Hill, alone, has brought a more than 250-seat restaurant to the Avenue. That in and of itself is a strain on parking. It seems that we’re way beyond the days when the biggest lot users were people running into their local bank.
Now, it seems we have a basic crunch of parking – a mix of people running errands, shopping and getting lunch or dinner. Those people – and their cars – are looking to find space in lots that have for some time been occupied by the cars of local employees. A lot of people work on the Avenue during the day and they’ve been parking in lots, I suppose, illegally.
When the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation installs kiosks in its lots some time in the near future, the so-called freeloaders will be out of the lots. So, too, will be the cheapskates, the parkers who won’t put a quarter in a meter out of stubborn principle. (For the record, I’m usually just such a person. I’ve parked many blocks from my destinations in Center City, South Philly and Manayunk to save a few dollars on parking.)
Will things improve when the Parking Authority arrives to police the lots? For me, it will be an improvement. My guess is that there will be space to park.
I’m not sure what, though, the freeloaders and cheapskates should do. I’m not really concerned about the cheapskates, but I am a little concerned about the freeloaders. These are the people who work on the Avenue and probably can’t really afford to pay monthly parking rates to the Parking Foundation.
Maybe there’s something that can be done about that. Some businesses could buy spots for their employees. Or perhaps they’ll just have to get used to parking on side streets, taking public transportation more often or biking it. I know I’m starting to seriously consider getting a scooter I can park in back of the office, taking up no parking spaces.
The new parking system should improve things for many. It will not, as some worry, kill business in Chestnut Hill. But the changes will bring about some growing pains that I hope we find ways to manage.
I can get behind a more organized and fair system for shopper parking in Chestnut Hill, but I’d hate to see it unfairly penalize the many people who work on the Avenue.