Fairmount frustrated over parking

City officials met with the Fairmount Civic Association last week to address parking concerns.

In a special meeting, Thursday, May 5, the Fairmount Civic Association heard answers to many parking and transportation concerns from five area municipal and private groups.

Present were representatives from the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the 9th Police District, Philadelphia Streets Department, PhillyCarShare and Zip Car. Also invited were SEPTA and Bicycle Ambassadors, but neither attended the meeting.

Two traffic directional issues were first addressed. Charles Denny, the Streets Department’s assistant chief traffic engineer, said drivers traveling east on Fairmount Avenue do not have to stop at the intersection when turning left onto 22nd Street. The official stop line is beyond that corner, near the point where 22nd Street meets Fairmount Avenue from the south.

Many of the night’s questions concerned parking. Officer Tracy Lewis from the 9th District said police rarely ticket double-parked cars because they know parking is tough in the neighborhood.

She also said “No Parking” signs put up by home owners are illegal and will not be enforced by the police. Denny, however, added that the signs are allowed if they refer to the area in front of legitimate driveways. The size of the no-parking area cannot exceed the size of the curb cut for the driveway.

Denny also said it is illegal to park any part of a car on the sidewalk, not just the entire vehicle.

Linda Bradley of the Philadelphia Parking Authority said Residential Permit Parking Agreements (PPA) will be enforced by police. If people see that violators are not being ticketed, they should call PPA.

She added that rules governing residential parking zones, such as the hours for permit-only parking, might differ between zones because those rules are decided by the residents of the areas defined in their agreement and can be changed only by a petition by a resident.

Owners of corner properties on blocks with permit parking can have a voice in the matter only if their address is on the block in question. She added that a business on a block that is 70 percent residential has no say in permit agreement. If 70 percent of a block is businesses, permit parking cannot be established.

Steve Lorenz, assistant chief highway engineer for the Streets Department, said the city tries to resurface streets every 10 to 15 years, but because the federal government recently forced Philadelphia to redo all the handicap corner ramps in the city, that schedule might be moved up.

He said one corner cut ramp costs from $4,000 to $6,000. When the costs for repaving streets are averaged out, he added, the ramps account for half the total expense.

In Fairmount, two streets are scheduled for resurfacing in late summer or early fall: the 2700 block of Brown Street and 27th Street between Brown and Parrish streets, he said.

Lorenz also told meeting attendees to call the city’s 311 non-emergency line if road cuts by public and private utilities have not been resurfaced. “We need assistance from the public on these problems.”

The re-striping of a street’s traffic lanes is done at the time of their repaving, he said, adding that if a request is made to address a specific problem, the Streets Department will investigate the matter.

Lewis said people should call 911 if their vehicle’s registration sticker has been stolen. Not only is it the report of a specific crime, it also helps the police establish a crime pattern in the neighborhood. Lewis also said people cannot remove stickers when the car is not in use and display them when driving to keep them from being stolen.

Paula Robinson, the 9th District community relations officer, said anyone who suspects that a car has been abandoned should call 311 and police will investigate the matter.

PPA’s Bailey also said the city allows three handicap-only parking spaces per block where parking is allowed on one side of the street, and four such spaces per block with parking on both sides of the street. She also said if homeowner has put a cone in a parking space to reserve a handicapped spot and no complaint is made when someone else parks there, the need for a handicapped permit can be investigated by a doctor.

She said an investigation will also be made when the handicapped person has died and the reserved spot is still marked. But she warned that the review is a 45-day process.

The Streets Department’s Lorenz added that it is illegal for anyone to reserve a spot for any other reason, such as to save a cleared space after a snowfall.

The onset of electric cars has placed the need for the consideration of new regulations by the Streets Department, and Denny said regulations on such vehicles will be posted this summer with a 30-day comment period before they become active.

As an example of one such regulation, he said an owner of an electric car petitioning to install a charging station must prove that they do own such a vehicle and get a permit from the Department of Licenses and Inspections.

There would be a limit of four charging stations per block, he added.

Denny also said bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as any other driver. But he added that police are not as likely to ticket bicyclists as much as other drivers. Last year, he said, fewer than 100 tickets were issued to bicyclists.

Double-parking in a bicycle lane, he said, is as illegal as doing so in any other traffic lane.

Beth Mohan Resta, marketing manager for Zip Car, a for-profit car share business which has parking spots for its vehicles in Fairmount, said the company recently received a $140,000 grant to install 20 electric car charging stations throughout the city for the electric cars they will add to their fleet.

Zip Car recently made a deal to buy 18 Chevy Volts, which run only on electricity, she added.

Heather Nawoj, marketing manager for the non-profit PhillyCarShare, said her organization also has many spots in the neighborhood. “We’re always looking for new spots,” she said. “This is a very good neighborhood for us.”••