As a lifelong resident of Fishtown, Rose Ellis has seen the parking situation in her neighborhood go from good to bad.
“Here’s an example,” said Ellis on the phone with the Star. “Five minutes ago, I had to stand outside because a spot opened so my husband could come home and park.”
For car-owning residents like Ellis, who has lived on the corner of Frankford and Oxford since 1995, parking has increasingly become a nightmare as the Fishtown neighborhood undergoes more and more gentrification with denser and denser housing. Simple tasks like unloading groceries become more difficult, and oftentimes residents are left with no choice but to double park, further congesting traffic.
“We have considered moving out of the neighborhood,” said Ellis. “We are ready to give it all up for a parking spot.”
The notoriously bad parking situation in Fishtown prompted the Philadelphia Parking Authority to conduct a parking survey in April and May of this year. The results weren’t much of a surprise. The turnover rate on Frankford Avenue was 14 percent and 18 percent on Girard.
This left the PPA with two main suggestions. The first is to install metered parking during the day from 8 a.m. to either 8 p.m. or 10 p.m. After 8 p.m. or 10 p.m., the streets would be available for residential permit parking until 8 a.m. the next morning.
“This would give the patrons of the businesses easier access to parking during the day and residents would be able to take those spaces in the evening hours,” reads the study. “This would be similar to the parking regulations in the area of Washington Ave. and S. Broad St. in South Philadelphia that have proven beneficial for both businesses and residents.”
The second option is “to have metered parking from 8 a.m. until 12 a.m. or 2 a.m. with the
caveat that those who have a valid Residential Parking Permit can park in the zone without having to pay the meter,” says the study.
At a recent Fishtown District meeting, the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s deputy executive director, Corinne O’Connor, said that upon completion of the study business owners in the district would need to put together a petition that shows that 60 percent of them agree to certain parking regulations on the corridor. After that, a letter of approval from the district city councilmember (Darrell Clarke, in this case) must be obtained by the PPA to install the regulations. Once the regulations are installed, an eight-month pilot begins and upon completion of the pilot, the regulations will remain permanent so long as the community stakeholders are still on board.
In an email to residents, the Fishtown Neighbors Association outlined its position on the matter, which is that it supported a regulation pilot period with paid 2-3 hour parking under three conditions:
- MUST HAVE residential parking permit override policy allowing residential permit holders to park free during regulated hours
- MUST INCLUDE a City Council ordinance converting the first block of all intersecting streets bordering Frankford and Girard to permit parking blocks
- Support for more 30-minute loading zones along the corridors
The PPA study also advocated for the inclusion of more loading zones.
“Due to the corridor having several businesses of the grab and go nature,” the study reads, “placing a few Loading Zones outside would give these businesses access to much needed high turnover areas of parking.”
Increasing the number of loading zones could also potentially cut down on the amount of double parking in the neighborhood.
“Our safety committee routinely hears complaints about people double parking, trucks parking in crosswalks,” FNA president Jon Geeting said in a Fishtown District meeting earlier in the year. “People still double park even when there’s a space open. There’s clearly a need to get that under control. It’s totally a Wild West situation now.”
Many residents attribute the increase in businesses in the neighborhood as the key reason for increasing parking difficulties. When the pandemic started, Maggie O’Brien, who lives on the 2400 block of E. Norris St., thought the parking situation was going to get worse.
“I honestly and truly thought that when the pandemic started it would get worse because everybody has to stay home,” said O’Brien. Much to her surprise, parking – believe it or not – got easier.
“It was OK because the two bars up the street from me were closed,” she said, referring to Loco Pez and Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen.
O’Brien said she was in favor of metered parking so long as it came with a residential parking permit override policy. In order for a vehicle to qualify for a residential parking permit, it must be registered to the owner’s home address and have a Pennsylvania license plate, according to the PPA.
Ellis said she would only be in favor of residential parking in the neighborhood.
“This way only residents who have their cars registered here should park here,” she said.
That wasn’t in either of the PPA’s recommendations, and considering the fact that 60 percent of business owners need to agree to parking regulations on the corridor, Ellis’s idea seems like a bit of a pipe dream. But it echoes residents’ frustration with their inability to park their cars.
Back in March, Fishtown business owner Bianca DePietro, who owns a women’s clothing store called Toile, acknowledged that the free and unlimited parking makes it easier for her to park near her store and not have to move throughout the day, but it makes it difficult for her customers who come in to shop or have dress fittings.
In its statement, the FNA requested that the PPA and Fishtown BID host an informational meeting about parking changes before any regulations would go into effect, in an effort to keep residents in the loop.
The Fishtown Business Improvement District’s executive director, Marc Collazzo, told the Star the BID would “make sure there’s sufficient engagement with the community before the implementation of any regulations.”