Philly Parking Authority is Growing
When Pennsylvania's Republican- controlled legislature seized control of the Philadelphia Parking Authority in June 2001, they vowed to transfer $45 million to the city's financially strapped schools. That hasn't happened. What has happened is that the Parking Authority has grown. The authority has added more than 200 jobs. Now topping 700 employees, its payroll is larger than ever.
Authority officials say that most of the hires were needed for Live Stop, the crackdown on illegal drivers that expanded citywide in July. More growth can be expected now that the authority is empowered to regulate the city's 1,600 taxicabs. And the agency will administer a new program using cameras to catch drivers who run red lights.
With the takeover, jobs and contracts are now controlled by Republican legislative leaders rather than city Democratic officials.
"That's a side benefit," said Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader John M. Perzel, the Republican from Northeast Philadelphia who engineered the takeover. The core functions of the Parking Authority are its management of 15,000 parking meters and a handful of garages, and its much-loathed enforcement of parking rules.
The authority expects to generate $117 million in revenue in fiscal 2003 from parking enforcement, including towing and impoundment, and from parking garages. That's up from $114 million in 2002. The revenue pays for the new hires.
The mayor recently proposed an increase in parking fines, including a bump from $15 to $20 for the ubiquitous expired-meter ticket. With the new fines, annual ticket revenue would soar from $39 million to $47 million. The city receives surplus revenue from the authority, so its cut would increase.
The new program has impounded 18,161 vehicles. Of those, 8,604 were released. Presumably, thousands of illegal drivers are now complying with the law.
The authority is now setting its sights on taxicabs. Last Tuesday, Gov. Schweiker signed legislation transferring regulatory oversight of Philadelphia's 1,600 taxis from the state Public Utility Commission to the Parking Authority. The authority also will have oversight of city limousines and access to a $10 million fund to help pay for it all.
Another responsibility for the authority will be testing cameras designed to catch drivers who run red lights. The cost is not yet known, nor whether or not
new employees will be needed.
Some of the most dangerous intersections in the city -- and some say in the nation -- are targeted, including Roosevelt Boulevard and Grant Avenue, where 179 people were injured in car accidents from 1997 to 2001.
Police will issue tickets based on violations captured by the cameras. The Parking Authority will collect the fines and manage the camera contract. The money will be used to cover the authority's expenses, with the remainder going to pedestrian-related grant programs handled by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.