Pulse: Power: The Parking Crusade

Can our ornery Contrarian columnist lead the way for sensibly priced parking in Center City? A monthly update

It didn’t take much digging before I detected a big source of worry on the Center City parking plan.

As I wrote in November, Philly is taking its first hard look at parking in Center City in almost 25 years. Unfortunately, the steering committee is made up of public agencies and a single private group: an arm of the Center City District.

The CCD has a much-respected professional staff, but the CCD board chair is Joe Zuritsky of Parkway Corp., the city’s biggest parking operator. The CCD board is also chock-full of real estate lawyers, some of whom undoubtedly do business with parking companies. Somehow I don’t see the CCD telling the parking industry what it desperately needs to hear: Clean up your lots. Toss the deceptive rate signs. And stop gouging visitors and tourists for 20 bucks when they drop into town for two hours.

But the Planning Commission staff liked the steering committee as it was. So I followed the money. I called up the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, which funds the plan.

I was polite, but I wasn’t very nice. I told them that when this plan comes out in six or seven months, just watch me blame every one of its flaws on the steering committee’s ties to the parking industry. Can we fix this now, I asked, or must we have a big public mess later?

It took about two weeks. The planning commission expanded the committee to include some top people from the Center City Residents Association, the Reading Terminal Market and the American Institute for Architects. I told them thanks. I feel much better now.

Keep one thing in mind as we move forward on this thing. No one ever sees the light until they feel the heat.