Pulse: Power: The Parking Crusade

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

The Philadelphia Parking Authority has made a lot of dumb moves over the years, but one of the worst was a while back when it turned over the management of its parking lots and garages to the same gang that runs commercial garages.

Today, Parking Authority garages command the same outrageous rates as privately run operations. And all hide gory details of how much you’re getting charged in tiny print that you can’t read until you’re already in their driveways.

The good news is that the Parking Authority has finally decided to undo this dumb mistake. Over the next year, it will be taking back the management of garages at such key locations as 2nd and Sansom, 5th and Market, 15th and Arch, and 20th and Sansom. Joe Egan, the authority’s hard-charging director, wants people to believe that the Parking Authority can reform itself. My advice to Joe is to check out what they do in Portland, Oregon.

If you go to portlandonline.com/ smartpark, you’ll see just how a public-spirited downtown parking operation ought to run. All the SmartPark lots and garages are branded with a big retro-looking logo, so drivers can find SmartPark lots easily and enter with confidence that they won’t get ripped off. Short-term parking is 95 cents per hour. Night rates are a flat $2 for the entire night. By all accounts, the SmartPark garages are so popular that they return a profit despite their low rates.

Is Portland-style parking in our future? Joe Egan needs to know we want it. Drop him a note at joseph.egan@philapark.org. Tell him that publicly owned garages should encourage people to shop, dine and play downtown, not charge them a punishing toll for the privilege.