Does Philly Need to Make Parking Harder to Become a “Green City?”

More voices call for parking hike, for revenue and environmental reasons.

We may be on the verge of a very weird parking moment in Philadelphia.

The same day we at Philly Mag ran Patrick Kerkstra’s “fighting words” piece advocating that parking prices in the city be raised — “Our collective obsession with cheap parking degrades the cityscape, makes development far more expensive, and dramatically increases congestion and vehicle emissions in the core of Center City” — Jon Geeting was writing at Next City, making a similar case. 

Geeting has a more specific concern than Kerkstra: To help Philadelphia achieve Mayor Nutter’s stated goal of making Philadelphia “The Greenest City in America.” That can’t be done with so many cars on the road, Geeting says, and “carrots” to induce walking and biking — like bike parking and bike lanes — haven’t done enough. City Hall needs to use sticks to discourage driving in town.

The Nutter administration’s gains on bike-ped infrastructure are significant compared to the pre-Nutter status quo, and the increases in biking and walking shouldn’t be diminished. But there’s no getting around it: The impact has been weak in the face of Philadelphia’s impressive universe of car subsidies.

Residential curb parking permits are hilariously low at $35 a year for the first car, $50 for the second, $75 for the third, and $100 for each additional car. You could rent all eight parking spaces on your block for $820 a year!

City Council currently has the authority to raise rates up to $3 an hour, which would come a bit closer to achieving the administration’s goal, but there’s no appetite on Council for raising more revenue from parking, despite the city’s serious fiscal woes. And meter rates are still 50 cents an hour outside of Center City, where they haven’t budged for 20 years.

Geeting says the issue should be part of the mayoral race, but it’s hard to imagine: Who out there is willing to be the candidate of more expensive parking in Philadelphia?