SEPTA Plans to Kill Free Parking

Plus, the University of the Arts implosion and a $27,500 prom expense.

SEPTA plans to do away with free parking lots like this one at the Wynnewood stop on the Paoli-Thorndale line

SEPTA plans to do away with free parking lots like this one at the Wynnewood stop on the Paoli-Thorndale line. / Photograph by Victor Fiorillo

Check each morning Monday through Thursday for the latest edition of Philly Today. And if you have a news tip for our hardworking Philly Mag reporters, please direct it here. You can also use that form to send us reader mail. We love reader mail!

SEPTA Plans to Kill Free Parking

If you’ve been one of the many thousands of customers who’ve enjoyed free parking at SEPTA stations, I’ve got some bad news for you: SEPTA is planning to discontinue free parking in its lots and garages.

In the pre-pandemic days, you had to pay for parking at SEPTA stations. But in March 2020, the world shut down and SEPTA ridership positively plummeted. SEPTA decided to let people park at its stations for free. Now that SEPTA use has been on the rise for a good while and with the agency in the midst of budgetary woes, SEPTA plans start charging for parking again.

According to SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch, the agency actually got approval to increase parking rates prior to COVID. But then COVID hit, so they did the opposite. They made it free. Now, SEPTA plans to move ahead with those rate increases. The old parking fee was $1 to park all day in a surface lot and $2 all day for the few garages that SEPTA operates. The new fees are likely to go up to $2 and $4, respectively, with the potential for further increases down the line.

Busch says parking revenues in 2019 were $4.7 million. True, that’s a tiny amount in the grand scheme of SEPTA’s $1.9 billion budget for 2019. But, hey, money is money. And if SEPTA were misspending $4.7 million, we’d be all over them, right?

There’s just one issue with SEPTA’s plan to do away with free parking. If you visit the parking lot today, the only way to pay for parking (if you had to pay for parking) is to stick quarters through a slot in a metal box assigned to your space number. No electronics involved! No paper currency! The agency is currently considering options to use, you know, technology. “We realize the public has moved on in terms of payment methods,” Busch says.

As for SEPTA fare increases, Busch says that’s not in the cards for this year. But next year? A definite possibility.

The University of the Arts Positively Implodes

Friday was a chaotic, heartbreaking, and downright confusing day for University of the Arts students, faculty, staff and alumni — and the rest of us who care about the arts. The Inquirer released what turned out to be a bombshell of a story, explaining that the University of the Arts was closing suddenly and unexpectedly. Meaning, for good. This came as a shock to nearly everyone involved, since the University of the Arts didn’t actually bother to tell anybody this was happening.

There are way, way, way more questions than answers in this debacle. Exactly what led to this spectacular downfall? What are students who were planning to attend the University of the Arts expected to do now? What about all those teachers who had been there for years and already suffered through salary cuts and pension problems? How many lawsuits will the University of the Arts face? Then there is all that real estate that the University of the Arts occupies in Center City. What’s to become of that?

It’s all one incredible mess. Here’s the latest from the Inquirer and the New York Times. Much more to come.

Famous 4th Street Deli Reopens After Cleanliness Collapse

Last week, I told you that the health department had shut down Philadelphia’s iconic Famous 4th Street Deli on Wednesday after two very icky-sounding health inspections. We’re talking flies, a roach on a customer’s table, mice, foods stored at unsafe temperatures. Not a good scene.

Well, the restaurant scrambled to clean things up and managed to do so in time for another inspection on Friday. They passed, and Famous 4th Street Deli is open again. I’ve seen some people weighing in online with comments like, “I’ll never eat there again.” Truth be told: If you’re ever going to eat there, right after good health inspection is probably the best time, since they just cleaned the “accumulated mouse turds” off the deli slicer. But in all seriousness, here’s hoping Famous 4th Street keeps things right and survives this terrible PR moment.

Local Talent

Congrats to Meet the Press host and Germantown Friends grad Kristen Welker, who just welcomed her second child into the world. Welker and her husband announced the birth of John Zachary Welker Hughes over the weekend. Welker has been public about her struggles with infertility, and both John and big sister Margot came to be with the help of a surrogate. The Fairmount native took over the iconic Sunday morning news show in September, becoming the first Black person behind the host desk and just the second woman. She’s expected to return after parental leave.

By the Numbers

268: Attendees at Saturday’s drag queen story time for kids at the Constitution Center. Why is that significant? Because a Guinness Book of World Records official was on hand to certify it as the world’s largest drag queen story time for kids. Photos and video here.

0: Knowledge I had that head spas existed until I read this guide to head spas in the Philadelphia region. And now I have to say, I really want to go to a head spa!

$27,500: What one local mom says she spent to have workers construct a two-story castle for her daughter’s send-off to prom.

Reader Mail

I get a good amount of reader mail. But the amount of reader mail I received between last Thursday evening and this morning was probably equivalent to all the reader mail I received in the previous six months. And that’s a lot of reader mail!

If you’re wondering what all the fuss was about, it was over my story on Kylie Kelce’s beach bully Andrée Goldberg, whom I visited at her fancy new Main Line chocolate shop, where her husband threatened to call the cops on me.

The funny thing about this particular batch of reader mail is that it was almost exactly equally divided for and against my story. (You kind of have to read the story to understand the reaction to it.) To illustrate this division best, here are two pieces of reader mail, verbatim.

First email: “This is why I am canceling my subscription.”

Second email: “This is why I am never canceling my subscription.”

What a world! Other examples: “I officially love you! You’ve got cojones!” “You suck.” “I’ve never read a more unhinged, delusional, creepy news article … You need professional help.” “I guess you’ll be buying your chocolate elsewhere!”

Editor’s note: With Sandy Hingston’s retirement on Friday, we are also retiring her Philly Today sports recaps. For those who relied on her to know if the Flyers did or did not play, we direct you to this handy resource.