Manayunk weighs parking permits

After appearing before the Manayunk Neighborhood Council (MNC) in January 2001, Rick Dickson, Director of Parking Management for the Philadelphia Parking Authority, made a second appearance at last Wednesday's meeting to inform Manayunk residents about the permit parking options that are being put into effect throughout the city.
Dickson faced strong opposition in January of 2001, so much so that The Council Crier, the MNC's monthly periodical, recently reported that he was "lucky to make it out alive."

His recent appearance was met with a considerable amount of rationality, but Manayunk residents continue to hold very different views when it comes to parking.

The permit parking program, which has already been enacted in 29 parking zones across Philadelphia, is run on a block-by-block basis and prohibits any vehicle without a specific parking permit from parking on designated streets. The program can be put into effect only if a vote of every legal resident on a particular block yields a majority that favors the system.

Streets that might adopt the permit parking program would have signs put up that allowed only one to two hours of free parking for cars without a permit. The permit program also requires a higher level of law enforcement to be effective.

Only vehicles registered in Pennsylvania will be eligible for parking permits. As one out-of-state renter who attended the MNC meeting pointed out, "if my block adopts the parking permit system, then I wouldn't be able to park in front of my own house."

Dickson affirmed the truth of this comment, but mentioned that state laws require out-of-state renters to change their license information if they reside in Pennsylvania for a certain period of time.

Permits must be purchased through the parking authority at a rate of $35 for the first year and $20 each year thereafter. As Manayunk residents at the meeting pointed out, if permit parking would go into effect on a particular street in Manayunk, residents of that street would have to pay for the opportunity to park in front of their own house, without even the guarantee of actually getting a parking spot.

Special guest parking passes are for sale for $15 at the Parking Authority office, which would enable designated guests of residents to park on the permit-only street for 15 days.

"That's unbelievable," said Debbie Feigel, who attended the meeting. Feigel's son is in the Navy, which means Feigel would have to pay for a parking pass when her son comes home so that he could park in front of the house.

"We couldn't have a normal social life," Feigel said. However, Dickson played devil's advocate and mentioned that "this is a program that people really believe improves the quality of life for those areas." Permits might teach residents how to "use curb space effectively" and residents who have a permit can leave their car parked on the block "forever," he said. Also, permits might help solve the parking problem created by restaurants by opening up as many as 15% additional parking spaces.

Keith Newman, who also attended the MNC meeting, favored the adoption of the permit parking program.

"I'm in favor of permits," Newman said. "The goal of the permit is to encourage people to park properly."

Newman related that there are a number of out-of-state cars on his block that consistently park on the sidewalk and he hoped that the increased presence of law enforcement officers that would accompany the permit parking system would lead to the ticketing of these vehicles and to a sidewalk that allowed pedestrians to walk safely without having to enter the street.

While at the meeting, Dickson also updated the MNC about the Pilot Enforcement Project, which attempts to address vehicles that consistently violated parking laws. Recently, 50 vehicles in our area were booted because of this program. While most of them were released within a day, a number of the vehicles were towed to South Philadelphia.

Also discussed at the meeting was the possibility of a public parking lot at Green Lane and Cresson St. on land that is currently owned by SEPTA. Attendees of the meeting were able to view a large chart that detailed the parking lot, which would be leased and operated by the Parkway Corporation, the second-largest parking company in Center City.

Many residents who attended the meeting expressed concern for traffic control on event days like the annual bike race. The area around Cresson St. seemed congested enough, they said, and the current plans for the layout of the parking lot only called for one entrance and exit, which seemed inappropriate to many residents at the meeting.

However, considering the potential benefits of the parking lot, those who attended the meeting voted unanimously to "support the parking lot, subject to talks with the developer about traffic control" and a more detailed description of the exact parking procedures that would take place.

The MNC also voted unanimously to support the rezoning of certain blocks from R10 to R10A zoning, which would make it harder for several families to live in a home that is designated for single family use.

Finally, in regards to a recent request for a dance hall license made by the Manayunk Brew Pub, the MNC proposed the negotiation of a "fairly simple written agreement with them about the outdoor noise, etc."

The MNC holds its public meetings at 7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at Venice Island Recreation Center.
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