Motorists rush to beat deadline for Philly parking amnesty program

On the last day of the PPA's amnesty program to pay outstanding tickets without a fine, people line up around the block to pay up. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

On the last day of the PPA's amnesty program to pay outstanding tickets without a fine, people line up around the block to pay up. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

An hours-long line snaked through Philadelphia’s Chinatown Monday, filled with motorists hoping to pay old parking old parking tickets.

Yes, they wanted to pay.

That’s because Monday was the final day of the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s two-month amnesty program. The deal is simple and, apparently, pretty alluring.

By decree of City Council, the PPA will wipe away all fines accrued before 2013 if people agree to pay unpaid tickets they’ve picked up over the last five years. Those who don’t have any blemishes since 2013 need to pay a $50 administrative fee.

Tyrone Bland from Southwest Philadelphia racked up $6,000 worth of tickets before 2013, he said, mostly for driving without a license or insurance.

“I got 26 tickets I’m trying to get rid of,” he said.

Yvonne Alexander had far less debt, about $110 in fines from 1992 and 1994. She can’t recall why she got the tickets, though one was issued on the street where she lives.

“Why’d I get one for Camac Street,” she asked, still indignant. “That’s the street I live on.”

Some line-waiters came prepared with snacks and lawn chairs. Tyrone Parker arrived at 6 a.m. and wore his long johns to combat the cold.

“I’m good to go,” he said.

Joy Lipscomb waits in line to pay her parking tickets on the last day of amnesty.
Joy Lipscomb waits in line to pay her parking tickets on the last day of amnesty. (Avi Wolfman-Arent/WHYY)

Joy Lipscomb arrived a little after 9 a.m., prepared to wait at least three hours. She wasn’t sure she could last much longer, though, due to her fibromyalgia.

“It depends on my physical condition,” she said.

City officials hope the amnesty push will offer relief to those saddled with debt while also helping the PPA collect some of the millions its owed.

A 2017 report from Pennsylvania’s auditor general found motorists owe the PPA about $580 million in tickets and fines. From 2012 to 2017 alone, uncollected fees added up to roughly $108 million, depriving Philadelphia’s school system of nearly $78 million in revenue.

City officials can’t say yet how many people participated in the amnesty program or how much money it brought in. As of March 15, two weeks into the initiative, the city had collected $154,979.

That figure doesn’t capture the hundreds who turned out to participate Monday. The rush was so strong, city Councilwoman Cindy Bass called on officials to extend the deadline.

The line to enroll in the parking amnesty program at the Philadelphia Parking Authority near 10th and Filbert streets has consistently stretched several blocks long since the program started in March,” Bass said in a statement. “This is a testament to the high demand for the program, the relative success of getting folks signed up for parking amnesty, and to the program’s ability to raise revenue for Philadelphia.”

J.B. Wilson, standing on line Monday morning in hopes of expunging $2,000 worth of tickets, put it more succinctly.

“The whole Philly down here,” he said.

The PPA offices close at 6 p.m., but officials said they will try to accommodate everyone still waiting in line.

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