PlanPhilly intern Kimberley Richards contributed to this report.
Organizations gathered throughout the city Friday to participate in PARK(ing) Day, an annual, global event created to advocate for urban park space. Participants take over a metered street parking spot for a full day, creatively using it to get the word out about green space and related issues, like the impact of stormwater runoff and the benefits of utilizing city transit.
Demonstrations were held in North and West Philadelphia, Center City, Germantown and Northern Liberties by architects, activists, and community groups. In Center City, the American Planning Association (APA) and the Philadelphia Water Department set up stations on 13th Street.
“What we put together today was an illustration of how much more efficient it is to use a train to commute,” said Jody Holton, a member of the American Planning Association Pennsylvania Chapter. “Seven hundred cars are equivalent to how many people can fit on a SEPTA train. We’ve calculated that 700 cars can take up to 5.3 acres of surface parking. So theoretically, one train frees up about five acres of land in the city.”
APA Professional Planner Jeannette Brugger explained the significance of bicycling in the city and its benefits to the environment as well as citizens.
“Bicycling across Center City is actually faster than driving and you don’t have to worry about parking,” she said. “If you bicycle instead of owning and driving a car you can save 8,000 dollars per year. If you commute ten miles a day by bike instead of car you can save about 3,500 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year.”
The Philadelphia Water Department Office of Watersheds also contributed to the efforts of PARK(ing) Day by setting up a model showing the consequences of city-wide stormwater runoff.
“We have a combined sewage system that overflows when it rains, so we’re trying to educate people on the amount of stormwater that can come off one parking space,” said Stephanie Chiorean, member of the Philadelphia Water Department. “The amount of runoff per [170 square foot] parking space is 100 gallons,” for a rainstorm measuring 1″. We’re trying to symbolize all the different contaminants in stormwater runoff that can get into our water supply. It’s basically about water quality.”
Mary Ellen McCarty, Water Department employee, explained what the organization do to help Philadelphia.
“We do spatial analysis to put storm water management projects within the city. We try to do it from an environmental standpoint and develop green infrastructure which helps to beautify the city and involve the community.”
PARK(ing) Day originated in San Francisco in 2005. It was first established in Philadelphia in 2008 with 30 founding organizations. These events promote the need for more parks and public-friendly space throughout the city while spreading awareness to citizens about planning issues. Some participant organizations include Philadelphia City Planning Commission, Germantown Community Connection, Southwest Community Development Corporation, and various others. Coordinators for today’s PARK(ing) Day event were the Philadelphia Parking Authority and the American Institute of Architects Philadelphia.