The Philadelphia Parking Authority’s Executive Director had some choice words Tuesday for the 200 or so Philadelphians who left their cars parked on emergency snow routes as winter storm Jonas dumped tons of snow on the city.
Executive Director Vince Fenerty called for higher fines to deter the “ignorant, noncomplying person who wouldn’t move his or her car,” during the snow emergency.
Fenerty said the Authority (PPA) ticketed around 800 vehicles for parking on designated Snow Emergency Routes during a snow emergency. Of those ticketed 800, around 200 either didn’t get, or see, the hint to move attached to their windshield wiper, resulting in a “snow removal relocation” as Fenerty put it.
Those relocated—or, in non-Orwellian terms, “towed”—vehicles incurred an additional $50 fee, on top of the $76 ticket, bringing the total pecuniary penalty to $126.
Parking regulations, including fines and other penalties, are set by City Council.
“The fine is a deterrent,” said Fenerty. And a $126 fine was, “not enough of a deterrent to get people to move their cars.”
“We’re out there breaking our asses all weekend—us, the Streets Department—trying to [clear the emergency routes],” said Fenerty. When someone fails to move their car, he explained, “that means the whole crew, we have to tow that car out of there, relocate it, and if you have one of those on every block… then the snow [plow] trains are catching up to the tow trucks. And if they go around the tow trucks, then you get that bump out, and that lane remains closed because of that ignorant, noncomplying person who wouldn’t move his or her car.”
Fenerty added that “it’s not our desire to be out there ticketing and towing people in the snow, but it’s the only way to get the streets open.”
Not only was the $126 fine not enough of a deterrent to motivate some car owners to move their vehicles, said Fenerty, it doesn’t even make the city whole for the money spent on towing. “That’s money out of your pocket, that [the vehicle owner] created by not moving [their] car, [which costs] more than the $126 in aggravation for the people who are out there in the rain, snow, sleet and slush.”
On top of the monetary loss, car owners faced the hassle of calling the PPA to find their cars’ “relocation” location.
The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) announced that the city would enter a snow emergency beginning 9 p.m. last Friday night via a press release sent around 2:30 that afternoon. Residents with cars parked on emergency routes like Broad Street, Germantown Avenue, or Academy Road had little more than four hours to move their cars, or risk the ticket and towing.
Fenerty dismissed the idea that some car owners might not have had enough time to move their cars after OEM’s declaration, saying: “The only thing people thought about was snow.”
When asked to comment on Fenerty’s call for stiffer penalties, City Council President Darrell Clarke’s spokeswoman, Jane Roh, said that the PPA hadn’t approached Council on the matter yet, and thus couldn’t get into specifics.
“Obviously taxpayers should not foot the bill for people who don’t follow the rules,” said Roh in an email. “Council President Clarke is definitely open to a discussion about stricter penalties, and any regulatory proposals will of course be subject to a public hearing process.”
A spokesman for the Mayor Kenney said in the email that the administration would analyze the issues, but offered no further comment.
During Tuesday’s PPA Board meeting, Fenerty sought and received authorization to purchase six new Bobcat loaders, which the PPA deploys to clear parking lots and streets during snowstorms. The PPA currently owns nine of the utility vehicles. The Authority planned to purchase twelve new Bobcats in the coming year, but moved up the purchase of six in recognition of this weekend’s massive snowfall with another 8 weeks left in the snow season. The vehicles cost around $50,000 each and will be purchased off of a state contract, obviating the need for bid solicitation. The PPA hopes to finalize purchase and delivery “immediately,” said Fenerty.
The PPA’s current fleet of Bobcats were hard at work this weekend, clearing PPA lots and being pressed into service to clear smaller streets. During major snowstorms, the Streets Department assigns particular streets, primarily secondary and tertiary streets, to the PPA to clean.
Snow removal is just one of the PPA’s civic obligations, said Fenerty; the Authority does not charge the city for the use of their equipment or employees on snow removal.
“It’s everyone’s city,” said Fenerty. “There’s only one team, even if we’re a Republican-oriented agency. We did this with Mayor Nutter and we’re doing it with Mayor Kenney.”
In a press release Tuesday afternoon, the Mayor’s Office said that 80 percent of Philadelphia’s 2,500 miles of road had been cleared, crediting 495 city blocks to the PPA, an increase over “the 300 done in previous years, demonstrating increased cooperation between the City and the Authority.”
Earlier in the day, Fenerty expressed his own approval of the new administration’s handling of the blizzard, saying: “I do think Mayor Kenney does have a more calming effect on the citizens than Mayor Nutter did. Mayor Nutter would have wanted to be on CNN—nationwide—about how bad it was. We want to say how good things are.”