Starting the first week of May, motorists will have to pay to park in Chestnut Hill’s seven lots or risk getting a ticket from the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Parking kiosks, similar to those found in other parts of the city, have already been installed in the lots, but violations are not being enforced.
Until recently, the privately-owned lots had been offered to the community free-of-charge with local businesses covering the cost of maintenance.
John Ingersoll, who heads the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation, which leases and maintains the lots, said that two-year-old system wasn’t working out.
Not enough merchants were contributing, either because they didn’t want to or because they couldn’t afford it.
Now, since shop owners haven’t been paying up, those using the lots will have to. “The only other option is that we close the lots completely,” said Ingersoll. “Somebody’s got to pay.”
Just the cost of snow plowing alone, he said, is usually $30,000 each year.
Parking is now a $1 an hour. Shoppers and merchants can also purchase special coins to use in the machines instead of using their credit cards, debit cards or cash. The kiosks do not accept $10 or $20 bills.
The parking fees with go to the Parking Foundation; the fines to PPA. The Parking Foundation will continue to operate the lots as they they’ve done for more than 50 years.
“[Our goal is] not to make money, just pay our bills,” said Ingersoll.
Residents NewsWorks spoke with were mixed on the change.
Alan Sorensen, a Chestnut Hill resident, said he understands why the lots won’t be free anymore.
“I don’t see how a parking lot can be sustained unless somebody pays for it,” he said. “I wish they could have worked out something with the merchants so it would have been feasible for the merchants to pay for it.”
“But if the merchants are refusing to, then I suppose we’ll have to,” he added.
Sorensen said it won’t affect how much he comes to Germantown Avenue, but it might affect how hard he looks for parking.
Germantown resident George Zielaskowski thinks paying for parking will be good for the community.
Rather than zipping by into the neighborhood and making a single stop at a particular store, Zielaskowksi said shoppers that now have to pay to park may take the time to walk the Avenue and potentially check out other businesses.
“You’ll get more walking for your health, you get to see the stores and it increases your chance of buying,” he said.
Chestnut Hill resident Suzanne Brady disagrees. She thinks the paid lots will prove to be problematic for shoppers.
“Part of the draw of the Hill was that it did have free parking,” she said. “There’s always been a lot of complaints about people getting tickets on the Avenue. Now people are going to get tickets in the lots as well.”
Brady said she thinks the kiosk concept may also be a little confusing for out-of-towners.
“If people don’t come here very often, that’s going to be the problem,” she said. “They’ll say ‘forget it.'”
Hannah Allerton, who works at a salon on Germantown Avenue, also thinks the lots might affect the volume of shoppers in the area.
“I think it’s extremely inconvenient,” said Allerton. “Chestnut Hill is already having a problem filling space for shops, and that’s going to make it even harder.”