Philly pols make cameos in PPA’s new red light camera PSA videos

Wednesday’s Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) Board meeting saw local politicians taking star turns for red light cameras and saw a few sparks over shifts in the authority’s position on ride-hailing companies.

Since October 17th, a new red light camera has been up and running at 2nd and Erie. In accordance with state law, there’s a 45-day warning period before PPA begins mailing out $100 fines. Within the 45-day window, red light runners only receive a sternly worded letter in the mail.  

This is the first of three cameras PPA is installing this season. The other two will be at placed at 26th and Penrose Avenue in South Philly, and at Belmont and Parkside Avenues near the Please Touch Museum. PPA provides an interactive map of the rest of their red light camera locations.

Also in accordance with state law, red light camera operators are required to fund public service announcements about the program. Two representatives from Xerox, Philly’s red light camera operator, attended the meeting for the debut of a new batch of video PSAs.

The videos focus on the safety benefits of red light cameras in Philly, and there are cameos from city and state politicians like Councilmembers Cindy Bass and Mark Squilla, and State Rep. John Taylor, singing the program’s praises. 

“People don’t like getting red light camera tickets, but that’s the cost of safety, and that’s what we’ve done here on Roosevelt Boulevard,” Rep. Taylor says in one of the videos. 

That kind of forthright support from elected officials provides an interesting contrast with the politics in some of Philly’s neighbors like New Jersey and Maryland, where automated enforcement of red light running has generated a political backlash. New Jersey’s red light camera program came to a swift end in response to complaints from motorists.

For now at least, Philly politicians from all different areas of the city appear to have bought into the safety premise, and aren’t feeling serious pressure to reduce the level of enforcement.

The board meeting started off with a little heat courtesy of Alex Friedman, president of the PA Taxi Association and general manager of the All City and Checker Cab companies. Friedman used the public comment period to call for the resignation of James Ney, the Director of PPA’s Taxicab & Limousine Division.

“After many meetings with TLD Director James Ney and other members of the Philadelphia Parking Authority we have found no relief,” said Friedman, “There’s no enforcement. So at this junction, members of our industry–and I represent thousands of medallion owners and drivers–request immediate resignation of the Director of TLD, James Ney, for his incompetence in legal and operational matters.”

At issue is the PPA’s new position on state regulations for ride-hailing companies. While PPA had previously lobbied for a state bill that would keep so-called “transportation network companies” from operating in Philadelphia, while legalizing them in the rest of the state, they now support a bill from Rep. Camera Bartolotta that would legalize them in Philadelphia too. 

PPA would remain the regulator for TNC vehicles and drivers, but these companies would operate with full legal status as part of the limousine fleet, whose numbers are unrestricted by the medallion system. The companies would pay a 0.5 percent fee to the PPA under the bill. 

Friedman, who memorably compared Uber X to the terrorist group ISIS, is unhappy with PPA’s support for this bill and suggested legal action from the PA Taxi Association could be in the offing.

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