New parking kiosks have shoppers grumbling

City reports 19 percent more tickets

by Tom Beck
Posted 10/7/21

Slowly but surely, people who use the Germantown Avenue shopping district in Chestnut Hill are getting used to the new way they have to pay for parking.

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New parking kiosks have shoppers grumbling

City reports 19 percent more tickets

Posted

Slowly but surely, people who use the Germantown Avenue shopping district in Chestnut Hill are getting used to the new way they have to pay for parking.

But many aren’t happy about it. The kiosks that replaced the individual meters this summer may be easier for the city to manage and maintain, but they’re not as easy to use. Instead of having a meter right next to where you park your car, there is now one parking kiosk placed on each block. So you have to park, and walk to the kiosk to choose your time and pay.

And that, shop owners say, is very confusing to people who are used to looking for parking meters. Especially when it can be hard to figure out how to use the thing.

“People are complaining all the time, coming in here and asking me to help them figure out how to do it, '' said Georgia Doyle, co-owner of the clothing store Artisans on the Avenue.

“I think a lot of my customers look at Chestnut Hill and think that it’s in the suburbs, so when they don’t see a meter they think it's free parking,” said Beth Milley, owner of Villa Villekulla, a toy and gift shop for children. “A lot of my customers are grandparents, and they get pretty upset when they can’t figure out how to pay and wind up with a $26 ticket.”

And in fact, the PPA does report a 19 percent  uptick in tickets from September 2020 to September 2021. Though, since last year’s parking may have been affected by Covid, it’s hard to say how much of that is due to the new payment system.

The new system got underway this past June when the Philadelphia Parking Authority removed all the old-fashioned, “single head” parking meters on the avenue and replaced them with modern parking kiosks. The move was part of a citywide overhaul of parking payment systems that began back in 2018.

“We were at the point where being able to maintain them became difficult,”  PPA spokesperson Marty O’Rourke said. “We were experiencing some issues when trying to find replacement parts for these rather old single head meters.”

The PPA had considered using “smart meters,” which just like the single head meters, would be placed at every parking space. Both were compatible with meterUP, an app that lets customers pay via their cell phone for a 40 cent convenience fee.

And that would have been the overwhelming preference of the district’s business owners. According to a survey conducted by Dawson, 79 percent preferred the smart meters. They listed three reasons: first, the meters would have had a 10-minute courtesy button, which would have allowed customers to park free for that amount of time. Second, they said, the meters were more old fashioned, and therefore more of an aesthetic fit for the historical neighborhood. And third, a meter per spot meant not having to walk very far to pay.

“There’s the convenience factor of getting out of the car and paying right there rather than walking half a block potentially to the kiosk,” said Dawson.

But soon after offering Chestnut Hill a choice, the PPA changed its tune. The PPA preferred the kiosks and that was that.

“The use of kiosks in local business districts are much more cost effective and aesthetically appealing than having numerous single-head meters lined along any given block,” O’Rourke told the Local in an email. Furthermore, he said, the kiosks were being added for the sake of “citywide uniformity” which cut down “added costs and issues having to deal with two different collection processes and backend systems.”

In fairness to the PPA, the agency “never guaranteed that smart meters were an option,” Dawson said. “Ultimately [the PPA] decided it wasn’t for them.”

Dawson told the Local that despite complaints, he thinks most shop owners are getting used to the kiosks. “The vast majority are taking it in stride and adjusting to it - as with any change that comes around,” he said.

Comments

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TE

I live just off the Avenue. One day this past summer I noticed workers replacing the meters with the kiosks. The very next day, I saw a PPA officer on the Avenue on his beat. I think some sort of grace period would have been nice to allow folks to get used to the new system.

Thursday, October 7