CH parking lot rates triple

by Carla Robinson
Posted 11/23/23

Cheap parking has officially come to a screeching halt in Chestnut Hill – shocking many longtime regulars along the neighborhood’s busy business strip. 

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CH parking lot rates triple


Cheap parking has officially come to a screeching halt in Chestnut Hill – shocking many longtime regulars along the neighborhood’s busy business strip. 

As of Nov. 3,  the hourly rate for parking in one of the shopping district’s six designated lots tripled, from $1 per hour to $3 per hour, with a maximum rate of $48 for up to 24 hours – which came as a shock to many of the people who earn just $12 or $15 an hour working in stores and businesses along the Avenue.

Courtney O’Neill, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business Association, who also serves as director for the parking foundation, said the new rates are needed to keep the lots – which have been losing money – in business. 

"We’re one big snowstorm away from bankruptcy, basically,” she said. “We were losing money every year. We had no cushion, so if something major needed to be done, we didn’t have the capital to pay for it. The hope is that with this new pricing, we’ll be able to break even next year.”

The new rates mean that parking in Chestnut Hill is now the same price as parking in Manayunk - a neighborhood with a much busier nightlife than Chestnut Hill. 

O’Neill said that while she recognizes the new price may create a hardship for low-wage workers, the lots – which include about 200 parking spaces – were never meant to provide employee parking. 

"It was always for the shopper’s convenience,” O’Neill said. 

The lots are managed by the non-profit Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation, which was established 55 years ago when some store owners, facing stiff competition from the shopping malls that were draining foot traffic from Germantown Avenue, needed to find a way to come up with cheap parking.

O’Neill said she regrets that the parking foundation did not raise rates incrementally over the past decades. 

“That would have been less painful” she acknowledged. “But they were determined to try to hold prices down to the 1980s levels for as long as they could.”

According to O’Neill, the lots have long been costing more than they earn. 

This year’s budget shows a loss of $15,000. And while the previous year broke even, she said, that’s because it was a very mild winter without much snow. Snow removal can cost up to $25,000 per year if there’s a lot of snow. 

"One icy night, we had to pay for salting all the lots, and that alone cost $7000,” she said. 

There are also city taxes to pay - and they take 22.5 percent out of every dollar that the lots bring in. 

“We’ve wrapped that up into the price – so for every dollar you pay, 22.5 cents is going straight to the city,” O’Neill said. 

Even the act of paying costs money. There are two ways to do it. You can pay at one of the kiosk machines located in the lots, get your slip and leave it on your dashboard. Or, you can pay on your phone, with the ParkMobile app – which you can also use anywhere else in the city.

The Parkmobile app takes 50 cents out of every transaction, and “the kiosks cost $10,000 per lot, and they’re also becoming obsolete – they’re old and they break all the time,” O'Neill said. 

Finally, there’s insurance. It costs the foundation $50,000 a year for liability insurance for all six lots. 

Back when the lots were first set up, there was plenty of money to run them and to run them well. They were fully staffed and had a parking ambassador in every hut. 

"The businesses were paying to help support the cost of running all that," said O'Neill, adding that banks, which had lots of foot traffic on those days, paid more than their fair share – making it easier on everyone else. 

There will be no change to the metered, two-hour parking on Germantown Avenue, which is run by the Philadelphia Parking Authority. That now costs $1 per hour.