The Fishtown Neighbors Association hosted an open meeting last Tuesday to address a growing concern — parking, particularly along Frankford and Girard avenues.
A group of approximately 30-40 residents and business owners gathered at the Fishtown Recreational Center, 1202 E. Montgomery Ave.
The meeting, broken into two sessions, began with a presentation by Angie Williamson, economic development director of the New Kensington Community Development Corp., (NKCDC).
In response to the public’s parking and traffic concerns, Williamson provided a detailed explanation of an evaluation conducted by JzTI in May of 2009. JzTI is a consulting company that provides transportation planning services for communities in the Philadelphia region.
While no action has yet been taken based on the study, all in attendance were provided the opportunity to hear and discuss JzTI’s evaluation, as well as voice their own suggestions for parking improvements in both the residential and commercial areas of the community.
According to the JzTI evaluation, the community has three umbrella options available to address parking concerns: either increase the number of spots available, strategically manage the existing space, and/or reduce demand by introducing and encouraging alternative sources of transportation.
While it sounds simple on paper, the execution of these options may not be as easy in practice.
For starters, both residential and commercial concerns need to be taken into consideration. And solutions that may work well for residents may not cater towards the development of the Fishtown commercial district, an area that is undeniably growing, and at a rapid pace.
In attendance at Tuesday’s meeting was Roland Kassis, a commercial developer in Fishtown.
“Parking is a problem,” Kassis stated, “both the businesses and residents must make sure they’re working together … we need to do whatever the residents want, we need to work with their comfort level, but if this community is trying to create commercial corridors there must be some kind of traffic and parking enforcement.”
While parking permits might be a viable solution for the residential streets, imposing time limits along Girard, Frankford and other major commercial streets are likely a more practical solution.
Other suggestions include but are not limited to: reducing outdated curb cuts; implementing diagonal parking along Girard; the use of shared parking in lots with limited operating hours such as banks, churches, and schools; as well as promoting car sharing practices such as Philly Car Share and ZipCar.
Concerns recognized by both residents and business owners alike include the need for increased utilization of public transportation as well as improved pedestrian and bike safety.
To promote public transportation, JzTI and NKCDC suggested increasing the number of signs, particularly to and from the public transportation centers, as well as the use of public transportation stops in advertising.
To improve pedestrian and bike safety, the NKCDC suggests consistency throughout the streets: proper lighting, bike racks, curb ramps, better defined sidewalks, information kiosks and signs are all ways in which the community can help to make pedestrians and bikers feel safe while traveling the streets.
“This is not set in stone,” Williamson advised, “this is just what has been suggested. It is up to the community to see where it goes.”
Following Williamson’s presentation, Hilda Bielecki, Keturah McCleary and SueLin Diaz, of the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) were invited to discuss and address ticketing and permit parking in the area.
The three women were met with mixed emotions as the audience addressed concerns over obtaining parking permits as well as the community’s need for additional enforcement of parking and traffic violations.
While Diaz stressed parking permits are not a requirement, she carefully explained that in order to acquire parking permits, residents of the street in question must sign a petition. Once 51 percent of the street is in agreement, the residents are then able to purchase permits. The cost of a parking permit is $35 the first year, and $20 every year after per vehicle. To be eligible for a parking permit, the resident must have proof of residency, their vehicle must be registered to that address and he or she must have no more than two open tickets.
Petitions and further information are available at website at www.philapark.net.
Jamie Gaughan, of Fishtown, was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting. Gaughan has had a parking permit for four years and appreciates the access and safety the permits allow.
“I think the majority of residents in the area want permit parking,” Gaughan said, “and I think the major roads like Girard Avenue would really benefit from diagonal parking as well as meters … I’ve been a resident for eight years and the increase in foot traffic has been incredible. You want to see that, you want to feel good, you want to see your community thrive, but you can’t have successful businesses if someone can’t park.”••
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