Those of you brave or unfortunate enough to drive through South Philly during the DNC last month might have noticed something missing: Cars parked in the median on Broad Street. That’s because the city, anticipating scores of protesters down Broad, specifically banned parking in the middle of the street during the convention, as it does for events like the Mummers Parade and the Broad Street Run.
On the heels of the DNC, the 5th Square PAC started a petition demanding that the City permanently close off the median from parking, garnering over 1,000 signatures within a week. But the petition only collected signatures from those who favor a ban on median parking—not from those (sometimes vociferous) South Philly residents who want things to stay as they are.
In partnership with BeHeardPhilly, we want to find out what people who live in South Philly really think: Should parking be permanently banned from the South Broad Street median?
That’s why today we’re announcing a Citizen poll on the issue. In partnership with BeHeardPhilly—with whom we have conducted surveys about the soda tax and poverty—as well as the Passyunk Square Civic Association, Newbold Civic Association, Newbold Neighbors Association, Point Breeze Community Development Corporation, Girard Estate Area Residents, and West Passyunk Neighbors Association, we want to find out what people who live in South Philly really think: Should parking be permanently banned from the South Broad Street median?
To be clear, parking on the median is, technically, illegal on any street in Philadelphia. But pretty much as long as there have been cars, the unwritten rule in South Philly has been that parking on the median on Broad between Washington and Oregon avenues is perfectly acceptable. Only in rare circumstances—usually for big events like the DNC, the Broad Street Run, or the Pope’s visit—is median parking curtailed. The rest of the time, the City looks the other way rather than hand out scores of $31 tickets.
If you don’t live in South Philly, you might be a little bit confused by why this is such a big deal. After all, we’re talking about 200 or so parking “spots” spread out over 16 blocks, per PlanPhilly’s Jim Saksa. But if you know the area, you know that people care. A lot. And for a long time. In 1961, for example, Mayor Richardson Dilworth tried to enforce the ban on median parking. The people’s response? Throwing 2,000 tomatoes at him. Current Mayor Jim Kenney, who hails from South Philly, has no plans to enforce the ban even though he claims that the practice is “dangerous.”
Those opposed to enforcing the ban point out that the practice has existed for literally 100 years. They say that it’s not a big deal and should be left the way it is. After all, they argue, not only do the parking spots help out small businesses in the area, but the unique practice holds a special place in Philadelphia lore, inspiring confusion and admiration from visitors and newcomers alike.
Those in favor of enforcing the ban claim that it’s primarily an issue of safety, especially for pedestrians. Broad Street is arguably the most dangerous street for pedestrians, with nine of the worst 25 intersections located along this famous stretch. Three of those 25 are along the stretch where median parking is currently permitted: Broad & Washington, Broad & Snyder, and Broad & Ritner. Having raised medians and forbidding parking, advocates say, would make it easier and safer for pedestrians to cross the massive road. They also argue that the parking is an eyesore, pointing to the existing medians between City Hall and Washington Avenue as an example of how to beautify the middle of a street not littered with parked cars.
Are you a South Philly resident? Do you favor or oppose a ban on parking on the Broad Street median? We want to know.Header photo by Josh Middleton