BY PATRICK KERKSTRA INQUIRER STAFF WRITER When it comes to ruthless efficiency in local government, the Philadelphia Parking Authority would seem peerless. With an army of blue-uniformed parking enforcers blanketing Philadelphia each day, the agency has become one of the nation’s most aggressive towing, booting and ticket-writing juggernauts since state Republicans took control of it in 2001.
The authority slaps nearly 1.6 million violation notices on the windshields of Philadelphia drivers annually, a 35 percent increase over 2001. Nearly 50,000 vehicles are towed, more than double the old figure. Meters require more feeding, the hourly rate at authority garages is up 50 percent, and parking enforcement officers prowl hundreds of additional square blocks in neighborhoods they rarely ventured into before.
All told, the authority now squeezes $192 million a year out of Philadelphia drivers.
That’s tough enough for many to take, even assuming that the cash is being used for a clear public good: hiring teachers, say, or paving city streets. But as an Inquirer analysis shows, the Parking Authority has become a self-replicating patronage machine that has used its new revenue principally to double the size of its staff and to inflate the salaries of its myriad managers.
Despite revenue growth of 54.5 percent since fiscal 2001, the authority has delivered only a pittance of extra help for the city’s general fund: an average of $740,000 a year, or 4 percent, when adjusted for inflation. MORE