Parking Wars, and Peace
Among dozens of opinionated and voluble contributors of posts to social media site Nextdoor Swarthmore, only three Swarthmoreans rose to comment at the Monday work session of Swarthmore Borough Council.
Isabel Paynter, who ignited a virtual firestorm with her original post recounting her frustration at being given a ticket for parking at a non-operable meter last Tuesday, spoke first during the public comment period at the opening of the Council session on June 3. She had parked at a meter whose display read FAIL, then “I put a quarter in, and it still said ‘out of order – FAIL’ and when I came back I had received a ticket,” Seeking to dispute the ticket, she visited Borough offices and the Swarthmore Police Department before receiving a call from Chief Ray Stuflett who told Paynter the ticket would stand, because she should have paid through the parking app.
Paynter says she doesn’t and wouldn’t’ have the app on her phone, and noted that anyone without a smartphone can’t use the app even if they wish to. She further reported being told “that I was supposed to move my car” from the nonfunctioning meter, but that there are no signs or mentions on the borough’s website of that policy. The would-be parker is also responsible for reporting a broken meter to the Borough; Paynter said she did. “I’m not paying the ticket. I tried to dispute it, and that didn’t go far.
Speaking next, Al Federico made two requests; that the borough ensure that tickets not be issued to cars parked at non-functioning meters. “I understand that the parking supply is a public commodity that we manage and regulate very well to the benefit of adjacent land uses…but having a space that is occupied but not turning over is better than have a space that people just can’t park in…” Second, Federico said, there seems to be a prevalent “impression that the vigor of our parking enforcement is … not compassionate. … in the scheme of trying to make an encouraging and welcoming downtown, you don’t want to create the impression of predatory enforcement.”
Lastly, Robert Small simply inquired of the non – operational meters: “Are thy being fixed?” Small’s question was the easiest to answer — “Yes” — as it was mentioned in later discussion that FAIL generally signifies a dead battery, which are replaced as needed on a weekly inspection tour by the Borough’s public works department.
Other matters were discussed at greater length. As it happened, parking regulations and fees were already on the agenda for council’s General Government committee, and enforcement of parking regulations on the minds of the Public Safety Committee. General Government chair Sarah Graden said that committee had met on May 20, before the start of the meter-FAIL dustup, but that the members were in accord with the principle that “parking should not be a burden on residents, merchants, visitors, workers … when we consider parking resolutions and enforcement.”
That is the guiding pretext of a resolution proposed following talks with town merchants who asked General Government to address parking policies and costs. The proposed resolution would halve the standard parking rate to 25 cents per hour. (The 12-hour meters along Myers Avenue would remain at 25 cents per hour.) The second proposal would have converted several 2-hour meters to 4-hour meters, so that parkers needing longer than two hours for services like hair care would not be subject to overtime infractions.
The proposal was changed after some debate to increase the duration to 3-hour meters, which would be available to shoppers rather than to merchants with monthly parking permits, which ware restricted to 4-hour meters. After discussion among council members, with input from Mayor Marty Spiegel and borough manager Jane Billings — and with the understanding that future adjustment could be easily made — the resolution was adjusted and will be voted on at the legislative session on Monday, June 10.
Whatever the coming state of regulations. Graden added that the General Government committee will undertake a clarification and standardization of information attached to meters re. enforcement times and rates.
Regarding enforcement of those parking laws, both new and old Council Vice President and Public Safety Chair Mary Walk encouraged all with an interest in the subject to attend the committee meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18, when enforcement policies will be (possibly) modified and (certainly) clarified.
Until that date, per the direction of Council and the Mayor, Swarthmore Police will not issue tickets to cars parked at broken meters. As for tickets already written for FAILed meter parking, they will not be subject to waiver — except for Isabel Paynter’s, which will be dismissed.