The Philadelphia Parking Authority's ongoing effort to replace parking meters with kiosks to economize on its operating costs was covered earlier this month by Philadelphia Gay News and Associated Press. Although it may be a good economizing measure, one of the potential costly effects of removing meter poles is eliminating the de-facto bicycle parking they were providing. Given Philadelphia's current bike parking shortage, eliminating over 7000 meter poles poses a huge potential for making a bad situation much worse!
The Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) does appear to want to salvage the situation and hopefully, so does the Philadelphia Parking Authority. MOTU staff met last week with the Bicycle Coalition and Center City District to discuss where meter poles are most used as bicycle parking in Center City. Collectively, we identified which Center City streets experience high parking demand and agreed that all poles should be converted on those blocks, and for all other street blocks, we concurred that 3 poles per block side should be kept and converted. This comes to 1600 poles that ideally should be kept and converted into bike parking racks. The transportation and parking agencies of Baltimore and Los Angeles did work together to accomplish this and based on the costs they incurred (approximately $125-$175/pole) to retrofit a pole into a bike rack, converting 1600 poles would come to approximately in the range of $280,000.
L.A.'s meter hitches
The Mayor's Office of Transportation will be discussing the pole-to-bike rack conversion project with the Philadelphia Parking Authority this week. We're told that the City and PPA wants to do the right thing here, and we are hopeful it will work out. The PPA is spending $11 million on the pole-to-kiosk project. Given that $280,000 is approximately 4% of the project's budget, we think spending a relatively small amount of money to save and convert 1600 meter poles would make the PPA truly a parking agency for all vehicles, not just cars. Plus, recycling assets and retaining needed bicycle parking capacity is a worthwhile and necessary investment in green infrastructure for Philadelphia. Besides, it just makes common sense.