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TESTIMONY OF BETH GROSSMAN, ESQUIRE BOARD CHAIR, PHILADELPHIA PARKING AUTHORITY PHILADELPHIA CITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 220149 JUNE 22, 2022

Good afternoon, Chairpersons Gym and Green and members of the Committees on Children and Youth and Finance present today.

My name is Beth Grossman, and I proudly serve as the recently appointed chair of the Board of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

I personally wanted to be engaged in today’s joint-committees hearing to speak on behalf of PPA on Resolution 220149, which I will address after offering a brief update on the Authority’s governance structure and new direction.

Through the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s Act 22 of 2001, the PPA’s operations became governed by a six-member state-appointed board appointed by the Governor of Pennsylvania.

Including me, five of the six members of PPA’s Board were appointed by Governor Tom Wolf roughly within the past eighteen months.

The other Board members are: Lynette Brown-Sow; Patricia Furlong, Esquire; Obra Kernodle, IV; Mark Nicastre; and former Councilmember Al Taubenberger.

We all come from diverse backgrounds and public service experiences bringing fresh sets of eyes and ears to review PPA’s operations, performance, and contributions while helping to position us for tomorrow.

At PPA, we are diligently seeking to attain our mission, which is “to contribute to the economic vitality of Philadelphia and the surrounding region by effectively managing and providing convenient parking on the street, at the airport, and in garages and lots; effectively operating a system of red-light camera enforcement; regulating taxicabs, limousines and transportation network companies; and other transportation-related
activities.”

We take our public service commitment very seriously as a state authority with a focus on providing benefits to the people who live, work, visit, and park in Philadelphia by:

  • Improving cooperation and planning with PPA stakeholders, including state and local transportation partners;
  •  Implementing cutting-edge technology to improve the customer experience and enhance overall management and agency efficiency;
  •  Emphasizing employee training and depending on our unionized workforce in AFSCME DC 33, AFSCME DC 47, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 21, and Teamsters Local 115 to perform industry best practices;
  • Maximizing transparency in hiring and procurement;
  •  Implementing on-street parking management policies that address
    neighborhood needs throughout the City;
  •  Encouraging reasonably priced off-street parking through rate setting policies at seven PPA Center City facilities;
  • Maintaining and improving neighborhood parking lots to address both residential and commercial demand;
  • Providing leadership in partnering with private and public hospitality and tourism entities to enhance the visitor experience;
  •  Applying the latest technology and having Teamsters union members with a competitive compensation package to ensure a superior customer experience at the parking facilities at Philadelphia International Airport in support of this important regional economic engine; and
  •  Encouraging safe, clean, reliable taxicab, limousine and transportation network company service through sound regulations and consistent enforcement.

To accomplish these objectives and more, the Board coordinates with dedicated employees, many who have been with PPA for decades.

With PPA’s goal of being an “employer of choice”, our nearly 1,000-person workforce is involved in a wide variety of careers with family-sustaining wages and healthcare, education and retirement benefits.

On the whole, our team has diligently worked to make PPA an institution focused on the public good.

We are an independent, but integral partner working with all levels of government to enhance transportation options and public safety.

Our productive working relationships with the City’s legislative offices, Finance Department, Streets Department, Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, OTIS, the Courts, the School District of Philadelphia, and other parties have enabled PPA’s impact to be positive and enduring.

While we recognize that more work is needed to reach our fullest potential, we believe a solid foundation is in place for today’s Board and staff to successfully guide the Authority into a new era.

That is why we so intently examine the effects of our mission and the activities that flow from it.

We are determined to better facilitate the delivery of benefits and help provide for the welfare of citizens.

In the acting director’s role until PPA completes a national search for a new senior leader, our general counsel, Dennis Weldon, has been handling the day-to-day affairs.

We are hopeful to have our next full-time director in place by the end of this year to help lead PPA, enable us to build more partnerships, find new growth areas, manage financial aspects, and meet our other goals within the public service ecosystem.

Our new Board is very interested in transparency, which is why I am here today.

In accordance with the request PPA received, we have respectfully submitted all of the documents we were asked to provide for this hearing.

Furthering our interest to be transparent, we proactively posted the same details we submitted to the City on the Authority’s website, “philapark.org”.

I hope both our informational response and my presence indicate a willingness for our organization to build a stronger and open rapport with the City’s legislative branch of government.

As noted earlier, PPA is an entity of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

However, we relate with a host of other stakeholders to share data and collaborate to achieve results, like partnering with City Council to set parking violations and parking ticket fines, which help support parking needs and make resources available for the City and School District.

And we fully embrace the importance of fulfilling our obligations.

In that vein, our new Board initiated a comprehensive review of the PPA’s policies, procedures, and processes, including those related to financial issues, Human Resources concerns, and the matter identified in Resolution 220149.

The resolution deals with the distribution of net revenue, referred to as on-street parking, which is the amount largely derived from parking tickets and parking violation debt collection.

Specifically, Resolution 220149 seeks to look at the figures PPA used to determine the payment given to the School District of Philadelphia in fiscal year 2021, which ended on March 30, 2021.

As you already know, all net revenue from the on-street parking program has always remained in Philadelphia. Before 2004 all of that revenue was delivered directly to the City.

The passage of Act 9 of 2004 created a formula where, after the Authority reaches a $25 million threshold for its payment to the city, a payment of on-street parking revenue beyond that threshold could be considered for the School District.

Our challenge is that the formula’s threshold increases every year to match revenue improvements secured in the prior year, making the original $25 million threshold now more than $42.3 million…and that figure will rise as revenue improves.

It is also worth noting that the threshold is never permitted to go down, so in years of reduced performance, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, the threshold will remain at the high level.

Since 2004, PPA has contributed $577 million to the city and $132 million to the School District, which almost entirely comes from operational efficiencies developed and implemented by PPA.

In Fiscal Year 2020, net on-street revenue totaled $56 million. Of that amount, $41.7M was distributed to the City and $14.3M to the School District.

In March 2022, the Board launched an initiative to review and resolve the School District payment.

In Fiscal Year 2020, the PPA paid $14.4 million from its on-street parking revenue to the School District, of which $10.8 million was later determined by auditors to have been an overpayment.

In the spirit of partnership with the School District, PPA’s new leaders began exploring how we could help with the overpayment, and learned that we had been paying into our Retiree Healthcare Trust Fund at a higher than typical amount, which we changed just this spring to be more aligned with national best practices.

By foregoing its FY20 and FY21 contributions to its Retiree Healthcare Trust Fund (totaling $10.4 million) and correcting a pension liability adjustment for FY21, PPA could legally eliminate the overpayment in conjunction with paying $859,000 to the City.

We were extremely pleased that our three organizations achieved outcomes that supported public education and local government.

Just like this positive outcome with the School District, we continue to address quality of life issues as best we can, whenever and wherever possible:

  • We are working with district city councilmembers to expand our life-saving red light and speed camera programs in high accident areas;
  •  We are supporting the current legislation for the removal of abandoned trucks, which have plagued several communities for so many years;
  •  We manage and enforce the Residential Parking Permit program, which is in ever-increasing demand throughout the City, and look forward to working with councilmembers to reduce the number of violations in the near future;
  • We will soon begin our Bike Lane Enforcement Initiative, which is aimed at saving lives and eliminating injuries to our bicycling residents;
  • We started working with minority business organizations, like the African American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ, DE and the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and underrepresented businesses to provide greater access to contract opportunities; and
  •  We have just contracted both a nationally-regarded human resources firm and financial services firm to assist in fine-tuning our policies, practices, and procedures.

And we are just getting started.

In short, PPA’s new Board knows we have to go the extra mile.
Our emphases are on refining our systems, bettering the customer experience, generating more revenues to be passed to our City and School District partners, and implementing an impactful social responsibility agenda.

We hope the partnership between the City, School District, and PPA, the Authority’s revised financial practices, and our several new initiatives will allow us to be a bigger and more beneficial part of Philadelphia.

I hope I adequately addressed the issues Resolution 220149 intended to cover.

If there are any questions, I would be pleased to answer them.

Thank you.

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June 2022: Regular Board Meeting


Due to the public health impact and concerns of the COVID-19 outbreak and in light of recommendations by public health officials, the Authority’s Regular Board Meeting scheduled for 10:00 a.m., on June 28, 2022, offers both in-person or virtual attendance via Microsoft Teams webinar. You may register to attend the Board meeting virtually Here.
Public comment will be accepted and considered. Anyone wishing to make comment at the June Regular Board Meeting must contact Lauren Gallen at LGallen@philapark.org. All such emails and requests must be received by Ms. Gallen on or before June 27, 2022, to be considered for the meeting.
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PPA Announces Bike Lane Enforcement Initiative

 

(PHILADELPHIA) – Citing 41 deaths and over 135 injuries since 2011, Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) Deputy Executive Director Corinne O’Connor announced the PPA’s new Bicycle Lane Enforcement Initiative, which calls for the targeted assignment of 8 new bike lane enforcement officers to focus exclusively on enforcing bike lane regulations in several city neighborhoods. 

Since 2011, 41 bicyclists have been killed riding our city streets. 135 have been injured during this same period. Cyclists are an integral part of Philadelphia’s transportation ecosystem, and we must protect them while providing safe and equal access to our city streets,” O’Connor said.

“Blocking a bike lane with a parked car is dangerous, and the PPA will issue tickets to vehicles that illegally park in bike lanes. We hope to have all eight bike lane enforcement officers on the street by the fall,” she said.

Through increased enforcement, the PPA has issued over 25,700 bike lane violations since 2014. “While our enforcement efforts aim to encourage compliance with our bike lane regulations, the staggering number of violations speaks to the need that more enforcement action is required,” O’Connor said.

The new bike lane enforcement officers will patrol and issue tickets for any illegally parked vehicles that block bike lanes in Center City, University City, and South Philadelphia.

O’Connor credited the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia for their “vigilance and hard work in protecting bicyclists and moving the city’s Vision Zero goals closer to reality.”

Commenting on the PPA’s new Bike Lane Enforcement Initiative, Sarah Stuart of the Bicycle Coalition of Great Philadelphia said, “We are very excited and relieved to see the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s program get underway.  Many of Philadelphia’s unprotected bike lanes are chronically encroached upon by drivers who park or stand with impunity.  A team of enforcement officers on bikes will be able to efficiently and sustainably keep bike lanes clear and safe for the  bicyclists they were designed and built for.”

“It is our hope this enhanced enforcement effort will encourage compliance with bike lane regulations and keep our bike lanes clear and free of parked vehicles,” O’Connor concluded.

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