Philadelphia Parking Authority

This morning I traveled to a place where peaceful Phildelphia meets Dante’s Inferno; South East Philly. This vast land of misery is made up of skeletons from a once booming economy along with some of the most painful places in the city. UPS, IKEA, and the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) make-up a pseudo Bermuda Triangle where perfectly normal people become zombie’s  who are full of distress and dissappointment. You might be asking why would anyone voluntarily subject themselves to such a place? I wanted to observe a painful place so I spent 30 minutes of observation in the PPA.

Once you enter the office at the PPA, you are greeted by a gentlemen (above) who seems to be responsible for making sure things run smoothly. Leaving his post at the pay-phones, he will direct you to the first window on the right where lives go to become miserable. Obviously, I have strong feelings about this place.

Maybe tow-lots are not all bad. I am sure they serve a noble purpose of ridding the streets of vehicles who have overstayed their welcome. My problem is the design and experience of the place and how people just accept tow-lots to be miserable places.

I’ll share one gentleman’s experience I observed this morning.

An older gentleman (the guy on the right at the window) walked into the building and was directed to the first window. He began the same conversation every person begins, explaining the confusion about why his vehicle was towed. Jim (we’ll call this gentleman Jim) works a night shift in a building in Center City. He parked his vehicle in a zone that had temporary regulations posted. He parked there because his shifts ends before the no-parking period begins. However, when Jim finished his shift, he found his vehicle had been towed.

Naturally, the long calloused ears this story fell upon had no sympathy for Jim and simply told him the amount due to retrieve his vehicle. Unfortunately for Jim, the PPA does not accept checks and is a cash only affair. After realizing he didn’t have enough cash and failing at encouraging the man behind the window the accept his check, he was directed to the ATM across the room. Jim began a painful walk of shame to the ATM. Everyone in line behind him waited patiently as he withdrew his cash and returned to the window to finish the transaction.

As if Jim’s morning wasn’t horrible enough, he was forced to experience more misery with the walk to the ATM which helped highlight for everyone else just how inconvenient of an experience this was for Jim. Perhaps if the ATM was moved to the right side of the room, or if the windows were reordered, there would be a more convenient, discrete way to complete the transaction.

I will be starting every Friday morning off at the PPA, observing people and human behavior and I hope to never see Jim again.


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