I Wanna Know

PW exposes the tricks, scams and truth about the powers that be.

By Heather Duffy
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 14, 2004

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Q: Why do I get a parking ticket for an expired meter, but church attendees can park their cars in actual lanes of traffic without getting a ticket? If I establish my own religion, does the city give permits for me and my followers to break the law? If so, do you want to join the Church of Free Parking in Philly?

A: Despite issues with displaying the Ten Commandments on government buildings and concerns over the reference to God in our Pledge of Allegiance, church and state are still officially separate in this country. But that hasn't stopped the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) and the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) from giving special dispensation to churchgoers. The Parking Authority's Linda Miller says churches and other houses of worship are often exempt from parking restrictions during specific times. "The courtesy is given by the Streets Department for services," she says, adding that religious institutions reapply for the privilege each January. Though the seemingly illegal parking is most noticeable on Sundays, days and times vary by the place of worship. The "courtesy" allows the reverent to park in areas where parking isn't otherwise permitted, such as in no-parking zones, loading-only zones and even lanes of traffic, which sometimes results in a two-lane street being condensed into one. Although the Streets Deparment authorizes the parking, it doesn't issue parking permits. Members should contact their congregation's office to find out whether they offer permits, and if so, whether they recommend that patrons use them. Some churches distribute window displays to parishioners, but Miller says, "Most people know why they're parked there." The displays aren't required, but they do help the PPA and PPD distinguish the church crowd from regular old parking-law flouters. Since the size of the congregation determines where and how much courtesy parking is allotted, worshippers should again contact the institution's office to find out where the privileged boundaries are. Even parishioners can risk a parking ticket if caught outside the designated area. Those not attending services are still bound by the designated signs and meters, so if your time runs out, you have to pay up. Even if God is your co-pilot.

What do you wanna know? Send queries and complaints to Heather M. Duffy at hduffy@philadelphiaweekly.com

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