Parking on the sidewalk in the pedestrian right of way is illegal, but the practice is pretty common in places like South Philly and other areas where police don't enforce the law very thoroughly.
Up until last week there was no publicly-available data about this problem, but Randy LoBasso at Philly Weekly finally scored some information from the Philadelphia Parking Authority showing the number of sidewalk parking tickets issued in each police district between January 2013 and June 2014.
The PDF format wasn't as helpful as it could have been for the visual learners among us though, so I threw the data into CartoDB and made an interactive map. The darker the area, the more tickets were issued, and you can click on the police district to see the exact number.
The information really raises more questions than it answers about the scope of the problem, or police enforcement priorities.
The spreadsheet PPA gave Randy strangely does not differentiate between tickets issued to cars, trucks, or scooters so we can't say for sure how aggressively the police are targeting the specific problem of cars and trucks parking on the sidewalk.
It would also be helpful to see a longer timeframe broken down by year - or better yet, by month - to see how police enforcement priorities and driver behavior have changed over time.
One thing we can't know for sure is the relationship between the number of tickets issued and the number of actual violations.
It sure seems like people park on the sidewalk more in South Philly, but PPA's data shows the number of tickets issued dropping off by over half below Lombard St. - the cutoff between eastern Center City's District 6 (1,627 tickets) and District 3 (756 tickets) to the south.
The drop-of is even starker west of Broad St, where District 17 (which covers the area between Lombard and Moore) issued just 329 sidewalk parking tickets - 17% of the 1,894 issued in Center City's District 9.
South of that, District 1 (which covers the Sports Complex - a notoriously lawless parking environment) issued just 184 tickets, or a little more than half the total for District 17 to the north.
A really thorough analysis of the situation would require taking into account the population totals for these districts, numbers of registered vehicles, car traffic estimates for sporting events, and a plethora of other variables.
But on first pass, the implication that South Philly drivers are twice as well-behaved as Center City drivers when it comes to illegal sidewalk parking seems hard to square with observed reality, and suggests a soft enforcement approach by police in these areas.
The PPA can help us to better understand the nature of the problem by releasing more years of ticketing data, and by breaking the numbers down by vehicle type.