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This Friday is Independence Day, the holiday during which we all eat hot dogs, celebrate Wawa/freedom, and drive everywhere. That last bit is no joke: AAA says that 41 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this holiday weekend. Logically, it follows that as more people are going to be traveling in and around Philadelphia, more people are going to get towed.

That’s exactly what happened to a good friend of mine Tuesday night. I went along with him to get his car out of PPA jail, making a pilgrimage to the place we’ve all seen on A&E’s “Parking Wars“: Philadelphia Parking Authority’s Impound Lot #1 at 2501 Weccacoe Avenue (which is near Columbus Boulevard and Oregon Avenue, adjacent to Ikea). Rather quickly, I realized why people run into so much trouble and piss and moan about getting their cars out of impound: They don’t actually do what they’re supposed to do.

See, the process is annoying , but it’s seamless if you aren’t trying to pull some bullshit. All you need to do is bring your vehicle’s registration, your proof of insurance, and your valid drivers’ license. If you don’t have valid insurance, you shouldn’t be driving a car in Philadelphia. After all, with Philly’s Live Stop program, if you don’t have these three things, your car will get towed if you get pulled over by the cops. (Also, everyone else will assume you to be a privileged asshole willing to play grownup Super Smash Bros. on Market Street.)

So here are four incredibly straightforward things to remember:

1. If you don’t pay attention to parking signs, your car might get towed. In fact, with Murphy’s Law in mind, let’s just assume that it will get towed. So step one in the being-responsible process is preventative: pay attention to the signs. But if you’re determined to tempt fate and park wherever the hell you want, proceed to step two.

2. Congratulations! You either made an innocent mistake — perfectly human, no big deal — or you’re a scofflaw; in either case, your car is now in PPA jail. It’s never too late to do the right thing, so calmly get your legal documents together — valid registration, proof of insurance, valid drivers’ license — and take a cab or bus to the relevant lot. (Note: If, like most people, you keep your documents in your car, don’t worry; the PPA employee on site will escort you to your car in step three.) The PPA recommends that you call them first to make sure you know which lot you’re going to and that your car wasn’t, you know, stolen instead of towed. My friend and I tempted fate and lucked out by heading straight to the likely spot, Lot #1, but I can imagine how badly it would have sucked if we’d showed up only to find the car was in a different lot, or being pieced out in a chop shop in Camden.

3. Arriving at the PPA facility, the registrant of the vehicle should go to the window without hangers-on in tow. (I was chastised for trying to accompany my friend up to the window, and in retrospect, I get it — after all, you can imagine the crazy, bulletproof-glass-worthy bullshit that PPA workers have to put up with there in the Concrete Island of Misfit Vehicles.) Provide the clerk with your documents. If they’re sitting in your vehicle, just tell the clerk that, and you’ll be escorted alone to retrieve the documents and then you’ll proceed to another window once you’re back. (Note: You’ll need to pay the towing fee, typically $175, along with outstanding tickets or a payment agreement with the PPA.)

4. Congratulations! That’s it. Now you’re free to go park wherever you want again after you get escorted back to your vehicle and drive it out of the lot.

That’s really it. It took us a total of 20 minutes there at the facility to get the car out of impound. Granted, we were there during a quiet time (Wednesday midday), but even if there were a lot of other folks there, it would’ve been simple. (I would recommend peeing before you go to the facility; I was directed to use a port-a-potty outside when I had to go.)

We asked the worker why it was so easy for us given the PPA’s reputation as being awful. She cited the fact that we were polite given the circumstances and calmly following procedure. Whereas too many people arrive angry and without any valid credentials, she said, “cussin’ and fussin’. They ain’t helpin’ nothin‘.”

 

About The Author

Contributing columnist

Josh Kruger is an award-winning writer and commentator in Philadelphia. His @PhillyWeekly column, “The Uncomfortable Whole,” took the 2014 First Place Spotlight Award for weekly newspaper commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists and the 2014 Second Place Award for weekly newspaper commentary in the United States and Canada from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. He also blogs daily for PW on various topics including queer culture and news, mass transit, politics, crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, civil liberties, activism, media and everything else Philly.

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