A city task force has recommended scrapping Philadelphia's contentious curbside electric-vehicle parking program while stepping up efforts to create more off-street charging stations accessible to the public.

The Electric Vehicle Policy Task Force, created last year after City Council voted by 11-6 to impose a moratorium on the program that allows EV owners to install a private curbside charger on city streets, posted a draft report Friday that recommends abandoning the 11-year-old program.

An EV-only sign in 2015.
DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
An EV-only sign in 2015.

The 16-member panel included Councilmen David Oh and Mark Squilla, who sponsored the moratorium, and its report reflects their view that the curbside EV parking program is not sustainable in the long term.

Fewer than 70 electric-vehicle owners have signed up for the parking privilege, which requires the owner to pay an annual fee and the expense of installing the charger. But that was enough to trigger a backlash in parking-starved areas like Society Hill and Fairmount, where owners of conventional vehicles struggled to find an open space while electric-vehicle slots stood vacant.

The report says the program "is not reliably accessible to the public, it is not scalable, it does not meet the needs of EV owners without access to curbside parking, and it has had limited effectiveness in encouraging more EV use."

Council's legislation last year halted the issuance of new electric-vehicle parking permits and relaxed the 24/7 parking restrictions, which allowed conventional vehicles to use the spots between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The task force report recommends phasing out the preferential EV parking over 15 years, after which the permits would not be renewed and the owners would be responsible for removing the charger from the public right-of-way.

Philadelphia's program was among the most generous municipal efforts aimed at encouraging EV ownership. Berkeley, Calif., approved a pilot program in 2014 awarding 25 permits for private curbside vehicle chargers, but  declined to include parking privileges with its permits.

Philadelphia activists and several Council members regarded the moratorium as a retreat from the city's green commitments. Mayor Kenney, who sponsored the 2007 legislation as a councilman, said the moratorium "sends the wrong message" about the benefits of electric vehicles. The legislation went into effect without his signature.

The draft report says Philadelphia lags behind cities like Portland, Ore., New York, and Amsterdam, and suggests the city encourage the development of more public charging infrastructure and electric mass transit.

The report also questioned the "social equity" of granting privileged public parking spaces to owners of electric vehicles, who it says skew toward male college graduates who earn more than $100,000 a year. "EV owners nationwide also represent a narrow demographic and currently do not reflect Philadelphia's diversity."

The task force plans to hold a public open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Municipal Services Building. The panel will incorporate comments into the final version of the report, which is targeted for February, said Patrick Clark, transportation planner and grants coordinator in the city's Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems.