Philadelphia: The rough and tumble

Our stay in Philadelphia has been a great experience! Take a look at previous posts on the city by clicking the "Philadelphia" tag above.

This post, however, is about the rough and tumble; the problematic parts of Philadelphia and problems we've run into here.


Traffic and Parking: We knew what we were getting into when we brought our car with us to Philadelphia. Surprisingly, traffic and parking haven't been a huge problem. With proper planning, traffic apps, and gps, it's easy to find alternate routes, but it's a hassle regardless. Having to think about it at all is something new to us and definitely makes the "cons" list when considering a move to the city.
     We're fortunate to have the security and warmth of a parking garage included in our rent, otherwise parking is often over $100 a month or your car is at a high risk of being vandalized or stolen. Parking is usually $2 an hour for street and $12+ for a garage.

Philadelphia Parking Authority: I have yet to meet anyone who parks in Philadelphia regularly and hasn't received a violation. We only received one $36 ticket after coming back to our car 8 minutes late.
     I don't think anyone should receive a free pass, but it's frustrating regardless because you either have to overpay to reduce the risk or eventually pay the fines when something goes wrong and you can't quite make it back in time. Take a walk through Philadelphia and you'll see more meter maids than police. It's not uncommon to see three or more during a short walk. I think there are more beneficial ways of bringing revenue to the city and creating jobs than something that dampens people's mood toward the city.

Drivers: Here is a picture of our totalled Accent after a driver swung an illegal U-turn from oncoming traffic into the front corner of my car. We were compensated, but still a hassle.


Higher-risk: We spend a lot of time in center-city neighborhoods and live in a gated/guarded building where it's easy to forget what a dangerous place big cities are. One look at a site like SpotCrime reminds me.

One of the first things we did in Philadelphia was take a walk over the Ben Franklin Bridge. It's beautiful and highly recommended, but only walk halfway! We wanted to walk all the way across so we could switch sides and walk back, but as soon as we got off the bridge, we realized it was a mistake. If you walk to the wrong areas, have car trouble or detour
and get lost in the wrong areas, you are putting yourself at risk.

Flash Mobs: When I think of flash mobs, I think of something fun, but in 2011 and some of 2012, Philadelphia experienced violent and looting flasmobs. When we first moved here, I wondered why large groups of police would idle in center city. Flash mobs are part of the reason. Here is a 2010 video of police on horseback and motorcycle clearing a street across from where we live.

Mafia: I don't consider the Philadelphia Mafia a threat to our personal safety since we're not involved, but it isn't just something historic that you see in movies. There are many Italians who take themselves very seriously in a criminal way and supposedly newer generations have less respect for the public as shown by a 1993 attack on the Schuylkill Expressway. The mob has been reduced, but if last months supposed mob hit  is an indication of revitalized activity, it only adds to the violence of the city.

Police: The officer that responded to my car accident was great and I have no personal complaints about the police force here. However, it's well documented that they're partially or largely corrupt. Massage parlors operate openly in the city (pickup any free paper and they're advertised). There are also a number of videos of excessive force and cases of foul play including a supposed murder of a police officer that ratted out a fellow officer. Most officers who do lose their cool and use excessive violence are pardoned. It's understandable to some extent, police officers in big cities are practically at war, and the attitudes they have to deal with are obscene, but it's still a part of life we didn't deal with before.

Not that crime is better elsewhere-- here is a picture from our house in TN that was broken into while we waited to have it rented-out. It's now occupied and alarmed, so burglars beware!


Philadelphia is a beautiful city, it has one of the biggest and best big-city park systems in the world, but it's still a city. It consists more of concrete, brick, and metal than trees and greenery. The Delaware river is dirty and washes debris onto our sidewalks. The constant hum of traffic fills the air.

Infrastructure and Emergencies

Below are two pictures I took from our window. The first is a warehouse fire and the second is flooding of the Delaware. After the fire, our area was filled with smoke and stench even though the fire was miles away. During the flood, the only way to leave the building was blocked by water. The infrastructure of a good part of the country is aging, supposedly NY City is in serious danger of future flooding, but such catastrophes and emergencies are a reason not to live in any big city. If you're in a serious car wreck during rush-hour, ambulances take longer to get to the hospital due to traffic. Since buildings, highways, and other structures are much larger and there is more going on, there is a higher risk of something going wrong. For example, we have a helipad from which helicopters takeoff and land all day right next to our apartment. A large train derailed and spilled chemicals into the river we live on just two months ago.

Again, I've really enjoyed our time in Philadelphia and I'd definitely consider living here again. Everything isn't sunshine and roses anyplace you live. Check out these other posts for things we've done in Philadelphia and look for a future post on things we like about the city.

Previous weeks here: Post One / Post Two / Post Three / Post Four / Post FivePost Six / Post Seven