By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For the first time in more than a dozen years, horse-drawn carriages will soon operate in the city’s historic district during the afternoon rush hour period.
Officials are testing the idea throughout the summer. The city will allow horse-drawn carriages to operate during the currently restricted hours of 3:30pm to 6pm, Mondays through Fridays.
“Horse-drawn carriages are a popular tourist attraction,” says acting streets commissioner David Perri, “and there are potential commercial benefits to expanding the operation.”
Perri says operators will need to have their routes approved, so he doesn’t expect this change to begin until late June.
“We think, by being very selective with the routes, that we could allow an expansion of the horse carriages without causing a major impact to traffic,” he said today.
The current restriction on carriages during the morning rush hours will remain, and no horse-drawn carriages will be permitted during the “Welcome America” festivities in early July.
Perri says the testing of afternoon carriage rides will be evaluated in the fall:
“We’ll look at the data, and if it’s conclusive that there’s major impacts on traffic, then we’ll make a recommendation that this shouldn’t become permanent.”
The change was first proposed by Councilman Mark Squilla, whose district includes the historic district (see related story). He says he is pleased the Streets Department is willing to give it a try.
“It’s not a full change to the law at this point,” Squilla tells KYW Newsradio, “but it’s a way to see if something like this is possible in the City of Philadelphia.”
Squilla says his office has received requests from tourists about allowing late-day carriage rides. He also believes the carriage operators need the business, though he says he has not spoken to any of them about this pilot program.
Morning and evening rush-hour restrictions on carriage rides have been in effect since 2000. Animal rights activists have long objected to the business in general. Perri says the requirement that the rides stop during extremely hot or hazardous weather will remain.