Philadelphia needs to transform its transportation network at a scale large enough to drive 100 traffic deaths each year down to zero, and get a significantly larger number of people to bike, walk, or take transit as their primary means of conveyance around the city.
The city recognizes this and, on Wednesday, released Connect: Philadelphia’s Strategic Transportation Plan. The plan lays out the city’s plans and strategies for achieving Vision Zero by 2030, a better bus network, a high-quality bike network, streets that are in good repair and greater community engagement and access to transportation choices.
At press conference announcing the plan, held at Gideon Edward School on Glenwood Avenue, Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis, Mayor Jim Kenney, Council President Darrell Clarke, PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards, OTIS Deputy Managing Director Mike Carroll, and SEPTA General manager Jeffrey Knueppel, spoke about the plan and how it will affect Philadelphians throughout the city’s neighborhoods.
Among the ideas discussed: Better bicycle infrastructure, an expanded and strategic bus network, and neighborhood slow zones, which Philadelphians will learn more about next week, when many of the Connect ideas are unveiled. Council President Clarke even publicly proposed adding speed humps to Glenwood Avenue, near Gideon Edward School, to make the street, and crossing for students, safer.
We applaud the Mayor and everyone involved here, for putting out this first ever strategic plan that does a good job articulating the values and vision of an equitable, safe and high quality transportation network for Philadelphia.
But, we think the City needs to deliver more in terms of projects and policy changes in tighter time frames so that significantly more people walk, bike or take transit than do today.
Most short, less than 2-mile trips in Philadelphia are still taking place by car, and the City’s transportation network needs to look very different in 2025 to change that statistic.
While the Connect report and Wednesday’s press conference focused on better bicycle infrastructure and transit, if you read between the lines, motor vehicles still take priority — and, apparently, still will in 2025.
Without more resources and staff capacity within several key departments such as Streets, Procurement and Human Resources, it will be hard to meet the 2020 and 2025 goals laid in Connect. And without serious decisions that prioritize transit, bicycling and walking over driving where necessary, Philadelphians will continue using un-sustainable transportation to move between neighborhoods, congesting the streets and polluting the air.
We believe that in addition to a regional transit funding strategy, which this plan calls for, the City needs a local transportation funding strategy for roads, sidewalks and a high quality bicycle network. Philadelphia deserves great streets, and we can’t just continue waiting.
The longer the City remains resource-constrained and limited in its ability to deliver safe streets, sidewalks in good repair, and a high quality bicycle network that meets the needs of would-be bicyclists, the longer it will take for significantly more people to ride a bike or walk two miles instead of driving.
Philadelphians have a strong desire and need for a high quality and more equitable transportation multimodal network, but the City will be hard pressed to deliver such a network without prioritizing the necessary resources.
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