On Monday, February 5th, Mayor Parker announced that she will request a charter change to separate the current Streets Department into Streets and Sanitation. This decision comes out of a year of advocacy from environmental, transit, and quality-of-life focused groups. For years, Philadelphia stood apart from other major cities by not having a dedicated transportation department and this move will poise Philadelphia to raise the priority of both transportation and sanitation issues.
The top priority of our Better Mobility Platform was creation of a Department of Transportation.
Creating safe streets starts with investing in safe infrastructure and road design. Philadelphia needs leadership that is committed to reducing speeds on High Injury Network corridors and redesigning streets for their most vulnerable users: people walking, bicycling, and taking transit. We believe that Philadelphia can do this by creating a city-level Department of Transportation by retaining and combining the MDO Office of Transportation & Infrastructure, Office of Complete Streets, and the Streets Department Transportation Division to efficiently respond to neighborhood-level requests and deliver capital and maintenance projects that adhere to the City’s complete streets policies.
We also see this as a big win for Mayor Parker’s Clean and Green initiative. Environmental groups have been asking for a separate Sanitation department as well over the past year. Former Sustainability Director, Christine Knapp told Grid Magazine in 2023 the following:
With the way the Streets Department is currently structured — being responsible for both streets engineering and sanitation — an outsized amount of the city’s quality-of-life issues, like picking up trash and recycling, cleaning litter and dumping, and filling potholes, fall on the department to manage. It’s too much for one department to handle, and the City’s most recent former sustainability director, Christine Knapp, believes that breaking the department into two parts that can focus separately on roadways, traffic and public right of ways and sanitation and solid waste makes more sense. It would allow each department to do a better job addressing these issues.
At this time we don’t know how the Managing Director’s Office of Transportation & Infrastructure and the Office of Complete Streets will be folded into this new department but we are encouraged by this move and by the decision of Kristin del Rossi as Streets Commissioner and Crystal Jacobs Shipman as Sanitation Commissioner. We look forward to working with them and continuing our efforts to make Philadelphia roads safer for all users.