Edited Mon, May 13, 2024, to reflect the current slate of public hearings (listed at the end of this blog).

In March, Mayor Parker released her first proposed City Operating and Capital Budgets. We combed through it with an eye to Vision Zero funding, and attended the Streets and Services budget hearing last Wednesday, April 10th, to learn more. Unfortunately, apart from the budget itself, the hearing made it clear that Vision Zero is still at a crossroads despite the Mayor’s Executive Order from last month. Settle in – this is a long one.

The Context  

Each year the Bicycle Coalition analyzes both proposed and approved Capital budgets to track Vision Zero investments and to make budget proposals to City Council. As part of the Livable Communities Coalition, led by AARP PA, we have made a series of budget requests starting during the FY22 budget hearing cycle. The work of this coalition has led to a steady increase in the City’s Vision Zero budget contribution. (Take a look at our blog from the Fiscal Year 2024 [FY24] budget.) When analyzing the Vision Zero budget we also look at a handful of budget lines in the proposed Streets Department 6 year Capital budget. 

How this proposed Budget stacks up

Mayor Parker has proposed a Vision Zero budget line of $9M (to be spent over 6 years; 2025-2030), which is a significant reduction compared to FY24’s final budget of $15M (2024-2029). That means for the coming year the proposed Vision Zero expenditures are $1M in 2025 (a reduction from the $2.5M Mayor Kenney spent in 2024). 

As you can see in the graph below, the proposed Vision Zero budget has decreased in FY25 – mainly by federal/state matching funds, but also the City’s proposed contribution will return to FY22 levels. (Note that this graph does not include the paving budget; more on that below.)

One of the Better Mobility platform‘s requests was to increase the Vision Zero budget line with a goal of eventually contributing $5M each year and creating separate line items for speed bumps, trail maintenance, and bike lane maintenance within the grading and paving section (#64). This proposed budget does not meet those benchmarks.

This year there is an additional line item added for speed cushions and traffic calming within the Traffic Control section (#70) of $1.25M for FY25 and a total of $6.75M to be spent over 6 years (2025-2030). However, the Livable Communities Coalition proposed that funding earmarked for these projects come from the Grading & Paving section of the Budget and not from Traffic Control. By funding speed cushions this way, Mayor Parker’s proposed Budget runs the risk of limiting Complete Streets projects.

What about the Paving Budget?

The 2023 Better Mobility platform called for an increase in the paving budget, miles paved, and the hiring of a third paving crew, as we see a strong correlation between the number of miles paved and increases in safety infrastructure. The Streets Department has previously said that in order to maintain city roads, 131 miles need to be paved annually. The chart below tracks their performance so far, with the horizontal green line representing that target mileage. (Note: 2024 and 2025 are blank because we are in the middle of the FY24 paving season.)

In the Streets and Services budget hearing on April 10th, Deputy Commissioner Montanez testified that with an increase in the paving budget for FY25, their goal will be to pave 100 miles and hire a third paving crew, with a goal of reaching 131 miles paved in FY26. We’re eager to see those milestones met. 

Budget hearing Shout-Outs!

Thank you, Council Members Landau and O’Rourke, for specifically asking for more bike lanes!

Thank you, Council Member Gauthier for continuing to prioritize traffic calming as part of quality of life issues. 

Thank you, Council Member Bass, for calling attention to the 2700 block of Broad, where multiple people have been killed and for asking for more traffic calming interventions there to provide better pedestrian visibility. Thank you as well for calling attention to how dangerous the 16th and Market intersection is for cyclists – even though it’s not your district.

We are thankful for Council Member Thomas’s effort to raise the profile of the Automated Speed Enforcement program. (Legislation was passed late 2023 that made the Roosevelt Blvd program permanent and expanded it to 5 other permanent corridors. The City, PennDOT, and PPA are currently evaluating speed and crash data before council can introduce an ordinance. According to OTIS, they are currently looking at Route 611 for the first of 5 corridors. Read more.)

Council Member Young misses the Big Picture

During the April 10th hearing, Council Member Young expressed his desire to shift the discussion away from pedestrian safety to crime prevention, but that misses the point of having a Streets and Services budget in the first place: 

Improving the safety of our built environment also improves the safety of a neighborhood. 

It’s no secret that improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists while also slowing drivers improves the safety of residents and consumers along business corridors. If the Council Member wants an example, he should look no further than Council Member Gauthier’s Just Services campaign, which clearly demonstrates the strong correlation between quality of life issues (like potholes, speeding drivers, abandoned vehicles, and malfunctioning street lights) and systemic issues of crime and poverty. 

Likewise, it shouldn’t be controversial to state that fatal and serious traffic crashes are unacceptable and avoidable using infrastructure and enforcement. The sooner we normalize the impact that safety infrastructure and enforcement has on the health and wellbeing of our communities, the fewer people will be killed by dangerous, reckless and speeding drivers.

Market St bike lane crucial to “Cleanest, Greenest, Safest” 

Council Member Young also raised concerns about the Market Street Bike Lane at 22nd Street in Center City. The Council Member alleged that residents want to remove the parking-protected bike lane and cited its status as a “pilot program” as a reason to remove it. Yes, the Market Street parking-protected bike lane was constructed as part of a pilot program to gather data on the efficacy of parking protected bike lanes – and it was constructed with community, Council, and business support. 

The specific section to which the Council Member objects, between 23rd and 20th on Market St, was added in 2023 after lengthy engagement with neighboring community groups and their members. (The Bicycle Coalition has been advocating for this pilot program since 2018. You can read more in the City’s PPBL pilot program report here.) 

This section of the Market Street bike lane is a crucial connection in what the City calls “the high-quality bike network.” In fact, since the installation of the 15th to 20th St lane, there has been a 154% increase in ridership. We remind the Council Member that a connected and protected bike network is integral to providing safe passage for vulnerable bicycle riders in Philadelphia. These lanes allow people to commute to work, school, business and recreate safely, and, through Mayor Parker’s Executive Order, should be allowed to expand to every mile of the High Injury network in order to reach the goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2050.

What YOU can do

Testify with us at the public budget hearing on Wednesday, April 24th or attend a Community Budget town hall (information listed below), and tell the City to prioritize adding more protected bike lanes, speed cushions, slow zones, and other Complete Streets projects. We will continue to advocate for an increase in the City’s contribution to Vision Zero, but our combined words will carry more weight.

Sign up to testify here.

View Sample Testimony 

Town Hall #5:
When: Monday, May 13, 2024 | 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Where: Philadelphia United Lutheran Seminary – Brossman Center, 7301 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19119

Town Hall #6:
When: Wednesday, May 15, 2024 | 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Where: Location to be determined

Town Hall #7:
When: Saturday, May 18, 2024 | 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Where: Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School, 2150 W. Lehigh Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19132

Town Hall #8:
When: Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Where: A.W. Christy Recreation Center, 728 S. 55th St., Philadelphia, PA 19143

Town Hall #9:
When: Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Where: Lincoln High School, 3201 Ryan Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19136

If you are interested in learning more, please email Nicole Brunet, BCGP Policy Director.

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