Editor’s note: This blog was co-written by the Bicycle Coalition and Transit Forward Philadelphia. It was authored by Will Herzog, Randy LoBasso, Yasha Zerrinkelk, and John Boyle.
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (BCGP) is pleased that the City is moving forward with its Broad/Germantown/Erie plan for traffic safety and public space improvements. Transit Forward Philadelphia (TFP), believes better public spaces and practical options for bus and subway riders will enhance the experience for riders — particularly those who are disproportionately affected by less access to high-quality public spaces — and support higher transit ridership. BCGP believes a good plan for this intersection could create safer streets in an area where they are most needed for neighbors who use SEPTA.
While we are generally supportive of the project and its goals, two enhancements would make this project safer, and more viable.
A Better Plaza
A pedestrian plaza located in the middle of three busy streets may not be utilized to its fullest. Broad, Erie, and Germantown Avenue are three high-trafficked, high-speed city streets. Sections of all three of these streets are part of the city’s High Injury Network (the 12 percent of streets where 80 percent of deadly and injurious crashes take place). In fact, this particular corridor where the streets meet is one of the deadliest intersections in the city.
The pedestrians, transit riders, and bicyclists who use these streets know how dangerous they are. The high speeds and general dangerous conditions here may keep folks from wanting to cross several lanes of traffic to utilize a pedestrian plaza.
That’s why we’d recommend closing this block of Germantown Avenue to motor vehicles as part of the project, used only by buses. This idea was first brought to us by Ben She, volunteer with 5th Square, part of TFP. Not only would cutting off this section of Germantown Avenue slow down traffic, but it would also create a more inviting pedestrian plaza, one that is connected to the street and businesses.
One of the most important parts of this project is the pedestrian plaza, which, when done correctly, will not only create a new social, community space at the corner of Erie, Germantown, and Broad, but will create space safe from traffic.
As the City of Philadelphia undergoes this chance, it’s important to keep transit riders’ best interests (and their safety) in mind. We recommend expanding the plaza to the Germantown Avenue sidewalk.
Bus Shelters and Stop Relocation
If renovations and changes are to be made to this intersection, SEPTA bus riders deserve priority treatments in the form of safe and welcoming bus shelters.
The current bus shelters that serve SEPTA’s 23 buses need to be improved and include more space, seating, and information for bus riders. This is an opportunity for SEPTA and the City to pilot real-time bus route information such as departure/arrival times and bus route delays/progress.
Nowhere in the renderings provided by the City does it designate specific space or furniture for bus riders. As a bus route with the 6th highest daily average ridership amongst all of SEPTA’s buses — and a critical transfer point for riders connecting to the BSL — implementing bus priority treatments like these can advance the ridership goals of SEPTA’s Comprehensive Bus Network Redesign.
While Southbound Route 23 riders retain a frictionless crossing at Broad & Germantown, the Northbound Route 23 stop remains in front of Max’s Cheesesteaks at the SE corner of Germantown and Erie. This is a mistake. The existing location for the Northbound stop creates conflicts between Route 23 riders, pedestrians, and Max’s customers who stream out the front door at this critical transfer point. Most concerningly, Route 23 riders have to cross Erie Avenue, which is six lanes, to get to the BSL for a connection.
BCGP and TFP hope that the City and SEPTA will demonstrate their seriousness about Vision Zero by moving the Northbound Route 23 stop across the street and next to the Triangle. This allows a direct sidewalk connection to the BSL with no crossing the street.
The city is taking comments on this project until February 14th. We encourage you to take a look at the project’s renderings and submit feedback to the City by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or text at (215) 436-9886.