Guest blogpost written by Connor Descheemaker, Coalition Manager of Transit Forward Philadelphia
Today, the Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed Bill No. 230489, Councilmember Mark Squilla’s legislation to enable camera-assisted enforcement of parking violations in SEPTA transit stops and lanes.
Transit Forward Philadelphia joined environmental groups, disability and elder advocates, and transportation organizations to urge immediate action to increase safety and accessibility across our buses and trolleys. This major win is the culmination of a year-plus of collaboration and organizing, resulting in Philadelphia joining cities like New York and DC in enhancing efforts at behavioral change to make our buses and trolleys safer and more accessible, while improving speed and on-time performance.
In June, Transit Forward joined representatives from SEPTA, Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation Infrastructure & Sustainability, Philadelphia Parking Authority, and DC33, the union of PPA enforcement officers, traveled to DC where we saw how their speed and red-light enforcement works and what transit-mounted enforcement would look like.
Around that same time, SEPTA was partnering with technology company Hayden AI on a pilot along select buses on routes 21 and 42. Over just 70 days, these cameras captured over 36,000 illegal parking violations in bus lanes and at bus stops – so many violations that project managers reported worry that the cameras were malfunctioning!
Clearly, illegal parking is an issue of epidemic proportions, slowing buses and trolleys further when Black residents (who disproportionately ride transit) already face commutes of 34 minutes longer than their White counterparts.
This legislation will especially improve transportation for Philadelphians with disabilities, as illegal parking at bus stops makes it dangerous and often impossible for wheelchair users to board or exit SEPTA buses. When buses can’t reach the curb, wheelchair users must enter active traffic and board steeper ramps, increasing the hazard of tipping just to use transportation.
Councilmember Squilla’s bill enables camera-assisted enforcement from river to river between Bainbridge and Spring Garden, plus the entirety of Walnut, Chestnut, Market, and JFK in the city, and all streets that run trolleys. But as the City of Philadelphia’s own Disability Representation Map shows, people with disabilities aren’t limited by geography, and in fact represent larger shares of the population in areas not covered by the enabling legislation.
We urge City Council to expand this legislation citywide in six months so that everybody in Philadelphia can benefit from the high quality transit service made possible by camera-assisted transit zone enforcement. Today was a huge step forward, and commend City Council for unanimously supporting proven solutions that help make safe, reliable, and accessible transit service possible. But we are not truly safer until these tools are available to all.