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Drop in traffic on local highways speaks to broader societal changes

A drop in traffic on local highways indicates a change of habits in the metro area -- and could lead to a changes for infrastructure planners.

Before beginning a $2.5 billion project to widen the New Jersey Turnpike, turnpike officials said the construction was necessary to reduce existing congestion and to cope with future traffic.

"Turnpike traffic is on the rise," the state Turnpike Authority said in its justification for the project. "By 2032 northbound traffic volume is expected to increase by nearly 68 percent [above 2005 levels]; southbound traffic is forecasted to increase by 92 percent."

Now, one-third of the way through that 27-year forecast, turnpike traffic is actually about 10 percent lower than it was in 2005...

"The millennials are really changing the world dramatically," Hughes said. "We have a younger generation that is driving less and doesn't want to live in Valley Forge. They want to live in Center City Philadelphia."

"We had a 50-year period of unrestricted suburbanization, and now there's a dramatic shift."

Cars and driving are less important to young adults, who find that trains and buses allow them to work and socialize on mobile electronic devices, he said. That may mean fewer cars on future roads.

"Nobody was really anticipating this," Hughes said. "The models have to be recalibrated."

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story here.


Layover Lift: The Free Library opens outpost at the airport

Bored travelers now have an exciting new distraction -- the Free Library has come to Philadelphia International airport.

The Free Library of Philadelphia recently opened an outpost in the Philadelphia International Airport in the form of a book-themed lounge with free Wi-Fi access to the library’s digital catalog.

Passengers are encouraged to relax in the reading room, in the concourse between the D and E terminals, and download books or author podcasts from the library’s collection of nearly 30,000 titles.

"We brought our high-speed line out to the airport in that little area. That Internet connectivity is extraordinarily robust, it matches what we have in the library," said Siobhan Reardon, president and director of the Free Library.

The idea was inspired in part by an especially snowy winter, she said.

"We were having extensive blizzards here in Philadelphia, and we knew that there were thousands of people camping in the airport," Ms. Reardon said. "We thought, 'What if we put a library in?'"


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Public transit use at highest level since 1956

According to the New York Times, ridership on public transit is higher than its been in a generation.

More Americans used buses, trains and subways in 2013 than in any year since 1956 as service improved, local economies grew and travelers increasingly sought alternatives to the automobile for trips within metropolitan areas, the American Public Transportation Association said in a report released on Monday.

The trade group said in its annual report that 10.65 billion passenger trips were taken on transit systems during the year, surpassing the post-1950s peak of 10.59 million in 2008, when gas prices rose to $4 to $5 a gallon.

The ridership in 2013, when gas prices were lower than in 2008, undermines the conventional wisdom that transit use rises when those prices exceed a certain threshold, and suggests that other forces are bolstering enthusiasm for public transportation, said Michael Melaniphy, the president of the association.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Hidden City tackles the 'complicated' CHOP expansion

Hidden City takes an in-depth look at CHOP's expansion to the eastern banks of the Schuylkill.

Doug Carney, CHOP’s senior vice president of facilities, said his hopes were that CHOP would continue to “be attractive to the world-class researchers we compete for.”
 
Carney’s invocation of “world-class,” however, left an opening for those in the audience unhappy with CHOP’s plan for a 23-story, half-a-million-square-foot tower right next to the low-rise neighborhoods of Graduate Hospital and the Devil’s Pocket, which would bring 1,000 CHOP researchers to the site each day. (Note that this is not going to be a place for patient care, as with CHOP’s complex across the river, but an office building for research.) “Is it world-class,” a follow-up questioner asked the CHOP team, “to drive 76 then take a ramp into a parking garage?”

It doesn’t seem that CHOP’s institutional ambitions and the city’s ideal planning needs will coalesce. But CHOP, which is currently undertaking a remarkable amount of expansion, has goodwill on its side -- it is, after all, devoted to the care of children -- as well as, frankly, considerable leverage to do what it wants. The Graduate Hospital Area project serves as a good insight into CHOP’s role in the city and illustrates the influence it wields.


Original source: Hidden City Philadelphia
Read the complete story here.

Al Jazeera looks at transportation funding via SEPTA

Flying Kite contributor Jake Blumgart writes about transportation funding struggles in Al Jazeera, using SEPTA as a prime example.

In late November, after two no votes, a transportation bill scraped through the state legislature. It allows for baseline repairs and vehicle replacement, including, finally, trolleys that are accessible for handicapped riders. SEPTA pleaded for $454 million in 2014, with increases to follow. Instead, the bill will ramp up to giving the agency $345 million annually, an amount that will not be reached until 2018. The message from Harrisburg was clear: Preservation, not expansion, is the name of the game.

Philadelphia’s brush with disaster is typical of the perpetual crisis of public transit in the United States. Ridership levels spiked during and after the recession, but local and state budgets were forcibly contracted, forcing almost 80 percent of the nation’s transit systems to raise fares or cut back operations. In 2012, Boston suffered fare increases and service cuts, and ridership fell, and Pittsburgh faced a transit crisis similar to Philadelphia’s. In 2013, Detroit lost $7 million in funding for its buses.


Original source: Al Jazeera
Read the complete story here.



SEPTA mulls extending subway service to 3 a.m. on weekends

SEPTA is considering a return to late-night service on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford lines.

Because of increasing nightlife and residential activity in Center City, SEPTA may continue service after midnight, when subways now are replaced by "night owl" buses, general manager Joseph Casey said.

The service might continue until 3 a.m., officials said. Initially, it would be limited to Friday and Saturday nights, in a pilot program to test the response.

Chief financial officer Richard Burnfield said his staff was still assessing the costs - for security, operators, cashiers, and maintenance - to determine if a resumption of some late-night subway service would be included in the agency's proposed budget that will be released next month.

 
SEPTA halted late-night subway service in the early 1990s because of security and cost concerns. About 3,600 riders a day were forced to shift to nighttime buses.

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story here.


SEPTA gets into the holiday spirit, with help from their operators

As we personally witnessed on a recent Broad Street Line ride, some SEPTA trains have gotten super festive this holiday season. CBS looked into the story behind these cheery decorations.

The company is decking out several trolleys, buses and even a Norristown High Speed Line train car for the holidays with lights, ornaments and boughs of holly. Riders should keep an eye out for the decorated “sleighs” on certain routes, including Trolley #9052, which operates on Route 10, and Bus #9253, which runs on Route 35. Routes 101 and 102, the Media/Sharon Hill Line, will also have decorated trolleys, and the Norristown High Speed Line will feature a decorated car.

Original source: CBS Philly
Read the complete story here.

Transit-oriented development Paseo Verde dedicated in North Philly

Paseo Verde, an exciting community-supported project in North Philadelphia, was recently completed. It is hopefully a standard-bearer in transit-oriented development.

Paseo Verde, a super green, mixed-use, mixed income community hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning. The complex is the country's very first Platinum LEED certified Neighborhood Development, a distinction that it earned by creating an eco-friendly, transit focused project with the goal of "providing a healthy living environment for residents through sustainable practices, as well as cost savings through effective reduction in energy use."

Even Paseo Verde's most expensive apartments wouldn't fall into the luxury price range, but it does seem that they'll be offering quite a few luxury amenities: residents will get access to a fitness center, community rooms, a technology center, gardening plots, and green roofs.

Original source: Curbed Philly
Read the complete story here.

PlanPhilly mulls ambitious project at 30th Street Railyards

The 30th Street rail yards could be ready for a big change.

Bounded by the Schuylkill on the east, JFK Boulevard on the south, 32nd Street to the west and Spring Garden Street to the north, the rail yards are the most significant piece of real estate in the city. The parcel sits astride the booming high-tech education-and-medicine hub of University City and the ready-to-pop potential energy of West Market Street. Falling more than 80 feet in elevation from Powelton Village to the river, the site accommodates Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, the Penn Coach Yards (a service yard for the railroad) and SEPTA's Regional Rail tracks.

This dusty, noisy, obstructed remnant of the industrial age is poised to be reimagined. Amtrak, along with Drexel University, Brandywine Realty Trust and other partners, will receive bids Monday from professional teams vying to prepare a master plan for the rail yards and environs. They are to be applauded for tackling this project.


Original source: PlanPhilly
Read the complete story here.


Amazing pictures of the abandoned Spring Garden subway stop

The Atlantic Cities highlighted the local blog Streets Dept and their images of the abandoned Spring Garden subway station. The space is now covered with street art. Check out the amazing pictures. 

Riders can still get a glimpse of the old station, dimly lit and covered in graffiti, as their trains pass between Fairmount and Chinatown stations. Recently, local photographers Austin Hodges and Meredith Edlow joined Conrad Benner (who runs Philadelphia blog Streets Dept) to check out the former station as well as the portion of neighboring Fairmount station no longer in use.
 
Proclaimed by Benner on his site as a "mecca for graffiti artists and urban explorers alike," the former station was easy to find since it remains visible for SEPTA riders. "We had to walk on the tracks past a station being used," says Hodges. "Other than that it was fine."

Original source: The Atlantic Cities
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Parsing the data on how people use The Porch at 30th Street Station

The Porch already feels like a local fixture after only a couple years in existence. University City District, lovers of data, have made an effort to examine how exactly people use the space -- there are infographics!

"But there are choices," says Seth Budick, the policy and research manager for the University City District. "There are a lot of choices people can make. They can decide to sit in the sun or in the shade, they can decide to sit on any one of three or four different seating elements, they can decide how to move through the space. And that’s really what we’re looking at, that’s the interesting question about a lot of urban design: What factors in the environment impact people's choices?"

Here's one example of what they learned:

Noise levels measured closer to busy Market Street were 10 times louder than those along Little Market Street immediately adjacent to the station – a partial explanation for why people tended not to linger there. The louder noise (70-75 decibels) was akin to a vacuum cleaner in your living room, the quieter sound (60 decibels) more like a conversation at close range... Instead, UCD is learning that a farmer's market doesn't quite work here, but a food truck rally does. Bistro chairs are nice, but Luxembourg chairs are even better. Also, no wants to relax right in the middle of a pedestrian highway.

Original source: The Atlantic Cities
Read the whole story and check out all the infographics here.
 
 

Philly named fourth best biking city in the country

In celebration of a Bike to Work Week and National Bike Month, Walk Score has named Philadelphia the number four biking city in the country. Only Portland, San Francisco and Denver topped the City of Brotherly Love.

Via The Philly Post.

Original source: Walk Score
Read the complete list here.

Amtrak unveils new trains for Keystone route

Amtrak recently rolled out three (of 70) new trains in an effort to modernize its fleet. The locomotives will operate on the Northeast corridor, as well as the Keystone route between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

The engines are being paid for with a $532 million loan from the Federal Railroad Administration, money that Amtrak said it would recoup with ticket revenue from the Northeast corridor. The company also estimates that the new locomotives will save it more than $300 million in energy costs.

Amtrak said the new engines would also help improve the railroad’s on-time performance. Additionally, Amtrak and federal transportation officials said that areas where the trains were manufactured and assembled would see economic benefits in the form of jobs.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the full story here.

PA among states that must pony up for Amtrak routes

As federal subsidies dry up, Amtrak looks to states to pick up the slack. Pennsylvania must pay to maintain its more rural routes.

But after years of financial losses on the route for Amtrak, Pennsylvania was faced with either picking up the tab or losing it altogether by Oct. 1. Under pressure from Congress to reduce its dependence on federal subsidies, Amtrak is looking at either closing 28 short-haul routes or getting 19 states to cover the costs. Most of the states have already agreed to pick up the costs...

Pennsylvania and Virginia are among the states that have already agreed to pay for service, citing the need to ease road congestion, spur economic development and remain connected to the Northeast line. But other states, like Indiana, are still debating what to do. In most cases, the routes run at a loss, say state officials, who view them more as an infrastructure investment like a highway.

 
Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here

'Saturday Night Live' ribs Philly Traffic Mimes

On this week's Saturday Night Live, Weekend Update anchor Scott Meyers mentioned the Philly Streets Department's recent April Fools joke -- they enlisted mimes and clowns to direct traffic. Check out the joke here, and then stay tuned for the awesome Peter Dinklage cameo.

Original source: Saturday Night Live
72 Transportation Articles | Page: | Show All
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