It’s Too Hard to Take Back Philly Street Space for Pedestrians

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Here’s a big issue that never really got aired in the transportation debate. Driving has been on the decline in PA even since before the recession, but that fact had no discernable impact on politician views on transportation funding. Every lawmaker, egged on by the engineers at PennDOT, thinks traffic will keep going up and up forever, but it’s just not true.

If you think transportation policy is about moving cars, then the debate we had was fine. But if you think it’s about moving people then this was a miserable failure of a political discussion. The people mover seeing some of the most impressive ridership growth – SEPTA – is still on a starvation diet despite all the happy talk you’re hearing, while highways seeing shrinking demand are in line for pointless widening projects with eight and nine-figure pricetags.

I’ve complained about this a bunch already, so let’s make a new complaint: local officials are especially horrible at recognizing the decline in driving and shifting policy accordingly. This has had almost no impact on politician attitudes toward the allocation of public street space in Philadelphia where I live, and the worst thing of all may be the broken process for reallocating street space.

As I explain in the latest jawn over at This Old City, proposals that turn some parking spaces into public plazas or other pedestrian space require the support of 100% of nearby property owners, ensuring that nothing ever changes. You’ll always find at least one Grumpy Gus to disagree with even the best ideas, so this process essentially locks in the current allocation of space, even as the ratio of drivers to pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders keeps steady tilting toward the latter group.

It’s bullshit and it needs to change. The streets belong to everyone, they’re not nearby landowners’ private property. That’s precisely why parking chair is illegal.

This entry was posted in Environment, Land Use, Transportation.

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