Skip to content

Posts from the "Pennsylvania" Category

Streetsblog.net No Comments

Pennsylvania’s New Governor Is Awesome

Here’s another race for governor with big implications for transportation policy: In Pennsylvania, businessman Tom Wolf handily beat incumbent Tom Corbett.

Pennsylvania Governor-Elect Tom Wolf penned a transportation manifesto for a Philadelphia blog. Photo: Tom Wolf for Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Governor-Elect Tom Wolf penned a transportation manifesto for Philadelphia-based urbanism blog This Old City. Photo: Tom Wolf for PA

Though Pennsylvania made some important progress on transportation issues during Corbett’s tenure, Wolf wants to usher in much more meaningful reforms. In its election round-up, Philly-based This Old City points to a post the governor-elect himself wrote for the blog while he was battling it out in the Democratic primary. In the piece, Wolf lays out a vision for a more multi-modal state:

We need to prioritize investments in local public transportation systems. Many of Pennsylvania’s cities have felt the effects of industrial decline over the last fifty years and, as a result, they have struggled to maintain once vibrant neighborhoods and smaller economic corridors. With declining populations and state funding that favors new development over redevelopment, we have neglected our public transportation systems, which put our major cities, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, at an economic disadvantage.

While other states and cities have continued to expand and modernize their transit systems, our transit authorities, like the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA), have struggled to survive. Instead of updating equipment and tackling major improvement projects — like expanding the Broad Street Line to the Navy Yard — SEPTA has had to plan for significant cut-backs in services.

Read more…

No Comments

Man Who Painted Speed Warning on Street Vows to Fight Charges

A Pennsylvania man was charged with criminal mischief for painting this sign in front of his business. Photo: KDKA Channel 2

A Pennsylvania man was charged with criminal mischief for painting this plea in front of his business. Via KDKA Channel 2

A Pennsylvania man faces charges of criminal mischief and disorderly conduct for painting a warning to speeding drivers on his street.

John Cherok appealed to the city about drivers going dangerously fast in front of his bookstore in McDonald, Pennsylvania. The city, for its part, conducted a study and told him speeding wasn’t a problem.

The frustrated Cherok decided to paint a 25 MPH sign and the word “SLOW” in the road. Now he faces misdemeanor charges plus a $536 fine, which he refuses to pay and will fight in court.

“I was fed up,” Cherok told KDKA Channel 2, in a segment picked up by the New York Post. “I don’t know what else to do.”

The footage shows supportive neighbors of Cherok, backing up his claims that speeding is a big problem.

“All he’s trying to do is look out for the welfare of the kids around here,” one neighbor told KDKA Channel 2.

“It’s only right that somebody stood up and tried to do something about it,” said another.

Engineer Charles Marohn of Strong Towns fame praised Cherok as a local hero. The dismissive attitude from the city reflects a wider problem in the rule-bound, unresponsive traffic engineering profession, which Marohn summarized brilliantly a few years ago in a viral video.

“We need more people like this and more cities that get the message,” Marohn said on Facebook. “Some standard in some road manual does not not render us impotent. Or stupid.”

27 Comments

Driving Declines Spell Big Trouble for Turnpikes

Traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike has declined 10 percent since 2005. Turnpike officials had predicted it would rise 3 to 5 percent annually. Photo: Wikipedia

Traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike has declined 10 percent since 2005. Turnpike officials had predicted it would rise 68 percent by 2023. Photo: Wikipedia

What the New Jersey Turnpike Authority did in 2005 was no different than what almost every other state and regional transportation agency was doing at the time. It predicted that traffic volumes would rise at a healthy clip every year for about 30 years into the future. Then it estimated its revenues based on those figures and issued bonds for a $2.5 billion road widening project.

Today we know that traffic hasn’t risen at all since 2005. New Jersey’s projections weren’t just a little wrong — they were wildly inaccurate. The bonds were predicated on a 68 percent increase in traffic by 2023. It’s not going to happen: The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that turnpike traffic has actually dropped 10 percent since 2005.

Even so, Chris Puchalsky, associate director of systems planning at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, told the Inquirer that local leaders aren’t blinking.

This chart shows the combined 20-year traffic projections of state and local governments in recent years compared to actual traffic levels. Image: State Smart Transportation Initiative

This chart shows the combined 20-year traffic projections of state and regional transportation agencies around the U.S. in recent years — the colored lines — compared to actual traffic levels — the black line. Image: State Smart Transportation Initiative

“We need two or three more years of data” before reconsidering the assumptions, he said.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission made a similar gamble in 2007, when it predicted traffic would rise 3 to 5 percent annually and started issuing up to $900 million in bonds annually for road and transit projects around the state based on those projections. Rather than rising, the Inquirer reports, traffic has been flat. Pennsylvania hoped to repay the bonds with the increased toll revenues and by adding tolls to I-80.

But the additional traffic never materialized, and the Federal Highway Administration rejected the proposed toll on I-80. Now the turnpike is paying much less every year for state transportation projects, but it is still saddled with a rising debt load — $8 billion, according to the Inquirer.

Here’s the kicker. Nikolaus Grieshaber, the turnpike’s chief financial officer, told the Inquirer that Pennsylvania is revising its projections downward. It will now predict a traffic increase of 1.5 percent annually.

Nationally, vehicle miles traveled increased 0.6 percent last year, so Pennsylvania is still predicting its traffic will increase two and half times faster than the nation as a whole in 2013.

12 Comments

Suburbanization of Poverty Isolates a Growing Number of Americans

Poverty is no longer a predominantly urban problem — and the suburbs are no longer the refuge of the upper classes. There are now almost 3 million more poor people living in suburbs than in cities, according to a new book, “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” by Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution. While cities still have a much higher poverty rate, poverty in the suburbs is growing twice as fast: Between 2000 and 2011, the suburban poor population grew by 64 percent, compared to 29 percent in cities.

That means more people living without cars in places designed exclusively for cars. In the suburbs, destinations are farther apart and getting to many places involves traveling on wide, high-speed roads where walking or biking is especially dangerous. Transit access is spotty and infrequent, where it exists at all. And providing transportation services to the poor in spread-out areas is less efficient and more expensive than in compact cities.

“Overall, in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, 700,000 households do not have a vehicle and are not served by public transit of any kind, and 95 percent of those households are suburban,” the authors write.

Kneebone and Berube tell the story of Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, which used to be a middle-class bedroom community for workers at the Westinghouse Electric Company and other thriving businesses in the Pittsburgh area. Diminished employment opportunities have reduced the population by more than a quarter and increased the poverty rate from 8 to 11 percent:

Low-income residents of Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, often can't afford to buy or maintain cars -- and the community lacks effective transit service. Photo: City-data

Among the more pressing problems facing the growing low-income population in Penn Hills is access to transportation. The suburb covers nineteen square miles, has more than twenty distinct neighborhoods, and is traversed by an interstate highway, a few major state roads, and a series of local roads with only a few sidewalks that wind their way up and down the hilly terrain. Infrastructure in some parts of the township resembles that of a rural community more than a major metropolitan suburb. More often now, residents must navigate these byways without a car. By 2008–10, almost one in ten (about 1,700) Penn Hills households lacked access to a vehicle, notably more than three decades earlier, when the local population was much larger.

Read more…

18 Comments

Video: In Car-Bike Hit-and-Run, “Heroic” Bus Driver Saves the Day

A bus driver from Bethlehem is being lauded as folk hero in the cycling community after his quick work to prevent a would-be hit-and-run driver from fleeing the scene.

LANTA bus driver Richard Gubish, Jr. was watching in his rear view mirror when a 17-year-old driver rear-ended a local cyclist. When the driver attempted to flee the scene, Gublish acted fast to prevent escape, even inspiring other motorists to cooperate in the arrest, according to the police account of the situation:

Mr. Gubish took immediate and decisive action and positioned his bus across the lanes of the bridge, effectively blocking the path of the getaway driver. Another witness to the crash, Judson Smull, stopped to render aid to the injured Pavlick, who implored Smull to go after the offending driver to get the license plate. Smull also took immediate action, and following the lead of Mr. Gubish, positioned his car directly behind the offending vehicle, further blocking any attempt to escape.

The next person to cross the bridge was a local police officer. He apprehended the juvenile driver and charged him with violating the state’s brand new four-foot passing law, passed earlier that morning.

Here’s another interesting twist: the blogosphere credited Bethlehem’s Coalition for Appropriate Transportation for helping educate the local police force about the law. The victim, Frank Pavlick, works for the organization, helping manage the Bethlehem Bicycle cooperative. He was not badly injured.