Tuesday, May 17, 2011


"Make no small plans..."--Horace Trumbauer

This is it: Philadelphia's Holy Grail. Patterned on L.A.'s 30/10 effort (so called because of its attempt to get 30 years worth of work done in 10 years), Philadelphia2050 is a holistic transportation plan, and agenda, for the city and region. This plan's core attribute is a holistic plan for the three major rail classes: light rail, subways and elevated rail, and commuter rail; additionally, other public-transportation elements, such as buses at all three levels of the metropolitan hierarchy; and finally bicycle and even road plans are considered.

The light rail element consists of four sections: urban streetcar light rail, New Jersey interurban light rail (focused on Camden), Delaware County suburban light rail, and finally Pennsylvania and Delaware interurban light rail. There are three major light rail hubs: 13th and Market in Center City, 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby, and Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden.

The subway/elevated element consists of three overlain networks, two of which interchange with one another, and all three of which are accessible from any other network. These networks are: The Market-Frankford Network, consisting of the Market-Frankford Line; the Broad Street Network, consisting of the lines that consolidate into the trunk line under Broad; and finally the Loop Network, consisting of four lines which interchange in just such a way as to create a loop under Center City. Via the Ridge Avenue Spur, direct interchange is available from the Broad Street network to the Loop Network; free-interchange points at City Hall, 8th/Market, Locust/15th, 19th/Market, Broad/Spring Garden, Bustleton/Boulevard, 26th/Penrose, and Crescent Circle all bind the networks to one another and make it easy to get from anywhere to anywhere in the City. Additionally, this network offers connections with the urban light rail system at numerous points, and the commuter rail network at North Broad, Suburban, Market East, 30th Street Station, the Airport, Wayne Junction, Wissahickon Transportation Center, and Fern Rock Transportation Center. Market-Frankford runs broad-gauge equipment while the Broad Street and Loop networks both run IND-loading-gauge standard-gauge equipment.

The commuter rail network involves both a reconsideration of the system to function like a Subway 2.0 in those places the light and heavy rail networks are unable to reach, as well as line restarts for a variety of destinations including (but not limited to) Vineland, Cape May, Fort Dix, Bethlehem, Reading, Kennett Square, West Chester, Newtown, and New Hope.

Three tiers of bus service are envisioned. Urban bus routes would follow a major street from a transit nexus to a natural terminal; suburban bus routes would extend the urban routes' spokes from city-edge nexuses towards suburban population centers, as well as include two routes whose express purpose is to connect suburban job nodes one to another, and lastly a handful of routes will extend radially but arise and end entirely within suburban dominions; finally, exurban routes would connect suburban-edge transit nexuses with communities on the urban fringe. These routes would run express from town center to town center.

The bicycle network is also much expanded, with a metro-wide system of multi-use trails, anchored along the Delaware by the East Coast Greenway and Delaware Canal, and along the Schuylkill by the Schuylkill River Trail. Trails, such as the Perkiomen Trail, would extend from these arteries further into the region. Multi-use trails are park-oriented, and as such, aside from their use as transportation infrastructure, they are also envisioned as a green cats'-cradle binding the major parks of the city and region together.

Finally, the roads: tolls would be implemented on all limited-access highways, with taxes used to maintain local-access roads and streets. A couple of key limited-access highways need to be built; others unbuilt. The Boulevard was designed so wide that both an expressway and an elevated railroad can fit in its median: use them. The Betsy Ross Bridge is something of an expressway orphan--it needs to connect to the Boulevard and the N.J. Turnpike. The Delaware Expressway, by contrast, needs to be decommissioned between Oregon Avenue and Aramingo Avenue, where it cuts the city core off from its waterfront, and the Vine Street Expressway is just an over-elaborate approach to the Ben Franklin Bridge. Terminate it at 9th, and run the feed along the urban streets. The elimination of these blights in the urban core will also free up hundreds of acres of prime developable land and reknit split neighborhoods.

Philadelphia's transportation infrastructure today was determined by decisions made literally 50 years ago. It's time to learn from our mistakes, make new plans, and invest in our future.

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