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  #1  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 3:25 AM
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Lightbulb Philadelphia Transportation Thread

This is a continuation of the conversation started in the Philly Development Thread. Hoping to generate attention and interest to this issue as if we see it to fruition, would have countless positive effect on Philadelphia.
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  #2  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 4:31 AM
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Summary

For the sake of saving time and not reinventing the wheel, Don's quoted below to summarize why an expansive subway system is a valuable, if not necessary, step for Philadelphia's growth. Philly has designed a system which transports thousands upon thousands of suburbanites into the city but has failed to provide a modern and efficient means of moving them within the city. Imagine the possibilities of an improved system with additional subway lines: A Parkway route, The Boulevard subway, City Ave Line, etc. Couple this expansion with the American Commerce Center, low real estate prices and a burgeoning population of college graduates. Maybe if we work together one day we can see this come to fruition.

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Originally Posted by Don098 View Post
Public transportation in Philadelphia is geared towards the suburbs with a subway that only runs along the absolute skeleton of the city with enormous gaps. Other American cities as dense as Philadelphia, like Chicago, New York, Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco, etc. all have more expansive subway and rail networks WITHIN the city so residents can move about the city as a pedestrian commuter rather than driving to each station. In Philadelphia, you can't really get around WITHIN the city via our subway network unless you live within the buffer zones of broad street and market street. If you look at a population density map, you can see that huge, huge chunks of the city do not live within reasonable walking distance of a subway to move around efficiently. Sure there are buses but they are certainly slower than cars which is why a better subway network could compete with cars in terms of travel time.
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I think there is a chance that Obama may enact a bill for subway systems to stimulate inner-city rejuvenation that is similar in scale to Eisenhower's Federal-Aid Highway Act (National Interstate Highways and Defense Act) of 1956. He is definitely our first urban president in a LONG, LONG time and I highly anticipate some real transformative federal appropriation to help cities. That's the only way we're going to reintegrate our cities in this country. Not only would this act be an infrastructure improvement, but by declining car culture it would help to alleviate some our road congestion problems (much less need to spend billions in widening roads), less need for expensive underground city parking facilities, a greater sense of community, less health problems as people walk more, and a move away from sprawling suburbs which would help to mitigate climate change in terms of land use feedbacks as well as less GHGs. Electricity demands would be higher, but in conjunction with a move to clean energy, this is really how a true, intelligent investment of federal funds would help to get america running again. People need to understand that these bailouts, if done correctly, are INVESTMENTS. It's not like renting apartments or buying a car where your money just disappears or depreciates immediately. These are very long term investments that in the end would be a bed rock foundation to our nation's economy.
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  #3  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 4:40 AM
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i've never ever seen their existing system

whats it like?
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  #4  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 4:45 AM
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Extending the Broad Street Spur into the southeast corner of the city (and then maybe back to the southwest), then turning it into a separate line and extending it to the Mount Airy area would seem like a pretty good first move on an expansion. Like so.
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  #5  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 5:05 AM
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The current system is essentially the spines of what was originally envisioned to be a sort of hub and spoke system.



The Blue and Orange Lines are the heavy rail subway lines, each originally meant to have several branches into various sections of the city as well as a feeder loop within Center City itself (The Red Line is to Philadelphia what PATH is to NYC and generally is not considered part of the city's subway system). As it is now, most trips in the city via transit involve a bus/subway transfer even for moderate distances. The ridership numbers are healthy but much lower than one would expect for a city this size.

In 1912 a comprehensive subway plan was presented to the city and small sections of it were constructed but thanks to the usual issues (funding, political will, greed) the rest never happened. SEPTA has, until recently, put the emphasis on suburban to city routings. Direct connections between various activity centers in the city are often indirect at best and cumbersome at worst, particularly depending on time of travel. This is not to say that it is hopelessly difficult to traverse Philadelphia via SEPTA but again it is more complex than it ought to be and the lack of a more extensive subway system is a big part of it.

This map, courtesy of Phillyskyline, depicts the original proposals:



There have been only reconstructions projects, slight route extensions and realignments since the 1950s. While this isn't terribly over par for other cities with systems of this age the fact that Philadelphia's subway never grew beyond the embryonic stage has really hurt the cohesiveness of Philadelphia. The economic and social geography of this city would be quite different today if even 1/2 of the original plan had been built.
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  #6  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 6:28 AM
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Isn't PATCO trying to build a waterfront line in roughly the same place that's depicted on that plan? There is apparently some progress...
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  #7  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 1:35 PM
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The fact that this city never built the balance of its planned subway system is today a sword of Damocles for those of us who would like to see it expanded.

Had they fleshed the system out as they were originally trying to, there would today be subways along Ridge, Germantown, and the Boulevard. But Ridge and Germantown run through both extremely wealthy districts, e.g., Manayunk, Chestnut Hill, of the city, as well as extremely poor ones, e.g., Strawberry Mansion, Nicetown, and Northeasterners have been most resistant to the Boulevard subway expansion, although the original plan when the Boulevard was created was to put a subway line there too, as yet another spine.

The main current service expansion proposals in Philly right now are two PATCO expansion, one into South Jersey, the other a light rail line along the waterfront, as well as a route restoration along the R3 from Elwyn to Wawa (it originally went to West Chester, so even then...)

There are a number of threads on Philly Blog and Philadelphia Speaks that talk about this issue:
http://www.philadelphiaspeaks.com/fo...alignment.html
http://www.philadelphiaspeaks.com/fo...n-pa-side.html
http://www.philadelphiaspeaks.com/fo...ents-plan.html

http://www.phillyblog.com/philly/showthread.php?t=70890
http://www.phillyblog.com/philly/showthread.php?t=65900
http://www.phillyblog.com/philly/showthread.php?t=66229
http://www.phillyblog.com/philly/showthread.php?t=70376
...and many more. The point being, we all have our own ideas about what to do about our lack of rail mass transit.
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  #8  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 2:32 PM
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Subway Funding

Not to get too into this now, but Philadelphia's hands are rather tied with any new subway service. It is not the decision of the City - projects of this scope are regional in nature as well as needing federal funds for construction. Local funding is a different issue, and currently Phildelphia's local share is about 25 percent of costs (far lower than many other places around the country)

Increased funding would have to come from additional federal funds in the next transportation package or increasing the local share which would involve some sort of tax increase or funneling money out of one program into a transit program. Not to be pessimistic, bot for the foreseeable future, neither will happen.

Now how the regional federal funding is allocated is similar to SEPTA where there is more power in the counties than in the city as they have more votes on the DVRPC board. Additionaly, any new projects must be on the DVRPC regional long range plan - the draft 2035 plan is almost complete.

All in all, to get any additional subway service in Philadelphia would have to be a big sell to the regional players OR the state for increased funding to SEPTA. This is much bigger than Philadelphia as a city.
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  #9  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 3:26 PM
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The problem Philadelphia faces is hauntingly similar to Chicago's. It has an excellent transportation network getting people into its central area, but doesn't have much of a system (other than buses) to get people around its central area once they arrive, other than expensive taxicabs.

Ultimately, I have little hope that anything will be done to improve this for a very long time. This is a problem that is outside of Philadelphia or Chicago's hands. It's a problem of the lack of funding for transit nationally.
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  #10  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 3:45 PM
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While I don't doubt that Philly would like or wants an extended subway, on what basis would this be needed?

Philly's existing subway does not have particularly heavy ridership, and Septa suburban rail coverage is extremely extensive.

If I were to prioritize new subway lines in this country, I don't think any proposed Philly route would come close to being a top priority.
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  #11  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 3:46 PM
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As with Chicago, Philadelphia really isn't dense enough to support anything other than radial rail lines emanating from a dense employment core. Actually, few places in the world are dense enough to support cross-town, intracity, non-CBD rail lines - the G in New York is that system's lowest ridership line, and every other NY subway line is oriented to serve either Lower Manhattan, Midtown, or both.

That said, Philadelphia indeed has several fairly dense areas that lack any rail connectivity on either the rapid transit or suburban rail networks.
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  #12  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 3:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VivaLFuego View Post
Actually, few places in the world are dense enough to support cross-town, intracity, non-CBD rail lines - the G in New York is that system's lowest ridership line, and every other NY subway line is oriented to serve either Lower Manhattan, Midtown, or both.
G train ridership is 100.000 daily, which is pretty decent for a very short, non-CBD line. It has the third lowest ridership, and is slightly ahead of the W and M (shuttle trains are not counted).

Though I guess you could say the G has the lowest ridership of any track, rather than any route, because the W and M share tracks with the much busier R and J, respectively.

My issue with a Philly expansion is not whether non-CBD service should be funded; I can't imagine they would build such lines.

I am questioning why something like a Main Line route would be a priority, when there's already an excellent suburban rail route along roughly the same path? The same would go for virtually every proposed route in NE Philly and the PA suburbs.
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  #13  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 5:39 PM
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Priorities

I think a better question is whether we want to keep expanding the service out from the core or providing more opportunities within. Expansion services right now tend to be additional stops from existing lines, with examples such as from the Elwynn station to a new Wawa station in Delaware County on the R3 or extending the Broad Street Line in Philadelphia past the stadiums to the Navy Yard. Other 'expansions' include the Schuylkill Valley Metro past Norristown on the R6 to Phoenixville, Pottstown and on to Reading.

Expanding the ends of the lines, while reducing outward congestion, really only encourages sprawl. (maybe not with the Broad Street Line)

What would arguably be better is additional lines within the system and suburb to suburb service. New developments can then grow up around the intersections of lines, similar to how development occurred when rail first came about. But to do that, you need to have land to build and be able to buy it. That is EXTREMELY difficult in this region that is primarily built out in the inner ring suburbs. The exurbs are not dense enough to warrant transit lines at this point. So - what do you do????
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  #14  
Old Posted Jan 27, 2009, 2:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VivaLFuego View Post
As with Chicago, Philadelphia really isn't dense enough to support anything other than radial rail lines emanating from a dense employment core. Actually, few places in the world are dense enough to support cross-town, intracity, non-CBD rail lines.
I would disagree. Better intra-city transportation should spur the development that ultimately leads to higher density. The Market-Frankford El runs underneath Market St in downtown Philadelphia. This corridor (or the areas directly adjacent to it) represents the most developed and dense part of the city. The same can be said of the Broad St subway for at least part of it's length.

If a business is located near a public transit stop in an urban area, employees would be tempted to relocate to areas more easily accessible to their employer. Therefore you could assume they'd move closer to a transit stop on the same line/network. This would contribute to density in my opinion.
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Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 11:27 PM
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thanks for the map/info posts
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  #16  
Old Posted Jan 28, 2009, 12:15 AM
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I've probably been the biggest booster of mass transit expansion within Phila and the Delaware Valley. For commuter rail, it's simple: just revive all the former PRR and Reading branches, with the Exception of the Norristown and Chestnut Hill lines, which would be integrated with the subway system (West Chester, Reading, Allentown, Easton, Kennett Sq), and NJT should do the same for for South Jersey (Vineland, Cape May, Ocean City, and all the White Horse and Black Horse communities).

The Phila subway system should be with expanded lines of the BSL and MFL going both directions (from Chester to Jenkintown for the BSL, and Darby to Forest Hlls in the Far NE for the MFL), a 5th St-Passyunk line through SW Philly to Darby and North and NE Philly to Fox Chase, another crosstown line from Chester through SW Phila via the airport line and connecting 30th St the Zoo, and North Philly points via the Amtrak line and Erie Ave w/ a subway, and the NE also via State Rd to Bensalem Blvd w/ a Parkway shuttle to the Library, museums, and ending at the zoo and an express airport shuttle connecting to 30th St via Arch St to Penns Landing. And also, the Norristown and Chestnut Hill lines to CC, 30th St, and UC via a North Philly subway line adjacent to the old Reading main line and JFK Blvd.

I feel that PATCO should stick to their original expansion plan of connecting to Maple Shade and Woodbury, with extensions also to Cherry Hill NJT Station and Deptford Mall via two Camden subway tunnels and a Vine St subway connecting to the Pkwy and 30th St. The long distance commuter service (Glassboro, Medford, etc.) should be handled by NJT.

But alas, all this should've been done in the past, and this makes me want to go back in time an do all this myself!!!
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Old Posted Jan 28, 2009, 1:02 AM
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Question: would these radial routes be serviceable by at-grade light rail with their own right-of-way?

That way you could put some of the roads on a road diet and make them more pedestrian friendly. And light rail would be much more likely to be funded than a subway, capital costs being an order of magnitude lower. Also, if short hops in-city are what you're after, speed is actually less of an issue - although light rail is faster than a bus, especially when they have their own ROW.

Articulated vehicles have a higher capacity than the single-unit streetcars you are currently using.

It's also a great street-beautification project courtesy of the US Government.

Thoughts?
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  #18  
Old Posted Jan 28, 2009, 3:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zilfondel View Post
Question: would these radial routes be serviceable by at-grade light rail with their own right-of-way?
What's at-grade light rail? I'm a novice in this field but I assume light rail systems are above ground for the most part. If so, I don't know what streets would be suited well for them other than Delaware Ave that have access to downtown destinations.
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Old Posted Jan 28, 2009, 5:36 AM
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Lightbulb

Quote:
Originally Posted by pwp View Post
What's at-grade light rail? I'm a novice in this field but I assume light rail systems are above ground for the most part. If so, I don't know what streets would be suited well for them other than Delaware Ave that have access to downtown destinations.
The term "At Grade" light rail means running on the surface of the planet.

They can be within their own right of ways, in their own dedicated lanes in streets, or in mixed traffic lanes in streets.

Here's a few examples:
Dedicated ROW:





Dedicated ROW in what use to be a city street





Dedicated lanes in streets:





In mixed traffiic in streets:





Light Rail can also run in subways:





Light Rail can also go elevated:



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  #20  
Old Posted Feb 3, 2009, 2:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by electricron View Post
The term "At Grade" light rail means running on the surface of the planet.

They can be within their own right of ways, in their own dedicated lanes in streets, or in mixed traffic lanes in streets.
Thx for the explanation but I'm still confused. If At Grade light rail can run within subways, then how do they differ from actual subways?
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