Philly Transit Project: Brief

Philadelphia is, and has been, a car city for a long time. Once upon a time, it was a streetcar city, with PCC trolleys running up and down just about every street in town.

Deindustrialization hit Philly hard, by 1990 population was down 25% from its historic peak of the 1950s and 60s, and it has remained down since. Redlining, White Flight, and disinvestment hurt the city in a way that it has only just started to recover from.

With economic recession and dwindling population, there is no mystery as to the lack of investment in the city’s transit infrastructure. As the car culture came into its heyday, transit became associated with low class and undesirable neighborhoods. As the social isolation of the suburbs has been compounded with that of the internet culture, the value of cities in quality of life has been rediscovered.

The novelty and expensive burden of personal vehicle ownership has grown stale in the eyes of many, yet there remains an inexorable truth: If transit does not meet ~95% of one’s transportation needs, one must own a car. It then follows that if one owns a car, they would be unlikely to utilize transit as they already bear the fixed cost of vehicle ownership, doing so would only be economical when parking at the destination is prohibitively expensive or impossible.

If transit serves 95% of one’s transit needs, and one need only use a taxi or car share once or twice a month, then it is uneconomical to own a car.

So, let’s design a transit system that meets 95% of transportation needs for 95% of the city’s residents.

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