Some Brotherly Love for Buses in Newly Unveiled Seven-Year Transit Plan

Philadelphia promises to emphasize bus travel as well as bike-share in a city where one-third of residents do not have access to a car.

Expanding the “efficacy, affordability, and connectivity” of the bus system is a priority in Philadelphia's CONNECT Strategic Transportation Plan. (AP Photo/George Widman)

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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (OTIS) have unveiled their seven-year Strategic Transportation Plan, which reflects the city’s vision for a “safe, affordable, accessible and reliable” transit ecosystem. According to PlanPhilly, the report, which outlines a strategy from 2019 through 2025, gathers together the disparate strands of various transportation initiatives into a unified vision.

That vision, however, is intended to be smaller-scale and more practical in scope. PlanPhilly quoted the city’s Managing Director Mike DiBerardinis in calling it a “strategic plan, not a long-term plan that’s going to wait for hundreds of millions or billions of dollars of state and federal investment, but one that does better with what we have.”

Of the city’s four major modes of public transit (bus, subway, trolley, regional rail), the plan strongly emphasizes investment in the bus and trolley systems. The plan promises upgrades to the trolley fleet, and modernization to stations including wheelchair- and stroller-accessibility.

But the plan’s biggest push will be to improve the “efficacy, affordability, and connectivity” of the bus system, as a way to reverse a declining ridership.

“Focusing on the bus network redesign will benefit not only [about] 26 percent of people that are currently using transit, but all the people that might want to use transit if it worked for them,” OTIS Director of Policy Chris Puchalsky told PlanPhilly. “It will also benefit the 46 percent of people in poverty who ride the bus.”

Among the changes to the bus system will be ending SEPTA’s transfer fees, transforming existing bus lanes, and instituting “new bus priority treatments,” according to the report.

The report also commits to expanding Philly’s Indego bike-share program, which encompasses 128 stations and 1,300 bikes, with nearly 40 percent of stations situated in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods. The plan proposes to continue expansion and go deeper and denser into pockets of the city with already high ridership. According to the CONNECT report, Philadelphia has the highest percentage of people who commute by bicycle of any large city in the U.S.

But this recommendation comes as reports that Kenney’s administration has scaled back its commitment to instituting dedicated bike lanes around the city. Although Kenney promised the creation of 30 new miles of bike lanes during his administration, according to, the new goal is 20 miles of bike lanes by 2020 and 40 miles by 2025. As Next City has reported, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has pressured the city to work with the community to accelerate its Vision Zero rollout to reduce pedestrian and bike fatalities.

Other report highlights include the shift of SEPTA’s funding burden to regional stakeholders as well as the expansion of “neighborhood slow zones,” featuring traffic circles and speed cushions, to calm traffic.

You can read the entire report here.

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Kelly Regan is Next City's editorial director. Previously, she was a Senior Editorial Manager for Content Strategy at Google, and the Editorial Director for the Frommer's Travel Guides.

Tags: philadelphiatransportation spendingtransit agencies

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