MOTUnes Monday │ Hit the Road Jack

Another Monday, another MOTUnes! Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. This week, we present the catchy stylings of Mr. Ray Charles himself and his “Hit the Road Jack.”

Research Rest-Stop │ The Intercity Bus Grows as a Travel Mode

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) highlights some interesting research related to or innovations in transportation, sustainability, or energy.

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According to a new DePaul University report, intercity bus departures are growing quickly, indicating an increase in bus ridership. In 2011, intercity bus departures rose from 2,514 to 2,693, or 7.1 percent, while traffic on other long-distance modes, including automobiles, airplanes, and passenger rail, remained relatively constant. In 2010, this growth came in at 6 percent.

Following this trend, curbside bus operators like Megabus and BoltBus are broadening their networks. As new routes open and as amenities like Wi-Fi and power outlets are added to buses as well as easier reservation systems to purchase tickets, more people are using buses as a way to travel between cities. Between 2010 and 2011 alone, passenger traffic grew by roughly 30 percent. The report poses that “this represents the largest expansion of passenger traffic on curbside operators since the sector emerged as a significant transportation mode in 2006.”

At the same time, competition between the top bus operators is growing, as witnessed by Megabus’s recent moves to limit BoltBus’s addition of particular routes. The report notes that the number of curbside operators is also quickly rising, with the number of departures going from 589 in 2010 to 778 in 2011, a 32.1% increase.

With all of this growth, it appears very possible for intercity bus travel to serve as a profitable endeavor. According to the report, the two largest Megabus hubs, New York and Chicago, are now making profits, demonstrating the potential for a sound and sustainable financial model for curbside bus operators. While Megabus’s newer hubs like Philadelphia and Atlanta have not yet broken even, the report finds that the entire Megabus system can be considered profitable.

As more curbside bus operators find success in the industry and as more passengers find the more reliable and direct services offered by such operators appealing, growth in intercity bus travel appears to be in good shape for the future. With Philadelphia now serving as a hub for Megabus, BoltBus, and Greyhound Express, among others, residents and visitors alike have a variety of curbside bus operators as well as destinations from which to choose.

MOTUnes Monday │ Erie Canal

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. This week, we present the Boss himself – Bruce Springsteen – as he sings of the Erie Canal in a song of the same name.

Research Rest-Stop │ Imagining a City Without Its Transit System

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) highlights some interesting research related to or innovations in transportation, sustainability, or energy.

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Ever wonder what a city would be like without its public transportation system?

Well, wonder no more.

According to a recent Atlantic Cities article, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has developed a study that looks at how Washington,D.C. would look if transit in the city did not exist. In looking at the benefits of transportation projects, the agency became interested in the true, broad-reaching benefits that the presence of public transit can have on a region.

In performing the analysis, WMATA worked to isolate the impacts of rail lines on economic development, property values, and other revenue sources located near transit stations. At the same time, it modeled what the region would be like without a transit system.

In WMATA’s first scenario, the transit system was removed but the current road infrastructure was kept in place. As a result of this change, the study found that people’s travel patterns tended to become more localized, as they were less likely to travel across the region to reach jobs or other major destinations.

In the second scenario, the transit system was again removed, but this time, new roads were added. The study found that, in order to maintain current congestion levels, the region would require roughly 15 more lanes to D.C.’s current beltway at a cost of $6 billion. In addition, in order to accommodate the masses of drivers commuting into the city, approximately 166 blocks of five-story parking garages would be needed to support spaces for all of these vehicles.

While the scenarios are far-fetched, they do their job in having us stop and think about what regions would be like without public transit systems. Without transit availability and options, this then impacts greenhouse gas emissions, open space, economic development, and congestion. The study pushes the idea of “alternatives,” and as Justin Antos, a WMATA transportation analyst notes, “Part of the study was to put in context the choices that our region faces in the future….”

MOTUnes Monday │ Fly Like an Eagle

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. We’re flying into this week with Steve Miller Band’s classic, “Fly Like an Eagle.”

Research Rest-Stop │ Biking and Saving Cities Money All at the Same Time

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) highlights some interesting research related to or innovations in transportation, sustainability, or energy.

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A new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), “Building a Better Gas Tax: How to Fix One of State Government’s Least Sustainable Revenue Sources,” argues that state governments are typically missing out on more than $10 billion from not updating their gas taxes. The report, which is based on an analysis of all fifty states, determines that this reluctance to update gas taxes has resulted in close to $201 million lost in annual revenues per state. This then means that potential revenue is not being gained. According to the report, “the average state’s gas tax rate has effectively fallen by 20 percent, or 6.8 cents per gallon, since the last time it was increased.”

The report argues that states have much to gain by supporting gas tax increases. By increasing gas taxes to match current transportation construction costs, the report projects that states will be able to manage and implement transportation projects more effectively. As higher gas taxes are likely to affect low-income families more significantly, the report recommends the establishment of a tax credit aimed at reducing this disparity. In addition, the report offers three policy proposals to help bring the state gas tax to a more modern standard:

  • Increase gas tax rates to address their current inefficiencies in contributing to transportation projects;
  • Reorganize the structure of state gas taxes so that rates rise proportionally as costs for transportation projects grow; and
  • Develop or enhance targeted tax credits to ensure that low-income families are not impacted too greatly by increased gas taxes.

In looking to these recommendations, how do you feel the issue of the state gas tax should be addressed? Do you feel that state gas taxes should increase over time to support the transportation projects occurring in each state?

MOTUnes Monday │ Midnight Train to Georgia

Choo, choo – MOTUnes Monday is pulling into the station this week with another classic. Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. This week, we’re showcasing “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & the Pips.

Research Rest-Stop │ “Evaluating Public Transit as an Energy Conservation and Emission Reduction Strategy”

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) highlights some interesting research related to or innovations in transportation, sustainability, or energy.

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A recent Victoria Transport Policy Institute study evaluates how well environmental and transportation policies coordinate with each other in efforts to limit climate change as well as how public transit improvements can support energy conservation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Critics of these improvements often argue that public transit uses more energy per passenger-mile than other modes of transportation, including private automobiles. What this doesn’t show is that public transit saves more energy in urban areas where improved bus lanes and faster loading times can help to reduce inefficiencies. These improvements typically provide additional benefits besides simply energy conservation and reductions in GHG emissions. As a result, improvements to public transit help to save not only energy but time and money too.

The report argues that transit improvements have great benefits to an overall transportation system and the environment. It notes:

[H]igh quality transit is more than simply a vehicle; it is an integrated system that includes compact, attractive stops and stations surrounded by compact and mixed-use development with reduced parking supply, good walking and cycling conditions, and more social acceptance of carfree living.

As part of this, the report cites “Effects of TOD on Housing, Parking, and Travel,” a 2008 publication by Robert Cervero and G.B. Arrington, which found that residents living in transit-oriented developments (TODs) typically owned 15-30% fewer vehicles, drove much less as confirmed by their driving 20-40% fewer miles a year, and walked, biked, and took public transit much more often than they likely would have in communities that depend primarily on the automobile. While this is one of many studies cited by the report, the results appear clear: that high-quality transit and improvements to public transit tend to have significant benefits to the environment and to residents’ quality of life.

In order to increase transit benefits, the report offers several strategies. These include having transit priority, which may involve special lanes for buses and other high-occupancy vehicles to allow them to travel more quickly, traffic signal preemption, which gives public transit vehicles an early start in passing through intersections, and quicker fare-pay systems so that passengers can board more speedily. Offering cash to commuters in lieu of receiving a free parking space has also been found as a good way to increase transit use. Lastly, commute trip reduction (CTR) programs aim to help commuters reduce the travel times of their commutes and can include elements like rideshare matching, guaranteed ride home programs, and telework.

Given these considerations, what are some benefits you feel public transit contributes to the environment and to communities? What other strategies may be helpful in encouraging transit use?

Start your year sustainably! Recycle your Christmas Tree by January 14th!

For 24 years, the Streets Department’s Sanitation division has provided Philadelphians with an environmentally safe alternative for the disposal of used trees.  Streets Commissioner Clarena I.W. Tolson recently announced that the Residential Christmas Tree Recycling Program will run from Tuesday, January 3 through Saturday, January 14.

Philadelphians who wish to drop off their trees to be recycled may take it to the Streets Department Sanitation Convenience Centers located at

  • 3033 S. 63rd Street,
  • Domino Lane & Umbria Street and
  • State Road & Ashburner Street

The Sanitation Convenience Centers are open 8:00 am to 6:00 pm from Monday through Saturday.  Remember

  • Trees brought to the site to be recycled should be free of all decorations and untied. Christmas trees with decorations cannot be recycled and will be placed with rubbish.
  • Trees should not be brought to the site in plastic bags.

Christmas trees present a seasonal addition to the City’s waste stream.  By recycling them and returning them to the earth, we help to reduce the number of discarded trees that end up in landfills.

There will be no curbside collection of Christmas trees for recycling purposes. Trees left at the curb will be considered as trash and will be picked up on regularly scheduled trash days.  As always, the program is for citizens who receive City collected trash and recycling services. Vendors are responsible for making arrangements for the private disposal of their discarded trees.

For additional information regarding the Christmas Tree Recycling Program, or any other Streets Department service, please contact the Customer Affairs Unit at (215) 686-5560, visit us online at www.philadelphiastreets.com .  For all city services, call 3-1-1.

MOTUnes Monday │ Drive My Car

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. This week, we’re kicking off the new year with “Drive My Car” by the Beatles.

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