Spring is upon us, and that means we are all itching to get outside and enjoy our neighborhood.  If you made it out to West Philly last summer you may have had a chance to enjoy the city in a whole new way, sitting on a Parklet.  Parklets are small platforms that take the place of parking, with seats and tables that allow people to stop, sit and enjoy their neighborhood street life.  They can act like a front porch or stoop to hang out on. The University City District partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities to pilot Parklets at 43rd and Baltimore and 36th and Lancaster.  It was a serious attraction for the entire neighborhood, and was full every weekend.  The parklet, sited in front of the Green Line Coffee Shop, also boosted their revenue by nearly 20%.

Photo by Ryan Collerd, Courtesy of UCD

Having proven that Parklets work in University City, the City wants to work with other neighborhoods to build Parklets for their own communities.  To that end, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) has developed a Parklet Program. This program allows communities from across Philadelphia to request permission to build and maintain Parklets in their neighborhood. MOTU will work with businesses and community groups interested in building Parklets to make sure they are designed safely and fit in well with their neighborhood. You can download the program guidelines here.


Congratulations to Kyle Gradinger for his Winning Photos of Bicyclists in Philadelphia!

The Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) would like to extend a hearty congratulations to Kyle Gradinger, who recently was named a winner of the Alliance for Biking and Walking’s 2011 People Powered Movement Photo Contest. The contest promotes the power, fun, and active nature of bicycling through the use of images.

Mr. Gradinger received awards for his photos of bicyclists in Philadelphia under the categories of “Advocates in Action” and “Diversity / Building an Inclusive Movement.” His images of Mayor Michael Nutter leading a group of bicyclists down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and of bicyclists of diverse backgrounds traveling along a Philadelphia city street demonstrate how leadership and connected bicycle networks can help to encourage bicycling and extend its benefits to communities.


  Advocates in Action Category Winners

Diversity / Building an Inclusive Movement Category Winners

Research Rest-Stop │ San Francisco’s New Parking 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.


In many cities, finding off-street parking can be a challenge. In some cases, drivers searching for parking spaces can generate as much as one-third of the traffic in urban areas. By improving parking dynamics, this traffic could be reduced and, at the same time, decrease environmental impacts and the amount of time spent looking for a parking spot.

In response to this challenge, the City of San Francisco has implemented a new dynamic parking program that aims to provide at least one available parking spot on every metered block. The program uses the idea of supply and demand so that the price of parking increases in the most crowded areas and decreases where there are many empty parking spaces. To date, the city has installed parking sensors and new meters at nearly one-fourth of its 26,800 metered parking spaces to monitor when spots open up and how long cars are parked. Every two months, the city evaluates and adjusts its prices as necessary to work toward the goal of having at least one available parking space on every block. On popular blocks, prices can increase by 25 cents an hour. On blocks that often have more empty spaces available, the city can decrease prices by as much as 50 cents an hour. The city has also reduced rates at its off-street parking locations to encourage drivers to park their cars in off-street garages and lots.

This program tests the theories of Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. His work focuses on ways to price on-street parking effectively so that cities can ensure that a few open spots will exist on every block. Shoup highlighted his ideas in a 2005 piece, “The High Cost of Free Parking,” which argued that pricing the parking supply according to market demands would allow for a more dynamic system and open up a few spaces so that drivers would no longer need to circle blocks continuously while looking for parking.

As San Francisco’s program is fairly new, it still needs some more time before an analysis of how it is working overall can be performed. In the interim, however, an analysis by The New York Times notes that “while only a third of the blocks in the program have hit their targeted occupancy rates in any given month since the program began, three-quarters of the blocks either hit their targets or moved closer to the goal.” With the rest of the phased-in price changes not yet released (the most expensive spots are expected to reach a $6 per hour maximum), it will be interesting to see how this program plays out and the impacts it has on the parking supply and demand in San Francisco.


If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, you can also check out the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s report, “SFpark: Putting Theory in Practice,” which documents the city’s new strategy for pricing parking.

MOTUnes Monday │ Light Up My Room

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. This week, we’re brightening up the week with “Light Up My Room” by the Barenaked Ladies.

Research Rest-Stop │ APTA 2011 Report: Trips on U.S. Public Transportation Increasing

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


The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has released its annual report on public transit ridership. The report announces that, in 2011, Americans traveled by public transportation extensively, taking 10.4 billion trips over the past year. This is the second highest annual ridership for public transportation since 1957. In addition, last year’s numbers continue a pattern that has occurred for the past six years in which more than 10 billion trips by public transportation nationwide were recorded annually. At the same time that public transit ridership increased in 2011, vehicle miles of travel (VMTs) decreased by 1.2 percent.

In a recent press release, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy discusses potential reasons for the increase in public transit ridership. He notes, “ ‘Two top reasons for the increased ridership are higher gas prices and in certain areas, a recovering economy with more people returning to work. Since nearly sixty percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it’s not surprising to see ridership increase in areas where the economy has improved.’ ”

APTA’s report also provides ridership numbers by city. Particular Philadelphia facts from the report include:

  •  An increase of 9.6% in ridership for Philadelphia’s light rail system, including trolleys; and
  • An increase of 4.7% in ridership for the city’s subways.

This trend of increased ridership is continuing into 2012 too. In January 2012 alone, SEPTA saw ridership growth of 6%. Time will tell if 2012 will continue the trend for public transit growth as the last six years have shown.

MOTUnes Monday │ Walk On By

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. This week, we’re walking to Aretha Franklin’s “Walk On By.”

MOTUnes Monday │ People Get Ready


Are you ready? Can you name a 1965 song written by Curtis Mayfield that has been covered by a variety of musicians, including Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart?

Need another clue? This week’s MOTUnes Monday pays tribute to this particular song, which features the chorus lines of “People get ready, there’s a train comin’ / You don’t need no baggage, just get on board.”

Ready to guess? If you’re thinking “People Get Ready” by The Impressions, you’re in luck! And for future trivia, here’s another fact: This song was selected by Rolling Stone recently as #24 on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

Research Rest-Stop │ How Bike Paths and Bike Lanes Can Influence Bicycling Rates

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


A recent study, “Cycling to Work in 90 Large American Cities: New Evidence on the Role of Bike Paths and Lanes,” jointly developed by Virginia Tech and Rutgers University, evaluates how bicycle commuting varies across large American cities. The study uses data on these cities and runs regression models to determine specifically if and how the presence of bike paths and lanes affect the rate of bicycling in particular areas.

The study finds that “cities with safer cycling, lower auto ownership, more students, less sprawl, and higher gasoline prices had more cycling to work.” In addition, “annual precipitation, the number of cold and hot days, and public transport supply were not statistically significant predictors of bike commuting in large cities.”

The study notes that, among the 100 largest cities in the United States, Philadelphia is ranked 7th for the number of bicycle commuters per 1,000 residents, with 7.5 bike commuters per 1,000. While the study identifies Philadelphia as well as other top ten cities in this category, the study primarily focuses on how bicycling facilities and infrastructure across the United States collectively impact the way people travel, specifically by bicycle. For example, the study discusses how American bike paths are more likely to be multi-use paths for use by bicyclists and other non-motorized transportation users, including pedestrians and joggers, while European bike paths are oftentimes reserved only for bicyclists. While the presence of bicycle-only paths is likely due to a higher number of people traveling by bicycle in Europe, this fact highlights how an increase in the number of people using a particular mode of transportation can affect the type of infrastructure investments that are made. For American cities, the report puts into context how bike paths and lanes can generally impact people’s travel decisions and provides helpful research findings for cities looking to develop their bicycle infrastructure and related programs to increase bicycling rates.


MOTUnes Monday │ I Can’t Drive 55

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. This week, we’re revving our engines with Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55.”


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