MOTUnes Monday │Ford Mustang

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song.  This week, we’ll cruise around in a “Ford Mustang” by Serge Gainsbourg & Bridgette Bardot.


Research Rest-Stop — The Sustainable City

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities presents a new and interesting piece of research that highlights transportation, energy, or sustainability. 


Urban minded planners have long argued that the key to sustainability is compact living – a large number of people living in a small area will use fewer resources than a small group of people living spread out across a large area.  This argument makes intuitive sense, for example, an automobile and its required fuels are not needed if a person only needs to travel a few city blocks to reach a grocery store, while a person living in a sprawling exurb may need to drive ten miles to reach the nearest grocery store.  In this scenario, living in a denser city is more environmentally sustainable than living in a suburb or exurb.

A recent report, titled, “Growing Cities Sustainably: Does Urban Form Really Matter?” explores the common assumption that density equals sustainability. Furthermore, the report defines Sustainability as more than environmental – true sustainability also includes social equity and economic efficiency.  The study shows that Urban Form – dense city, clustered suburb, or sprawling exurb – has only a modest effect on energy consumption and land use, and has no significant influence on an area’s overall sustainability.  Density does not necessarily equal sustainability.   

Center City Philadelphia


The study examined the three types of urban form and used statistical models to forecast growth and change in land use over thirty years.  Then the models explored different sustainability indicators to measure economic efficiency, resource use, social impact, and environmental impact of the three urban forms.

Moreover, the report discusses that although there were differences between the sustainability for each form, no one form was clearly superior.  For instance, a dense city has lower transportation costs thus more environmentally sustainable, but dense cities have much higher land and property costs, thus economically non-sustainable.

This means that Center City Philadelphia should not automatically be considered sustainable because it is a dense urban area.  According to “Connections,’ DVRPC’s Regional Long Range Plan, Philadelphia’s land use will not change greatly between now and 2035, there will be slightly more job growth along with a slight increase in population, and Philadelphia will continue to lead the region with the least per capita emissions.   


Triple Bottom Line Benefits from Philadelphia’s Green City Clean Waters Program (Click image to enlarge)

Furthermore, the City of Philadelphia has actively committed to becoming a sustainable city in all regards, as evidenced in the Green City, Clean Waters initiative, where Philadelphia has set for itself a triple bottom-line to achieve Economic, Social, and Environmental Benefits, which include employing people in green jobs, increasing recreational opportunities, and restoring Philadelphia Ecosystems.  Becoming a truly sustainable city requires a comprehensive approach that addresses all measures of sustainability and the City of Philadelphia is working hard to make true sustainability a reality.

Want to know more?

Read the full report – Growing Cities Sustainably: Does Urban Form Really Matter?

Read Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters Program

Read DVRPC’s Long Range Plan for the Region

MOTUnes Monday │In the Backseat

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song.  This week, we’re relaxing “In the Backseat” by Arcade Fire.

Research Rest-Stop — Transit and the Suburbanization of Jobs

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities presents a new or interesting report or study highlighting transportation, energy, or sustainability. 


It’s important for an employer to site a company in an accessible location for its workforce.  This benefits the worker by having a convenient commute and it benefits the employer by having access to a large pool of labor and talent.  Prior to the automobile, this meant locating companies in or very near large population centers, i.e. cities.  In cities, public transit is able to efficiently move people from one location (an employee’s home) to another (their place of work).  However, as automobiles rose in popularity and people moved to the suburbs, public transit was no longer able to efficiently move people from place to place.

A recent report published by the Brookings Institute examines the relationship between employer, employee, and transit locations.  The report finds, ‘Over three-quarters of all jobs in the 100 largest metropolitan areas are in neighborhoods with transit service,’ but ‘the typical job is accessible to only about 27 percent of its metropolitan workforce by transit in 90 minutes or less.’  This means that employers are missing out on potential workforce talent because their offices are too far from workers’ homes.  Generally, these are the businesses that are located in the suburbs – places difficult to reach without an automobile.

Commuters wait for their train at 30th Street Station

The report recognizes that the ‘suburbanization of jobs’ is the significant factor obstructing the effectiveness of transit use for commuting.  Philadelphia is rated 54th in the 100 largest metro areas for overall worker access to transit.  Only 13.9% of all jobs outside Philadelphia are accessible by transit.  

One of the most intuitive solutions to improve worker access to transit would be to expand the transit system to the areas that lack sufficient transit.  This however is the most costly option.  Another option includes attracting businesses to the city.  Increasing the number of business in Philadelphia and Center City specifically (where there is already the greatest access to transit) will increase worker access to transit and give these suburban businesses access to a larger and more talented pool of labor.

Want to know more?

Read the Brookings Report – Where the Jobs Are: Employer Access to Labor by Transit

MOTUnes Monday │The Long and Winding Road

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song.  This week, we’re going to stroll down, “The Long and Winding road,” a classic song by The Beatles.

Is Bike Share Good for Bike Shops?

Bikeshare, a service where bicycles are made available to rent for a period of time and can be picked-up and dropped-off at multiple locations throughout a city , is becoming more and more popular in urban areas across the United States.  The emerging trend of bikeshare programs is concerning to local bicycle shops – after all, why would someone buy a new bicycle if it is affordable and convenient to simply rent a bike from a bikeshare program? 

It turns out that these concerns are unfounded.  For instance, many bicycle shop owners in Washington DC were concerned that Capital Bikeshare, a bikeshare company established in 2010 in DC, would hurt their business.  In truth, the bikeshare program is increasing business for bicycle shops.   

A Capital Bikeshare Station in Washington D.C.


Capital Bikeshare benefits bicycle shops by reviving enthusiasm for bike riding.  Potential bicyclists, who may be hesitant to purchase a new bike, are given an opportunity to commute by bicycle in the city and many of these people end up buying their own bicycles.  Also, the increased number of bikes on the street has made it safer for cyclists, which it turn makes bicycling more appealing. 

The city has already initiated the process to establish a bicycle sharing network right here in Philadelphia.  How will bicycle sharing transform transportation in the city?  Bikehare stations in Center City would help commuters and stations near Independence Mall would be great for tourists.  Where else would be good spots for bikeshare stations?  Where would you like to use bikeshare?

Read the Transportation Nation article discussing Capital Bikeshare and Bike Shop Owners.

Research Rest Stop │ Ignoring Induced Demand

Every Wednesday, The Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities highlights some new and interesting research in the fields of transportation, energy, or sustainability.


Traffic congestion is often described as sand flowing through a funnel – each grain of sand is an automobile.  One grain has no difficulty traveling through the funnel, but as the number of grains increases, it builds up in the funnel and each grain of sand must wait before it can flow through.  It is the same with traffic; one car on an empty road has no difficulty traveling through, but when thousands of cars are added to the same road, traffic congestion builds up and each car must wait its turn. 


Traffic Congestion in Philadelphia.
Photo Courtesy of The Temple News

The intuitive solution is to widen the road – an extra lane would allow more cars, thus less traffic.  Unfortunately, this will not solve the problem. Widening the road or increasing capacity, causes a phenomenon known as Induced Demand.  In short, Induced Demand means that because a newly widened road has more space, it becomes more attractive to other drivers and before long the new road is filled to capacity and there is even greater traffic congestion. 

Although Induced Demand is not a new idea, two recent studies have shown that many cities do not account for this phenomenon when planning new routes.  As a result, expensive road expansion projects overstate potential time-saving benefits and do not solve the problem they initially address.

What can we do in Philadelphia to help reduce traffic congestion, especially in traffic-prone areas like Center City?  Instead of demanding more space for cars, use public transportation, bike, or walk to your destination and step away from traffic congestion altogether. 


Want to know more? Read the full reports:

Victoria Transport Policy Institute Report

European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research Report

MOTUnes Monday │This Flight Tonight

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song.  This week, we’ll be among the stars with Joni Mitchell’s “This Flight Tonight.”

Research Rest Stop │What is the Resource Intensity of Your Neighborhood?

 Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities highlights some new and interesting research in the fields of transportation, sustainability, or energy.


Researchers at the Technical University of Lisbon and MIT have developed UrbMet, an interactive map that examines the levels of electricity and material resources used in specific neighborhoods.  

An Energy Use Map from UrbMet

The data can be conveyed by energy consumption per household for a neighborhood, or energy consumption per person for that neighborhood.  This is an important distinction which can show how efficient buildings are in the neighborhood or how efficient the residents are of that neighborhood. 

For instance, there is a higher amount of electricity used in Center City compared with West Philadelphia; however the population density in Center City is much higher, so the buildings are actually more efficient.  Finally, once a map is created, a report can be generated which shows a summary of the data, which can used to compare with other neighborhoods, or other cities.

The UrbMet tool is helpful to spread awareness about a city’s resource consumption.  This is turn can help us become as efficient as possible. 

How does Center City compare with Northern Liberties, or University City?  How does Philadelphia compare with Chicago? 

Check out UrbMet to find out.


Also, The Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities wishes you a happy and safe Fourth of July.

MOTUnes Monday │ Cars, Trucks, Buses

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. This week, we take “Cars, Trucks, Buses” to Phish in Philadelphia.

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