Research Rest-Stop — Understanding Congestion

Generally when we think of traffic congestion, we visualize intersections overflowing with gridlocked cars, stationary automobiles on the freeway, and frustrated drivers honking at each other.  However, traffic congestion can take multiple forms and can even benefit an area.

Automobile Congestion along 15th Street

Traditionally, traffic classification is done through a six-level (A-F) rating system.  A road with an ‘A’ Level-of-Service means that all automobiles are able to travel unimpeded, and an ‘F’ Level-of-Service means that there is very congested or even stopped traffic.  This classification is used by Transportation departments all over the country as well as the Texas Transportation Institute who argued that traffic congestion costs US drivers over $100 billion in time and fuel. Identifying economic failure as a negative externality of congestion overlooks a primary cause of congestion – high demand and economic success.  For instance, a restaurant that is in high demand will also be very congested, but that doesn’t mean that the patrons will be losing out. A recent article explores this relation between a metropolitan area’s traffic congestion and GDP.  It turns out that areas with higher congestion also have higher GDP.  This concept is illustrated well in CenterCity – many streets are very congested, yet the area has lots of activity and businesses do very well.

Pedestrian Congestion along Walnut Street

In short, high levels of congestion impair an area’s ability to act as a thoroughfare, but high levels of congestion benefit a location by promoting activity and economic growth.  The City of Philadelphia is working hard to find the right balance by advocating for corridor-wide congestion mitigation through traffic light synchronization and transit signal priority.  These measures will help bring people in to high activity areas and help cars drive through them.

Find out more:

Rethinking the Economics of Congestion

Learning to Love Congestion

Traditional Traffic Classification System


Logan CDC is Building a Parklet on Kickstarter!

The Logan Community Development Corporation is working with the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities to install a Parklet outside the Logan Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library.

A rendering of the Logan CDC Parklet

This Parklet is a flexible public space designed by the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects and will fill a need for quality public space in the neighborhood.  This new creative area will support many community activities including, but not limited to: reading, resting, conversing, eating, viewing, and performing.

In order to make this Parklet a reality, Logan CDC is fundraising through Kickstarter for the remaining construction costs.  Logan CDC is turning to the local and greater Philadelphia community to help build this Parklet and contribute to real positive change in the neighborhood.

Logan CDC Webpage

Logan Parklet Kickstarter Page 

We’re Still Looking for Abandoned Bikes

An abandoned bicycle with yellow removal tag.

At the beginning of this month, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities along with the Streets Department and Philly 311 finished a successful campaign to clear many of the abandoned bicycles from city streets.

Since keeping Philadelphia streets clean and safe is an ongoing project, we will make another sweep of city streets to remove abandoned bicycles.  However, before we can make that sweep, there needs to be a sufficient number of abandoned bicycles called in to 311.

When calling an abandoned bicycle in to 311, be sure to report:

–         The nearest street address

–         What the bike is attached to (street pole, tree, etc.)

–         Color and condition of the bicycle

If there’s an abandoned bicycle on your street you’d like to see removed, please call it in to Philly 311 and it will be put onto the list of bicycles to be removed.  Like before, all of the bicycles removed during the next sweep will be donated to local charities.

Thanks for your help.

Read more about our previous bike sweep.

Complete Streets Handbook Discussion Series

The Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) and the Streets Department recently released a draft of the Philadelphia Complete Streets Design Handbook (the Handbook) for public comment. The preferred street designs and management practices to provide all travelers with safe and convenient streets. The Handbook includes:
– project review checklists to document how these designs and practices are applied to new, reconstructed or redesigned City streets;
– a catalogue of existing local policies and design standards related to streets, sidewalks, intersections, and other elements in the public right-of-way; and
– recommended policies and practices for issues not currently addressed.

The Handbook will be used by City and State agency staff, design professionals, private developers, community groups, and others involved in the planning, design and operation of streets in Philadelphia. The Handbook will inform all projects that impact the public right-of-way in Philadelphia, including construction of new streets and improvements to existing streets. The Streets Department and Planning Commission will review projects for consistency with the Handbook and to make sure Philadelphians can travel across this city safely, no matter what mode of travel they choose to use.

The Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities is hosting three Complete Streets Handbook Discussions in the month of September. These Discussions will provide an opportunity to both learn more the Complete Streets Handbook and provide feedback to City officials about the draft handbook. The Discussions will be held in Room 1450 of the Municipal Services Building (1401 JFK Blvd) on
– MOTU encourages professionals involved with Community or Real Estate Development to attend the Sept 10th meeting (11 – 12:30)
– MOTU encourages professionals involved with Design or Engineering to attend the Sept 12th meeting (11 – 12:30)
– MOTU encourages members from the general public to attend the Sept 24th meeting (6 – 7:30).
The Handbook is available for review on the Streets Department’s website and can be downloaded here From August until October, a draft copy of the handbook will be available and the open comment period will close October 1st. Communities interested in learning more can request a briefing from the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities. All comments and questions should be directed to Ariel Ben-Amos ( –1401 JFK Blvd, Suite 1430, Philadelphia, PA 19102). RSVP’s are encouraged by not required. Please take a moment and distribute this message to all those you feel may be interested.

Bike Corrals in Philadelphia!

Philadelphia has three brand new bike corrals!  And five more on the way!

The first of the three bike corrals was installed at Reading Terminal Market on Filbert Street, the second outside the Whole Foods Market on South Street, and the third outside Tattooed Mom’s Bar, also on South Street.

A new Bike Corral at Reading Terminal

Bike Corrals are a popular addition to cities all over the country that face a shortage of bicycle parking.  Bike corrals are large bike racks that provide a dozen bicycle parking spaces and differ from standard bicycle parking because the corral occupies a curbside parking space formerly used for a single car.

Corrals benefit cyclists by providing a designated space for bicycle parking, which also benefits pedestrians by freeing up scarce sidewalk space.  They also benefit nearby shops by instantly increasing accessibility.

Look for future bike corrals in Philadelphia at:

Chinatown Community Development Corp at 10th and Cherry Streets

Mariposa Co-op at 4826 Baltimore Avenue

Drinker’s Pub at 1903 Chestnut Street

Kung Fu Necktie at Front and Thompson Streets

Johnny Brenda’s at Frankford and Girard Avenues

MOTUnes Monday │Les Champs Elyssees

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation song.  This week, we’ll take a stroll down “Les Champs Elysees” by Joe Dassin.

MOTUnes Monday │Night Train

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song.  This week we’ll take a ride on the “Night Train” by James Brown.

Green Power Philadelphia

One of the major Goals of Philadelphia’s Greenworks program is to reduce our vulnerability to rising energy prices.  A significant factor in this is the ability to purchase electricity from renewable sources.  In fact, the fourth target of this goal is for all of Philadelphia to purchase or generate 20% of its electricity from alternative sources.  These alternative and renewable sources include electricity generated from solar, wind, geothermal, low-impact biomass, and low-impact hydro resources.

Philadelphia Water Department’s South East Water Pollution Control Plant Solar Array

  Philadelphia has partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency to become a Green Power Community.  Philadelphia is currently the most populous city to participate in the program.  Participation in the Green Power Community program requires Philadelphia to meet or exceed the EPA’s green power purchase requirements. 

Recently, the Clean Air Council hosted an informative public program about the benefits of switching to green power.  Using green energy benefits the environment by limiting the use of fossil fuels, provides new sustainable jobs for a stronger regional economy, and can help consumers save money.

Learn about switching to green power at Pennsylvania Power-Switch

Also, check out Philadelphia’s Greenworks Program

The Complete Streets Design Handbook

The Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities has released a draft of the Complete Streets Design Handbook for public comment.  Complete Streets uses a variety of design measures and policies to make streets safer and more accessible for all types of transportation: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transit users. 

The new handbook illustrates preferred multi-modal street designs and best management practices to realize Complete Streets for all types of roadways in Philadelphia.  The handbook also provides a comprehensive checklist to ensure these designs and practices are applied to new, reconstructed, and redesigned streets.  Finally, the handbook catalogues the existing street design policy and recommends new policies and practices for issues not currently addressed. 

This Complete Streets handbook will primarily be used by City and State agency staff, design professionals, private developers, community groups, and others involved in planning, design, and operation of streets in Philadelphia.  Implementing Complete Streets policies will help all projects that impact the public right-of-way to create safer and more accessible streets. 

Complete Streets is an excellent way for your community group to identify specific strategies to improve the public right of way in your neighborhood.  From now until October 1st, a draft copy of the Complete Streets handbook is open for public comment.  Please take a moment to check out the Handbook.  What designs and policies could benefit the street you live on? 

Find out more: The Complete Streets Handbook

If your community is interested in learning more about how Complete Streets can benefit your area, you can request a briefing from the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities.  All comments and questions should be directed to Ariel Ben-Amos to .  

MOTUnes Monday │America

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song.  This week, we’ll take a cross-country trip with Simon and Garfunkel’s “America.”

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