MOTUnes Monday | Watching Airplanes

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities showcases a song related to transportation, energy, or sustainability. This week, we’re looking up the sky with Gary Allan.

City Departments Release 15 Environmentally-Themed Datasets for Hackathon

Originally posted on PhillyInnovates :

MyPark, an app built at the EcoCampPhilly Hackathon Stormfighter, an app built at the EcoCampPhilly Hackathon

What can we accomplish with a little collaboration? A lot. Last week five City departments released a total of 15 new data sets in support of Azavea’s EcoCamp event. Among those contributing were the Streets Department, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP), Parks and Recreation, and the Water Department.

EcoCamp is a series of events “promoting sustainability and the environment through technology.” Held June 20-22, the events included workshops, an “unconference” (where sessions are led by conference attendees), and a hackathon, a contest for teams of civic hackers to develop software or other technology-driven solutions to the city’s challenges.

The departments’ new datasets were all environmentally-themed. City departments worked hard to release data for EcoCamp. Mining, scrubbing, and releasing data for public consumption are tedious tasks but these efforts are important. Not only does releasing data work…

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Originally posted on City of Philadelphia's News & Alerts:

Philadelphia, April 25, 2014 – The City of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced that the City was selected for a for a $525,000 grant by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to expand pedestrian safety education and enforcement efforts.  Philadelphia is one of only three cities nationally to receive a grant among dozens that applied. Philadelphia was the only city in Pennsylvania that met the criteria to be considered for the grant.

“We reduced pedestrian involved accidents in Philadelphia by 10 percent between 2007 and 2012, but our work is far from done,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter.  “I am honored that NHTSA and FHWA recognized the great working relationship that the City of Philadelphia has with PennDOT. These funds are going to help make Philadelphia a national model for pedestrian safety efforts.”

PennDOT’s Highway Safety Office worked with…

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From One Second to the Next, Werner Herzog Reminds Us of the Danger of Texting While Driving

The latest work from the prolific documentarian Werner Herzog is a powerful half-hour portrait of the danger of texting while driving. From One Second to the Next was created as part of AT&T’s “It Can Wait” project, a campaign aimed at urging younger drivers to stay focused on driving and wait until arriving at their destinations to text.

Herzog detailed the circumstances of four crashes caused by texting while driving, and he asked both victims and perpetrators to describe at length what happened leading up to the crash and how what happened afterward. Each time, lives were changed in an instant as a result of these drivers’ decisions. The film will be shown in thousands of high schools and by organizations dedicated to safety. Already viewed over 2 million times, Herzog hopes to convince drivers to make the responsible decision and remember that texting really can wait.

h/t Slate and NPR

Abandoned Bicycle Removal Frees Up Bike Racks and Sidewalks

Last month, MOTU asked the public to help locate abandoned bicycles, and Philadelphians responded with approximately 200 reports of abandoned bikes to Philly311. Citizen input allowed MOTU to complete a sweep last Thursday, removing more than 60 abandoned bicycles from city streets and donating them to local non-profit organizations that provide mechanical and work skills training through bicycle refurbishing.

The lock on each tagged bike needs to be ground off individually.

The lock on each tagged bike needs to be ground off individually.

As ridership continues to grow in Philadelphia, the need for reliable bike parking is on the rise, and bike racks are becoming crowded in parts of the city. MOTU and the Streets Department periodically collect abandoned bikes to keep bicycle parking available and to keep our narrow sidewalks clear. A typical commercial street could have up to 30 bicycle parking spaces per block, counting both sides of the street, so clearing 60 bicycles could have the effect of installing two whole blocks worth of new bicycle parking. Or five additional bike corrals.

An inoperable back tire, rusted chain, and debris collected around the wheel all indicate that this bicycle had not been claimed in a long time.

An inoperable back tire, rusted chain, and debris collected around the wheel all indicate that this bicycle had not been claimed in a long time.

We always want to be confident that each bike we remove is abandoned. Each reported bicycle was inspected and tagged with a neon-colored notice at least one week prior to removal. Only bicycles that were inoperable, damaged or deteriorated, and located on public property were collected.

Loading collected bicycle parts into the truck.

Loading collected bicycle parts into the truck.

Shared Space Succeeds at a Busy English Intersection

We came across this story of an imaginative “shared space” that transformed the town of Poynton, England. The town is centered on the junction of its main commercial street and a major highway, but its town center has been in economic decline, dominated by a noisy and congested stream of traffic that includes many trucks.

When the junction was due for reconstruction, local leaders realized that widening the road to handle more vehicles was not the best way to improve Poynton’s situation. Instead, they turned to shared space principles to devise an intersection that fosters equality, sharing, and cooperation among all people using the roadway, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, and motorists. Poynton’s “double-roundel” design reduced the number of vehicle lanes, eliminated the traffic signals, made the curb lines less definitive, and greatly expanding walking areas.

The reconstruction was completed in 2012, and today, the double-roundel successfully accommodates the busy highway traffic while softening its impacts on the village. Traffic moves continuously and calmly, residents feel comfortable crossing the street, crash rates have fallen, and local businesses report widespread increases in foot traffic. All of this was accomplished without increases in congestion, important because the highway continues to handle regional passenger and freight traffic.

Implementing a successful shared-space street requires quality planning, design, and funding. In Poynton’s case, local leaders spent years planning the project and securing more than $6 million to finance it. They thought carefully about a variety of measures needed to make it a success, such as constructing gateways on the roads leading up to the junction compelling drivers to downshift from a highway mindset to urban driving.

Should Philadelphia begin to envision a shared-space future for some of our streets? What locations in our city might one day benefit from shared space design?

Bicycle Extraordinaire, Elly Blue, Coming to Philly on 5/19!

On Sunday, May 19th the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is hosting national bicycle extraordinaire Elly Blue for an evening of food and bicycle culture. Elly Blue is one of the highest-profile bicycle bloggers in the country, writing for Grist, BikePortland, and Bicycling Magazine. She will be giving a talk about bicycling culture and equity. She’s touring with gourmet chef Joshua Ploeg, who will be cooking a vegan, gluten-free buffet dinner for everyone. Documentary filmmaker Joe Biel will also show a near-complete excerpt of Aftermass, his upcoming documentary about the history of bicycling in Portland.

Elly Blue event poster

Tickets are $25 and student tickets are only $15. Tickets gets you dinner and an evening of talking about bicycling culture with one of the most distinct voices in the country. Tickets will NOT be available at the door.

Date: Sunday, May 19th
Time: 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Location: RUBA Club (414 Green St, Philly. One block north of Silk City)

Parking, It’s Not Just for Cars Anymore

MOTU’s Senior Planner and Analyst, Ariel Ben-Amos, was a featured blogger on the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s blog.  Check out his blog post “Parking, It’s Not Just for Cars Anymore” on their blog.

The Benefits of Red Light Cameras

Each year, more than 100,000 people are injured because someone runs a red light. This new video by the PPA shows how Red Light Cameras work and how they help improve safety. Watch this video and learn more about Philadelphia’s Red Light Camera system and how it has made crossing intersections from Center City to the Northeast safer for pedestrians and drivers.

Parklet Study Volunteers Wanted

Last year, 6 parklets appeared across the city, This year MOTU is spearheading and managing a coordinated study of Parklet impacts. MOTU wants to be able to quantify their impacts on both businesses and pedestrians.

MOTU is  looking for volunteers to help us conduct the study, to sign up for one, or multiple shifts (which would reduce the amount of volunteers needed). MOTU is asking volunteers to hang out for a two hour shift and either count pedestrians or people using the parklets.
On March 4th (11AM, Room 1450 MSB) MOTU is hosting a kick off meeting for our Parklet study and we would greatly appreciate it if you could do help us recruit volunteers from your community and partners to attend the meeting and help us conduct our Parklet study. Attendance of this meeting is not a requirement for study participation, those unable to attend should contact Ariel Ben-Amos directly (

If there was a parklet in your neighborhood and you, or those you know might be interested or able to help, please have them contact


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