Tidbit Tuesday | How Philadelphia’s different age groups commute to work

Every Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love.

This week we are looking at how Philadelphians in different age brackets get to work.  Of all Philadelphia workers, 50% drove alone, 9% carpooled, 26% took public transit, 12% commuted by “other” (taxicab, motorcycle, bicycle, walking, etc), and 3% worked from home.  It is interesting to see how similar/different the various age groups are from this overall trend.

Age Commuting Tidbit Tuesday-01

This data comes from the US Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey.  It is important to note that the age brackets reported by the US Census Bureau are not at equal intervals and the above age brackets reflect those reported by the US Census Bureau.


Tidbit Tuesday | How Philadelphians commute to work, broken out by race/ethnicity

Every Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love.

This week we are looking at how Philadelphians commute to work, broken out by race/ethnicity.

Untitled-1-01This data comes from the 2012 American Community Survey.  Due to statistical variability, only those race/ethnicity groups which make up more than 5% of Philadelphia’s worker population (as defined by the US Census) were included in the above graphic.


Tidbit Tuesday | How do men and women in Philadelphia get to work?

Every Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love.

This week we combed through some 2012 American Community Survey data (the ACS’ website is currently down due to the government shutdown, we actually pulled the data a month ago) to see if men and women use different modes to commute to work at different rates.  This week we illustrated how men and women drive, carpool, and use public transit at different rates.  Next week we will publish a follow-up graphic about other modes, including walking, biking, and working from home!  Note, the below graphic’s scale is based on a 100% maximum.


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

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?

Could Grocery Delivery be More Efficient Than a Trip to the Store?

Most research and investment toward improving transportation in cities has traditionally addressed the commute to and from work.  However, less than 20% of our everyday travel is work-related, while the rest are for shopping, social, and personal purposes.  Efforts to make transportation more sustainable and equitable will benefit from more research into these other travel patterns.  Today, we look at the rise of online shopping and ask whether getting fresh groceries delivered to your home could be more efficient than a trip to the store.

A new study published this month suggests that not only is grocery delivery a time-saver, but you can also feel good about saving energy and fossil-fuel emissions—maybe.  Erica Wygonik and Anne Goodchild, two researchers at the University of Washington, examined the difference between everyone driving to the grocery store and a system where everyone gets their groceries delivered instead, using the Seattle area as a case study.  They found total miles traveled by vehicles would be 83% lower with a delivery system, and carbon dioxide emissions would be cut almost in half.  These large savings are possible because the groceries are sharing a ride instead of traveling individually, even though delivery trucks are not as fuel efficient as personal vehicles. “Shared-use vehicle transportation services provide for the movement of passengers and goods and may offer opportunities for reducing the environmental footprint of these activities when compared to individuals using personal vehicles,” write the authors.

Online grocer Peapod truck at the Museum of Art (image courtesy of progressivegrocer.com)

Grocery delivery truck at the Museum of Art (image courtesy of progressivegrocer.com)

This is one of the first studies of its kind done in the United States, but can these findings be applied here in Philadelphia?  Many city dwellers finding this headline were probably thinking, “How is it possible that delivery could be greener than my walk or bike ride to the store?”  In fact, in this city, many residents already have additional options for getting to and from a store other than driving a personal vehicle.  Replacing a walking, bicycle, or public transportation trip to the store with delivery, then, will unlikely have the same savings.  Although this study did not account for such trips, the authors do note that grocery trips not involving a private car should be accounted for in further research.

These findings highlight the need to manage and accommodate deliveries and freight within urban areas.  Here in Philadelphia, being a delivery driver on busy Walnut Street in CenterCity or tiny Third Street in OldCity means competing with many users for limited space.  How could we best fit loading space into a complete street that provides safe sidewalks, driving and bicycle lanes, and parking?

To learn more about how Philadelphia is incorporating a complete streets policy accommodating all users into planning and programming, visit the Philadelphia Complete Streets Design Handbook website.

Reducing Auto Dependency

This letter came into MOTU not too long ago:

Hey MOTU, I thought you might find this interesting.

My parents moved from Narberth to San Francisco last week. They took with them three cars (2 low-rise sports cars, which make 0 sense in SF and 1 Mini Cooper). They are renting an apartment in Dog Patch for the next year. Their plan is to buy a condo in the city as soon as possible.

I spoke to my mother 1 day after the cars arrived in SF and she announced that they will probably sell one of them, if not two, in the next year. Why?

“The new construction we’re interested in doesn’t have enough parking. There’s some sort of city ordinance against too much parking. I guess they want us to use public transport.”

My dad has been taking public transport to work everyday (“It’s much more convenient!”) and they’ve been walking almost everywhere.

These are two people who until very recently drove everywhere (even within Narberth). They had 4 cars 2 months ago; now they are thinking of going to one or two! If San Francisco had made things easier for their car-ways, they never would have thought of changing.

Yay! City ordinance and a little planning!

Take Care,

A San Francisco Muni Trolley Bus

A San Francisco Muni Trolley Bus

This letter brings up an interesting issue in urban transportation planning.  Suburban and exurban areas are planned to separate origins and destinations, such as home and work, or home and shopping centers.  This spacing means that transportation is easier to do with a private automobile than it is to do by walking, bicycling or transit.  This eventually creates a cycle of automobile dependency, where people need to have cars to meet their daily needs, and then more space is needed to make automobile ownership more convenient (such as free parking and expanded freeways).

Todd Litman, of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute explored the implications of automobile dependency in a 2002 paper and re-examined the issue in a 2010 paper.  He argues that by focusing on multi-modal transportation and increasing density, it is possible for cities to alleviate the automobile dependency.  This is what is happening in San Francisco, by discouraging drive-alone automobile use, and encouraging public transit use, expanding pedestrian facilities and adding bike lanes, city residents are less likely to be reliant on their cars, but can still keep one automobile to maintain multiple transportation options.

Cities like Philadelphia are already in a good position to help reduce automobile dependency, by expanding the bicycle network, making it safer for pedestrians, and improving transit Philadelphian’s are able to live happily with one fewer automobile.

Want to more about Auto Dependency?

Accessibility, Mobility, and Automobile Dependency


Evaluating Transportation Economic Development Impacts


Traffic Safety is NO Laughing Matter.

This morning 7 clowns stood guard at the corner of 15th and JFK.  The clowns were on a mission: to make sure that Philadelphia drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists obeyed traffic laws. The clowns specifically targeted distracted drivers and walkers; drivers not wearing their seat belts; drivers and bicyclists impeding crosswalks; bicyclists on the sidewalk; pedestrians crossing against the light and pedestrians failing to obey no crossing signs at Dilworth Plaza construction site.

Clowning around

This April Fools’ Day celebration was a unique pro-bono partnership with the Pig Iron’s School for Advanced Performance Training, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities and other Philadelphia based thespians and reminded drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to not act like fools any day of the year.

Each year about three dozen pedestrians lose their lives after being struck by cars, trucks and busses. On average, every five hours a pedestrian is sent to the hospital after being hit by a vehicle. Distracted driving and walking, running red lights in cars or on bike, jaywalking and sidewalk bike riding are no laughing matter. Better engineering, stricter enforcement and more engaging education are all parts of the solution to reducing deaths and injuries on our roads.

worshipping the traffic gods

Philadelphians laughed along with the traffic clowns.  However traffic safety is no laughing matter: Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler noted, “The financial toll of these fatalities and accidents is in the hundreds of millions each year, but the personal toll is incalculable. We need to constantly find ways to engage the public on traffic safety issues, as safety must be our top priority. This April Fools’ Day program is great opportunity to build on the nearly one thousand Drive Right, Ride Right, Walk Right ads being seen on busses, subways and transit shelters across the city this spring.”

Rina and the mimes 3.2

If you are interested in watching the clowns in action, check out Newsworks’s video coverage from this morning.

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.

Tidbit Tuesday — How have commute patterns changed from 2000 to today?

Every Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love.  As a follow-up to our three-part series about how many people travel to work by driving, taking public transit, or biking/walking, this week we will be exploring how these patterns have changed between 2000 and today!

The first commuters we will look at are those who drive to work:

The North and Lower North districts appears to have increased in the percentage of commuters who drive to work while the West Park, Lower Southwest, Lower South, and South districts all decreased the percent of commuters to drive to work.

The next commuters we will look at are those who take public transit to work:


The Lower Southwest, Lower South, Upper North, and Lower Far Northeast districts appears to have increased in the percentage of commuters who take public transit to work while the Lower North and Upper Northwest districts decreased the percent of commuters take public transit to work.

The final commuters we will look at are those who bike or walk to work:


The Upper Northwest, Lower Northeast, West Park, and South districts appears to have increased in the percentage of commuters who walk or bike to work while the Riverwards district decreased the percentage of commuters that walk or bike to work.

These maps underline the facts that Philadelphians travel to work by a variety of modes and these modes can change from decade to decade!

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