Reminders for today, Pope Friday

  • SEPTA Regional Rail is on a Saturday Schedule, except for Wilmington/Newark and Cynwyd which are on special schedules.
  • Suburban Station is closed until 4 AM Monday.
  • 5th St/Independence, 15th St, and City Hall stations are closed until 5 AM Monday.
  • City transit is running, but lots of buses are being detoured around the secure vehicle perimeter around the Parkway and City Hall.  Dimensions of secure areas can be found on Lauren Ancona’s Philly Pope Map.
  • Tokens and regular passes are still good on subways and buses, and will remain good through the duration.  Special passes are only for Regional Rail, suburban trolleys/NHSL, and PATCO, Saturday and Sunday only.
  • Other agencies are adjusting schedules today.
  • The Traffic Box around Center City goes up at 6 PM this evening.  Boundaries are South Street river-to-river, Spring Garden Street, Ridge Ave, and Girard Ave.
  • The secure vehicle perimeter around Independence Hall goes up at 10 PM.  More detours.
  • The Traffic Box in University City goes up at 10 PM.  Boundaries are Powelton Ave, 38th St, and University Ave.
  • Highways (incl. I-76, I-676, and the Ben Franklin Bridge) start closing at 10 PM.

And last but not least:

  • The streets are safe and the weather is beautiful.  Go walking outside!



Pricing parking is not regressive

People who object to putting a fair price on parking often claim that it would be a regressive tax falling primarily on the poor and working class.  That assertion is not supported by the arithmetic.

Based on an unscientific survey of Philadelphia’s poor and working class, conducted by watching Twitter keyword searches for the last 6-12 months, the poor and working class largely don’t drive. They *want* to drive, and largely do as soon as they have the money, but they have to get over that hurdle *first*.  And it’s a very, very large hurdle.

Total cost of ownership of a car (purchase, insurance, fuel, licensing and registration, maintenance) *starts* at $5,500/year for an ultra-economy city car like the Nissan Versa or the Chevy Spark, and rises to $6,000/year for the reliably cheap Toyota Corolla. The numbers go *way* higher than that.  For context: depending on your neighborhood, you can spend less than $5,500/year on rent in this city.  A year’s worth of Transpasses will set you back $1,092.

When Mayor Richardson Dilworth first proposed an annual parking permit in 1961, he priced it at $40/year, or $320/year in 2015 dollars. (He literally had rocks thrown at him for his trouble.) $320/year is a nudge for people who don’t really need a car but have one by inertia. If you NEED a car for your job, or to access your job, that car is bringing you more than $6,320 in value per year, never mind more than $320. And that $320 isn’t just a taking, it gets you something very valuable in return: a shit-tonne of *time* spent not circling blocks looking for parking. Again, far more valuable than $320/year for anyone who has the money to own a car in the first place.

So why do so many poor people want to drive in Philadelphia, if it’s so expensive? They want to drive because putting up with SEPTA being slow and unreliable is especially psychologically punishing if SEPTA is a choice you are compelled to make.

We have it in our power to make SEPTA fast and reliable, and in a very short amount of time, for a reasonable budget, through public policy. We know how, it’s a question of funding and will.  It will take building bus lanes and curb extensions. It will take running core route trains, buses, and trolleys often enough that people can always just walk up to a stop or station and be sure that they won’t be waiting long.  It will take all-door boarding on transit vehicles.  It will take further steps beyond those that I can list here.

Not all of that will be easy, and some of it won’t come cheap. But the budget required to permanently eradicate poverty in Philadelphia is several orders of magnitude higher than that, and that’s the alternative on offer.

Housekeeping notes: New WP theme. This one is allegedly easier to read and navigate on touchscreen devices.  This post originated as comments elsewhere and have been edited and expanded.

That This House Has No Confidence In the Leadership of the World Meeting of Families

I keep wanting to write further about the endless logistical and communications bungling that is the hallmark of the leadup to the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.  Every time I make the attempt, some new gross error renders me unable to write in polite terms about people who, for all that they have thoroughly earned the derision of the people of this city, are clearly trying their best, however inadequate their best may be.

USSS Pope Map
Official Pope map released by the Secret Service on September 2nd, and immediately declared inaccurate by the WMOF

At this point, simply enumerating the blunders would send any article or blog post into novella length. I expect that, in the fullness of time, books will be written by management and leadership experts, showcasing the planning and execution of the communications strategy as shining exemplars of What Not To Do.  However, as things stand now, thousands of hotel rooms remain unbooked, tens of thousands of railroad tickets remain unsold, and massive uncertainty exists as to where the general public will actually be permitted when His Holiness comes to the Parkway.  The Secret Service refuses to release information so that visitors and residents alike may plan, and when they do, the WMOF hastily calls press conferences to say that the information is incorrect or incomplete.  Mayor Michael Nutter has held multiple press conferences to angrily denounce rumors as fabricated and false, only to be contradicted days later when the rumors are substantially confirmed by the WMOF.  Philadelphia looks like a bunch of idiots, and had we had any role in choosing this leadership, apart from the elected officials who seem to be kept as much in the dark as the public is (not that that absolves them), we would deserve it.

I don’t know if the situation can or will be salvaged before the arrival of Pope Francis on September 26th.  At the very least, any further planning has to happen in a way that doesn’t look and sound like frantic improvisation by people in way over their heads.

I do know that responsibility for botched management rises to the very top.  With that in mind, this blog calls for the immediate resignations of WMOF Executive Director Donna Crilley Farrell, US Secret Service Special Agent in Charge David Beach,  and His Excellency Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia.  Throwing their deputies into the hot seat with fewer than 20 days left until the Pope’s arrival is as cruel to them as it is inefficient, but the simple fact is that they probably can’t do any worse.  And if there is any institution on the planet that understand that symbols matter, it’s the Roman Catholic Church.