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Fixing Philly’s Transit Problem: How to Turn Around Our Crappy Commutes
Philly

Fixing Philly’s Transit Problem: How to Turn Around Our Crappy Commutes

philadelphia commutesAre you a commuter who trudges into Philly everyday? Or worse, an urbanite who must leave the city every day to make a living?

Philadelphia commutes are longer than the national average (31.5 minutes compared the to average of 25.5), and we have 253,000 workers commuting TO the city and an additional 147,000 city residents on the reverse commute daily. Philly has 25.6% of all commuters taking public transit, compared to 5% nationwide. This is half as much as New York’s commuters (55.66%) in the number 1 spot, putting Philly at #7 after Jersey City, Washington DC, San Fran & other cities. Good, but not great.

It’s frustrating to see Philadelphia pat ourselves on the back for minor accomplishments when we could be SO much better. But in order to relieve our commutes, we need to improve SEPTA and public transit first. Here’s what we have going for and against us:

  •  SEPTA accessibility – With us. SEPTA’s been noted as the #1 Best Large Transit system in the country, ‘crediting our consolidated control center, environmentally friendly construction programs large fleet of hybrid buses and financial management.’ Walk Score said Philadelphia is #5 for residents’ access to public transit. The Regional Rail is a great system if you’re going to and from the ‘burbs. Even building up its 2013 Street Cred with Instagram contests and getting rid of the coins, SEPTA is doing a great job with working what it has accessible.
  • SEPTA accessibility – Against us. Now that we’ve gone through the stats, let’s mention the general sentiment about SEPTA: Dirty. Not reliable. I don’t feel safe at times. Talk to the majority of young professionals, and they’d prefer to take a cab or driving instead of taking our public transit. And with the occasional whack-a-doo throwing a woman on the tracks and rudeness we encounter, it’s hard to feel confident in the public transit system. SEPTA needs to increase its safety to appeal to professionals/higher-income brackets off rush hour to truly be more efficient.
  • Telecommuting – Neutral. Telecommuting gives workers to eliminate their commuting carbon footprint, instead walking from their beds to home offices or desks. With Marissa Mayer killing Yahoo’s work from home, she single-handedly slaps the face of women, sustainability & work-life balance. Maybe working from home 5 days per week isn’t as efficient, but we’re in an age with endless (and too much) communication. Ironically, Yahoo Finance even mentioned working from home boosts employee happiness. Heading into the office after running to a doctor’s appointment or emergency home repair wastes employee time and burns some extra emissions when the job can be completed from home.
  • Companies outside the city – Against us. I get it. People live outside the city. Philly has had a huge influx of young professionals, awesome restaurant scene, (cough) the sustainability boom (cough), and revitalizing neighborhoods. But with City Wage taxes and ongoing tax traditions, many of the job postings are for outside the city. Case-in-point: I’m guilty as charged as my previous 3 positions have all been outside city limits. As someone who prefers walking and public transit, I tried applying for jobs IN the city. But it didn’t work out. I need to put food in the table for myself and Pounce, after all.
  • Desk jobs – Against us. While we’re on the subjects of companies outside the city, many of us are in desk jobs where we’re dying as we sit at our desks. And receive/send information immediately. As we’ve grown accustomed to this all-day sitting, we also tend to forget the physical and mental benefits of strolling to our destination. Once again this reinforces the “cab/drive” mentality instead of walking or figuring out the public transit route.
So how can we turn around these crappy commutes we despise and literally kill us?
  1. Put money into making SEPTA shiny, new and efficient. Expand the routes and give us respectable buses and subways. If you’re on something that looks nice, people are more inclined to keep it that way. Then even MORE people will take SEPTA.
  2. Increase biking accessibility. Philly is on this, but let’s cut out the ‘bikers suck’ mentality that still exists.
  3. Incentivize companies to come back INTO Philly. Even smaller offices for employees or create more IndyHalls for professionals that all telecommute.
  4. Let workers telecommute. Dammit. The best, easiest and cheapest benefit. Welcome to 2013.
  5. Make driving unbearable. (But this pretty much is already if you’ve experience I-76, I-295 or other various torture-highways..)

Solved in my grand scheme of 6 points.

Readers, what would you do to cure Philadelphia’s transit problem?

 

Photo: Technically Philly

 

 

 

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Julie Hancher
Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

2 thoughts on “Fixing Philly’s Transit Problem: How to Turn Around Our Crappy Commutes

  1. I REALLY want to ride my bike to work. It’s an 8 mile commute – so the only way I can – and still look professional for work – is to be able to shower once I get to (or near) the office. I cannot afford a gym and my workplace does not have showers.

    I’m frustrated by all the bike share stuff going on. What we need are quick change stations. Woe is I. 🙂

  2. Great point Elly! My previous employer had showers in the office, my current does not. Bikers are a crucial part of the equation but there are hurdles with distance, safety (outside the city/in the burbs), and even the shower portion.

    Have you tried addressing this with your employer?

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