A Simple Tool To Save Bicyclists’ Lives

Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

It seems like every week there’s a new list of the most “bikeable” or “bike-friendly” American cities. Lo and behold, Philadelphia makes the Top 10.

Cycling has exploded in the city, but thankfully, traffic accidents involving bicycles have not. Last year, the number of bicycle crashes was nearly half (551) what it was in 1998 (1,058). The number of bicycling fatalities has also dropped, although much less dramatically over that span. After recording an astonishing zero deaths in 2013, the city rose back up to three last year — the same figure posted in 1998 (the median over that span was four deaths). Read more »

Cities Are Killing Rats With Data

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Credit: Shutterstock.com

It was the spring of 2013 and rats were on the rise in Philly. A particularly mild winter, coming on the heels of another mild winter the year prior, resulted in an uptick of reports to the city’s Rat Complaint Line. Calls jumped 31 percent year over year in February and March of 2013. Then came the panic over a rat invasion in Rittenhouse Square.

It was a particularly problematic season for rats not only in Philly but in cities across the East and Midwest. That included Somerville, Massachusetts (population 78,804) which had a boom in rats following successive warm winters. Rat populations often ebb and flow based on temperature variations, but the city was determined that controlling other factors could prevent an outbreak from ever happening again. It inspired Somerville to enlist predictive analytics in the cause of rat abatement. Moneyball for pest control, basically. Read more »

Google’s Next Big Project? “Urban Problems”


The next big thing at Google is, drumroll … cities! In case you missed it, there’s a new Google-backed company called Sidewalk Labs that’s describing itself as an “urban innovation company.” Its mission? “To improve life in cities for everyone through the application of technology to solve urban problems.”

What does that mean, exactly? It’s hard to say. But this is Google, so it’s all pretty intruiging.

Here’s what we do know: Read more »

The Cul-de-Sac Is Dying

Dead ends in Montgomery County. | Google maps.

Dead ends in Montgomery County. | Google maps.

The cul-de-sac, the defining design feature of suburban America, is falling out of favor.

new study by two researchers from McGill University and the University of California-Santa Cruz measures sprawl in a new interesting way, quantifying it by measuring road connectivity — that is, how many cul-de-sacs are in a place, compared to how many multi-pronged intersections.

Read more »

2,500 Youth Summer Jobs Announced

Council President Darrel Clarke, PYN President Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, State Senator Vincent Hughes, Governor Wolf's Chief of Staff Katie McGinty and Deputy Mayor Mike DiBerardinis

Council President Darrel Clarke, PYN President Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, State Senator Vincent Hughes, Governor Wolf’s Chief of Staff Katie McGinty and Deputy Mayor Mike DiBerardinis

What will the city do about the 46,000 teens and young adults who are not enrolled in school and not working?

Well, today, on the first day of summer for public school students, local and state officials announced that 2,500 new paid jobs will be created this summer for Philadelphians ages 12 to 24, particularly those living in low-income and high-poverty areas. The new jobs are part of a statewide initiative that’s being created with $7.5 million in funding from TANF and federal money, the latter tacked to President Obama’s efforts to secure summer jobs for low-income youth.

Out of that total, $4.4 million are allocated to Philly and will go a long way towards reaching Mayor Nutter’s goal of creating 10,000 jobs for youth this summer.

Of course, that’s a mere drop in the bucket for the metro region overall — which has more than 107,000 youth and teens not working nor enrolled in school — but it will foster a lot more opportunities for kids to work at community centers, with small businesses or as lifeguards this summer.

Officials at the podium for the announcement included City Council President Darrell Clarke, City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, Governor Wolf’s Chief of Staff Katie McGinty, State Senator Vincent Hughes and President of the Philadelphia Youth Network





Billionaire Thinks Class War Is Near

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Credit: Shutterstock.com

Workers want higher wages. Management claims they’re a bad idea. It sounds like the intro to a problem set from Econ 101, and it’s also the dilemma that’s been playing out in cities across the country with the so-called “living wage” movement.

After failing for years to boost pay for low-wage workers have failed, income inequality opponents are suddenly winning — in Seattle, in San Francisco and in Los Angeles, where City Council approved a plan last month to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. Chicago, San Diego and Santa Fe all approved lesser minimum-wage increases recently.

Some, like the New Yorker‘s John Cassidy, read these developments as a significant turning national turning point:

Reacting to grassroots campaigns carried out by labor unions and other progressive groups, some of the biggest cities in America are now defying several decades of economic orthodoxy, as well as challenging a set of social norms that regarded low-wage jobs as unavoidable and acceptable.

One of the more unlikely leading voices for a jacked-up minimum wage is billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, who has taken to warning frequently of the class war to come, if income inequality isn’t addressed fast. Read more »

107,000 Teens and Young Adults With Nothing to Do

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Nearly 20 percent of Philadelphians aged 16-24 are neither enrolled in school or working. That’s about 46,000 teens and young adults with not a lot to do. That’s a troublingly high number, reported by Philadelphia Works earlier this year. Now comes worse news: in comparison to other metro areas nationwide, the Philadelphia region does a really rotten job keeping older teens and young adults employed and enrolled.

According to a new study from Measure of America, a project by the Social Science Research Council, Philadelphia has the highest proportion of “disconnected” youths of any big metro in the Northeast. More than 107,000 young adults in the metro area are unemployed and not enrolled in school. Read more »

One Way to Reduce Center City Traffic: Ban Private Cars

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Dublin has one-third the population of Philly and is tucked within one-third of the square mileage. It’s comparably dense, but many times more congested. In the annual congestion rankings of the world’s most populous cities, Philadelphia comes in at 136; Dublin at 18. Your average commuter in Dublin faces 103 hours of delays over the course of year. That’s a full a day and a half longer spent in traffic than the average Philly commuter.

Meanwhile, the Irish government is predicting that the greater Dublin area could grow by as much as 14,000 people per year in the coming decades, meaning that commuter congestion is bound to get substantially worse. People entering the city during weekday peak hours is expected to rise by 20 percent in the next eight years. That’s why the Dublin City Council has moved forward with a proposal to curb automobile traffic in the downtown area. And it’s really bold.

They’re banning cars from big sections of downtown. Read more »

Still Bowling Alone

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Increasingly, Americans are connecting in isolation. It may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s a truism of the 21st century. I’m not just talking about social media. We live more geographically disparate lives than we used to, don’t socialize at PTA meetings or churches or public pools and a third of us can’t even name our neighbor. Further, the people we do interact with tend to be groups of like minds: poor with poor, rich with rich; democrats with blue friends, republicans with red. It all adds up to a divisive village square — if it exists at all anymore. Read more »

How the On-Demand Economy Could Bring New Vitality to Kingsessing (and a Bunch of Other Philadelphia Neighborhoods)

When you think about Instacart or Postmates or even Uber, chances are the next thing on your mind isn’t urban planning. Just gimme my Shackburger, jeez! But there’s growing curiosity about how these new-age on-demand services could nudge cities — especially walkable, bike-friendly cities like Philadelphia — in the direction of becoming truly car-free societies.

Delivery-culture is changing city living in a big way (bigger even than making us all online-shopping homebodies). Or that’s the thesis of a story in the latest issue of Washingtonian, which argues that the transformation is well underway in Washington, D.C.. The author, Benjamin Freed, points out a new 45-unit apartment building in the Northeast section of the city to illustrate how the evolution is unfolding. The nearest metro station is more than a mile away. There’s no streetcar to speak of. Nearby bus service is OK, but nothing special. But people are coming anyways. Without cars, no less.

Why? They don’t need them like they used to. With the touch of an app, residents of the Ditto Residential apartments can order groceries or bulk supplies or takeout, sans automobile. And when they really need a car, there’s Car2Go and Zipcar and Uber. Of course, that’s nothing new: these companies have been well-known for some time. But what’s revealing about the Ditto apartments is how the developers circumvented minimum-parking requirements in the zoning code to make for a cheaper apartment not only for themselves (lower construction costs) and residents (lower rent). Read more »

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