Millennials Hate Cars, Right? Wrong.

Source: Shutterstock.com

Source: Shutterstock.com

Millennials hate cars. They’re all about Uber and bicycles and subways, right? Well, apparently the conventional wisdom is now wrong. Like really wrong. According to a Bloomberg report out this week, there’s been a steep rise in Gen-Y car buyers over the past five years:

They’ve zoomed past Gen X to become the second-largest group of new car buyers after their boomer parents. Millennials are starting to find jobs and relocating to the suburbs and smaller cities, where public transport is spotty.

Citing J.D. Power & Associates data, Bloomberg writes that in 2010, Millennials accounted for 18 percent of new car sales in the U.S.; in 2014, they were buying 27 percent of cars sold. This suggests that Millennials weren’t steering clear of cars because they preferred life as pedestrians, but rather because they couldn’t afford cars, what with the dismal job market and the Great Recession. Now that wages and employment are picking up for Millennials, they’re the fastest-growing market for auto-sales. Read more »

Groundbreaking New Political Data Site Launches in Philly

Screenshot of the Crowdpac homepage.

Screenshot of the Crowdpac homepage.

There’s a brand-new player in the mayor’s race. It could be a gamechanger — not for any candidate in particular, but for all the political nerds who read this blog, and potentially, for voters. It’s a new website called Crowdpac, which bills itself as the go-to source for the “best objective data on US political candidates.” All in one place, you’ll be able to track political donations, make donations, fill out a sample ballot and compare candidates’ right/left leanings on different issues, from the mayoral candidates down to the 42 candidates for Court of Common Pleas.

Above all, Crowdpac aims to bring a level of sophisticated data-analysis that, to our knowledge, has never been attempted before at the local level — in Philly or elsewhere. Read more »

How Long Before Center City Is as Dense as Manhattan?

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

One of the compliments I typically hear about Philadelphia is that “it’s manageable” — less crowded, moving at a slower place, wholly un-claustrophobic. When people say that, they’re typically comparing Philly to New York. Take the Amtrak up to Penn Station and you’ll be hard-pressed for personal space.

No city in the U.S. comes close to Manhattan’s density: 70,000 people per square mile. Not even New York City as a whole comes close to Manhattan: the whole of NYC only has 27,000 people per square mile. And yet, the threat of “Manhattanization” is a frequent topic on real-estate blogs across the country.  Curbed Miami even has a search tag called “Manhattanization of Miami.” Some people who cringe at rapid development are using the M-word in much the same way the G-word (gentrification) is used. Both have become catch-all terms for the fear and uncertainty a lot of people have about how quickly some cities are changing. It’s the topic of a compelling interactive post by Shane Phillips at Urban One: Read more »

What Rahm Emanuel’s Near Miss Says About Philly’s Mayoral Race

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Credit: Shutterstock.com

By now, you’ve probably heard about the exciting runoff in the Chicago mayoral race. On Tuesday night, Rahm Emanuel prevailed in a surprisingly close contest, winning 56 percent of the vote to top Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, a Cook County Commissioner who almost rode a tidal wave of resentment over Emanuel’s school policies into office. Not only did the race (presumably) jolt Emanuel—a POTUS-endorsed, deep-pocketed, (sometimes-arrogant) incumbent mayor who was left humbly thanking voters for giving him a “second term and second chance“—but it shook the bones of Democratic politicians nationwide. Read more »

How Car Sharing Can Solve Philly’s Parking Problems

Reserved car-sharing parking in Milan, Italy. Source: Shutterstock.com

Reserved car-sharing parking in Milan, Italy. Source: Shutterstock.com

When City Council approved a new zoning code back in 2012, advocates for a more walkable, cycling- and transit-friendly city had mixed reactions to the code’s new parking regulations. Although adjustments were made to decrease the city’s parking requirements — allowing developers to build a minimum of one parking space for every three residential units, rather than the one-to-one requirement previously in place — the new code didn’t include parking maximums. Developers were still given the option of including as many spaces as they wanted, so long as they didn’t undercut the minimums.

Less discussed were provisions in the new code that require for developers to provide at least one dedicated parking spot for car-share services (like Zipcar) for every 100 residential units or 100,000 square feet of office space. The code also included car sharing incentives for developers, giving them the option to reduce the overall number of parking spots if more dedicated car-share spots were created.

Read more »

Lots of Philadelphia Sidewalks Are in Horrible Shape — How to Fix Them?

Philadelphia sidewalks

A big tripping hazard on 24th Street. | Photo courtesy of reader @philavore.

Walking around Philly, it’s hard to miss the cracked sidewalks, dissolving curbs and tectonic-plate-like concrete slabs converging on top of one another, causing pedestrians to stumble and stroller wheels to jam. And who is to blame for our sidewalk madness? Not the city. Not this time. Sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of individual property owners. Pennsylvania law has required owners of the property abutting a sidewalk to maintain its good condition since 1891, or else, risk fines and potential personal injury lawsuits. There’s a city ordinance in Section 11-505 that says much the same thing:

The sidewalks of the all public streets, and the roadways and sidewalks of all private streets, shall be graded, curbed, paved and kept in repair at the expense of the owners of the land fronting thereon, except as otherwise provided in this section.

And how’s that working out in the real world? Not well, not well at all; particularly outside of Center City, where busted, tree-root shimmed and all-but-obliterated sidewalks are distressingly common. Philadelphia’s walkability is one of its chief strengths—but not on those stretches where sidewalks are in gross disrepair.

“It’s not just homeowners, it’s major neighborhood institutions,” said Lauren Vidas, the chair of the South of South Neighborhood Association. One church in Graduate Hospital had sidewalks that were beaten into piles of debris, Vidas said, citing just one example in SOSNA’s community. Read more »

Millennials Aren’t Flocking to Cities Anymore—Can Philly Buck the Trend?

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Shutterstock.com

Half a million fewer Millennials picked up and left to start over in new locations following the Great Recession, according to a new study released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Even though young adults remained by far the most transient age group out of all Americans both before and after the downturn — accounting for 43 percent of all movers over the six-year span studied — their movement slowed down, especially among 18- to 24-year olds.

People chase jobs. Less mobility in a post-recession world could be a positive indicator of a healthier economy for young people (more job stability) or it could be a casualty of the recession (moving is not an option for some anymore).

Philadelphia, though, is something of an Millennial migration outlier, which is good news. The number of young people moving into the city from other counties (aged 18-34) grew by seven percent between 2010 and 2012, compared to the three years prior. And the amount of Millennials moving in from other states grew by eight percent over that span.

That’s an encouraging sign, but it’s not the complete picture. Millennials move out of the city as well. And, indeed, a Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative report from last year warned that Philadelphia’s Millennial surge — 100,000 more young adults between 2006 and 2012 — could be slowing down:

Read more »

The Futuristic New SEPTA Trolleys Will Look Like …

Munich's Siemens Avenio Streetcar Photo Credit: Siemens AG

Munich’s Siemens Avenio Streetcar. Photo by Siemens AG

Two weeks ago, Citified reported that SEPTA has begun the early procurement phase of a massive, once-in-a-generation overhaul of the aging trolley fleet. Over the next few years, SEPTA plans to unload serious capital (at least $200 million) into new, 80-foot-long, low-floor vehicles that will replace the 1980s Kawasaki models that are predominantly in use. But what the new SEPTA trolleys — or perhaps we’ll finally start calling them streetcars — will actually look like, remains unknown. Byron Comati, SEPTA’s director of strategic planning and analysis, said that the agency is in the midst of getting an expression of interest from companies around the globe:

To see what the manufacturers, the car builders can do. What’s out there? Responding to our expression of interest means that whether you’re from a German company, a Dutch company, an American Company, a Chinese company, a Korean company — what’ve you got?

SEPTA has some options. Around the globe, manufacturers have been designing low-floor models that could fit the SEPTA’s trolley specs and be customized for Philly streets. Here’s a look at what’s out there. Read more »

Philadelphia Solar Power Growth Lagging Other Cities

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Three days after Earth Day 2011, Mayor Nutter celebrated the installation of the first solar power system owned by the City of Philadelphia. The photovoltaic system at a Water Department control plant, with the capacity to produce 250 kilowatts — enough to power 28 homes — marked an symbolic early step toward the City’s goal of switching 20 percent of the total citywide electrical use to sources powered by sustainable alternatives like solar. But the city remains far from achieving that mark today, and has in fact plateaued over the past year when it comes to solar installations.

The annual “Shining Cities” report by Environment America is out and Philadelphia solar power capacity remained unchanged from the year before. At the end of 2014, the city had 9 megawatts of solar capacity — exactly the same amount in the prior year’s report — and we ranked 41st out of 65 cities in per-capita power, sliding back from 35th in 2013. That comparative regression can be witnessed by the leaps made in the nearby city of Newark — which installed 9 megawatts in 2014 alone, the equivalent of our entire grid’s capacity. Read more »

How Bike Lanes & Shared Streets Pay for Themselves, and Then Some

Shared streets, like this proposed project in Seattle, make room on the roadway not just for cars, but for bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders as well. | Rendering by Mithun.

Shared streets, like this proposed project in Seattle, make room on the roadway not just for cars, but for bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders as well. | Rendering by Mithun.

New research suggests that “Complete Streets” — those carefully designed, multi-modal travel corridors that often include, yes, bike lanes — can yield handsome returns on investment for cities. Like millions, sometimes realized in no more than a year, because shared streets reduce collisions, which in turn saves money on medical costs and property damage. And there’s more. These street alterations are also correlated with increased property values and even higher employment numbers. Read more »

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