I say it every year, but this year I mean it: It’s too hot to live. Seriously, screw Philadelphia. I’m getting out of this insufferable furnace of a city and joining the closest nudist beach colony. Or maybe I’m going to the mall, to sleep at the Sharper Image.
Whatever the breezy destination, all that’s on my mind during the summer is escape. Of course, escape has gotten complicated. I am now two years into my carless existence, and every summer, I grapple once more with being stuck inside this hotbox metropolis. Unless I can get a ride, the Shore might as well be Florida. The Mega- and Bolt Busses are fine, but my urge to flee the city can’t be satisfied by a quick jaunt to equally godforsaken D.C. or New York.
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As the Inquirer’s Karen Heller reported over the weekend, for a month this summer between the behemoth Welcome America and Made In America festivals, the city is going to be tricking out Eakins Oval. The combined grassy expanse/paved parking lot/infield for the daily Eakins 500 to and from Kelly Drive and I-76 will be stripped of its parking lot function so it can be the site of a pop-up park featuring faux beaches, beer gardens, food trucks, movies and the like.
It’s part of an ongoing effort to calm and reclaim the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from speeding motorists, with the poetic goal of transforming the link between the seat of the city’s political power and its shiniest cultural jewels into an idyllic urban utopia, complete with gardens, pick-up chess games, outdoor yoga classes, impromptu Shakespeare readings and so many amenities. (Read all about it in “More Park, Less Way,” a relatively spellbinding read as city planning documents go, complete with hypothetical days on the parkway for seniors, millennials, tourists, yuppie parents and other marketable demographics.)
Calming Parkway traffic and removing cars from Eakins Oval for a month is, indeed, a nice start. A couple of commenters on Heller’s philly.com piece, however, misread the story (or had it read aloud to them incorrectly), undestanding it to mean that the city was planning to remove cars from the Parkway completely. “Ridiculous!” they cried. “We need that road! That’s why we paid for it!”
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CBS Philly reports: “Police confirm at least 13 people were injured in a two vehicle crash in Northeast Philadelphia Wednesday morning. Authorities say a 15 passenger van overturned on to its side after a collision with a car near the intersection of Torresdale Avenue and Rhawn Street. It happened at about 5:15 a.m.” Twelve of the people injured were from the van; the other was the driver of the second car.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane has charged eight with orchestrating a pay-to-blame scheme in which they would award contracts to friendly donors. The accused include former state senator and Democratic minority leader Robert Mellow, in addition to seven former and current PA turnpike officials and employees.
Kane said a grand jury found that private Turnpike vendors and consultants who made substantial contributions to public officials and political organizations were rewarded with multi-million dollar Turnpike contracts. The grand jury also found substantial evidence that Mellow, while serving as Democratic floor leader, directed his chief of staff to secure Turnpike contracts for key contributors and supporters, Kane said.
Besides, Mellow, who’s already in jail for unrelated charges, the state has charged three former Turnpike officials: Commissioner Mitchell Rubin, CEO Joseph Brimmeier, and COO George Hatalowich. [ABC Harrisburg]
Only in Philly would this seem like a promising job opportunity:
Thirty-nine candidates — 38 Democrats, one Republican and one who filed for both parties — just made the 5 p.m. deadline Tuesday to file nomination petitions for three vacant seats on Philadelphia Traffic Court.
Not only is Traffic Court’s reputation in the gutter after nine federal prosecutors indicted nine current or former judges for ticket-fixing, but the institution may not even exist soon.
The state Senate in February voted unanimously to eliminate those three seats as part of a larger legislative plan to abolish Traffic Court in Philadelphia. The state House’s Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing in Philadelphia on March 22 to consider that legislation.
On the other hand, you make $91,052 and don’t need to be a lawyer to qualify. [Daily News]
We’re not stranger to busted water mains in Philadelphia–nearly 1,000 had to be fixed in 2011 alone–but this suburban gusher is worth checking out. It all went down on Route 202, at Town Center Boulevard, where northbound traffic was briefly delayed. Commuters already displeased about road conditions: The geyser appears to have been tamed. Observe the yellowstone-esque phenomenon here. [NBC 10]
The Inquirer reports on the state of commuting in Philadelphia: “Philadelphia draws 253,000 workers from outside the city every day, while sending 147,000 city residents on “reverse commutes” to the suburbs, according to census data released Tuesday. The numbers also highlighted the importance of public transit to local workers: 25.6 percent of all workers in Philadelphia used transit to get to work. That compares with just 5 percent nationwide who take transit to work. The estimates released from the American Community Survey also showed the average one-way commute to work for people living in Philadelphia was 31.5 minutes in 2011, compared with the national average of 25.5 minutes.”
AP reports: “A second judge has acknowledged fixing traffic tickets in Philadelphia for people with connections to the system. Kenneth Miller pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday afternoon to mail fraud. Earlier in the day, H. Warren Hogeland (HOAG’-land) pleaded guilty to mail fraud and conspiracy. Miller and Hogeland were among nine traffic court judges charged last month with dismissing or reducing citations for friends, family, associates and political allies.” Seven other cases remain pending.
A decades-spanning procession of antique cars christened the asphalt of the Route 202 Parkway — a bypass 60 years in the making — yesterday afternoon. Total price tag for the 8.4-mile road, which joins Welsh Road in Montgomery Township to Route 611 in Doylestown and is expected to alleviate congestion on surrounding roads by becoming congested itself, was $200 million. [Inquirer]
A new study from the Center City District indicates that there are more people are biking to work than there were two years ago. The study attributes this 10.5-percent increase to the addition of bike lanes and the growth of Philly’s young adult population. It doesn’t, however, take into account that SEPTA sucks, which probably plays a role in how some people *raises hand* decide how to commute.