The next time you get stuck in traffic, Ed Rendell wants you to write an angry letter to your congressman—right then and there. Seriously. This week he introduced the “I’m Stuck” App to a grateful nation, never once considering that griping about traffic might be a sign of the always-to-be-avoided curse of “wussiness.”
Rendell explained in USA Today:
In the midst of the busy summer travel season, I’m Stuck will give Americans a chance to vent about our nation’s transportation and infrastructure woes. By alerting their elected representatives in Washington to the daily delays they are experiencing, users can encourage Congress to get serious about creating a long-term plan to start making the urgently needed investments in our roads, rails, runways, public transit, and ports.
We’ll go ahead and assume Ed doesn’t want you to write this letter while you’re actually moving. Driving and texting is dangerous!
Remember how we told you last week that Pennsylvania is the second-leading turnpike toll collector in all of North America? Remember how we told you that a road near Toronto is quietly sneaking up on the Keystone State for second place? We like to imagine state officials saw that their ranking was in jeopardy and took emergency action to ensure that Pennsylvania’s toll roads remain one of the premiere money-makers in all the world. But even if that’s not the case, tolls are about to go up.
Starting January 5th, tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike will rise an average of 2 percent for E-ZPass customers and 12 percent for cash customers. And since tolls for cash customers have been rising faster than E-ZPass tolls for several years now, turnpike spokesman Bill Capone says come January, the cumulative differential for cash customers will be pretty steep.
“I’d say 35 percent would be the lowest differential. It could in some instances actually be more than 35 – as much as 39 percent, depending on your trip.”
The annual toll increases are not unexpected.
Spokesman Carl DeFebo says the Turnpike Commission is required to transfer $450 million a year to PennDOT for statewide transportation projects.
“As a matter of fact, Act 44, which was passed in 2007, did call for annual toll increases. And the Turnpike Commission started those annual increases back in 2009, and we’ve been making payments since 2007,” he said.
Here’s a little solace for those of you stuck in Shore traffic last night (or those of you with your cars flooded): You were part of history!
A record all-time daily rainfall of 8.02 inches fell Sunday at Philadelphia International Airport, according to the National Weather Service…More than 7 inches of rain fell during a 4-hour period — helping to exceed the previous all-time record for a single day rainfall set during Tropical Storm Floyd. That total of 6.63 inches was measured on September 16, 1999. Records go back to 1872.
The total rainfall in July–13 inches–also represents a new high for July, the third-highest ever. The 19 inches in August, 2011 (remember Irene?) will be tough to beat. (Yeah, global warming, that’s a challenge.) [NBC 10]
Update, 10:30 a.m.: Now with some delightfully scary shots from the flight-delaying/traffic-snarling/XPN Fest-ending madness.
A manhole geyser at PHL:
The drains couldn’t keep up with the rain at the Susquehanna Bank Center:
Federal Street in Camden flooded:
An impromptu slip-and-slide:
Non-amphibious vehicles in Pennsauken, waiting out the storm at the Linc, and the mess that was returning from the shore on 42, all from Weatherboy’s Facebook page:
If it seems like it’s really pricey to get from here to there around here, well, that’s because it is. Toll Roads News reports that New Jersey and Pennsylvania turnpikes led the nation in tolls collected during the first six months of the year. New York was third, creating a nice little stretch of pricey tolls for the region’s drivers.
The 407ETR—an investor-owned road near Toronto—is sneaking up on Pennsylvania as the second-highest revenue collector in all of North America, the website reports, but isn’t quite there yet.
“In terms of cash flow – this is a more tricky comparison – the 407ETR is by our estimate running neck and neck with the New Jersey Turnpike as the most profitable tollroad in north America,” the website reports.
Philly.com adds: “Spokesmen for both toll roads said all profits from toll revenue after operating expenses go right back into capital improvement spending and debt payments. For instance, in the case of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the $394 million doesn’t even pay for the $450 million in annual payments to the state Department of Transportation mandated by Act 44. Turnpike spokesman Bill Capone said the turnpike agency also spends another $500-600 million annually in capital improvements.”
“Zenvolt,” a relatively new resident in Philadelphia, thinks so. Zenvolt posts to Reddit:
Having moved to this city a few months ago, I can’t help but notice how much people like to honk their horns while driving. It may be worse other a few other places in the country, but I’ve never lived in a city where people are so heavy on the horn. Maybe they don’t know…but in a lot of places that [bleep] is considered really [bleeping] rude and aggressive (and will probably end in bloodshed). So it would be really, really great if they would STOP DOING THIS. People here seem to think that it’s perfectly fine to commit auditory assault on fellow drivers, bystanders, and nearby residents for any piddling reason.
Slow traffic because of a situation that can’t be helped? Lay on your horn. Someone hesitate 0.5 seconds at a green light or stop sign? Lay on your horn. Someone correctly assume that they get to go first at a stop sign because they stopped first. Lay on your horn. Someone pull into the lane in front of you after having their turn signal on for 8 minutes because you sped up to block them instead of letting them in? Lay on your horn. Someone doesn’t want to drive 60 in a 30 mph zone? Lay on your horn. Have a tummy ache? Lay on your horn.
You car’s horn is meant to be used as a warning. It’s not to express your anger, your impatience, or your pissy entitlement. All you’re doing is making other people miserable and angry. As miserable and angry as you are after years (or lifetime) of driving around on these miserable, crowded, rat warren-like streets.
Ok. I’m done.
The “bleeps” edited in by PhillyMag. Anyway, there are some hilarious responses in the Reddit thread, but it’s worth asking: Do drivers here “lay on the horn” too much?
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]