Bridge Inspections to Cause Slowdowns on Philly Roads Starting Next Week

I-95 at Columbus Blvd

Bridge inspections will cause lane closures on I-95 in Center City and other area roads from Feb. 19 through Feb. 28. Photo | Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

If you’re driving during the middle of the day in and around Philadelphia between February 16th and February 25th, be prepared to slow down at the following locations, as PennDOT will be closing lanes on several area roads for routine bridge inspections.

Here’s when and where there will be lane closures, day by day: Read more »

5 Takeaways From the Big Amtrak Derailment Story in the New York Times Magazine

Emergency personnel work the scene of a deadly train wreck, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia.

Emergency personnel work the scene of a deadly train wreck, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia.

The New York Times Magazine today has unveiled a long story examining last spring’s Amtrak derailment, the crash of train 188 at Philadelphia’s Frankford Junction that killed eight people and injured more than 200 others.

The story comes just days before the National Transportation Safety Board releases a preliminary report that contains much of the data gathered in the investigation of the accident; the agency’s formal ruling on the cause is likely to come later this spring. The basic cause is known — the train was traveling well in excess of the posted speed limit when it hit a sharp curve at Frankford Junction. But why did that happen?

The Times story, written by Matthew Shaer, doesn’t offer a definitive conclusion, though it offers several possibilities. Here are some takeaways from the story. Read more »

FRA Has Plans for a Rail Tunnel Under Center City to the Airport


The Federal Railroad Administration, having come up with three plans for the future of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) came back to Philadelphia yesterday to gather public comment on each of the plans.

Most of those who commented had this message: If you really want to transform the NEC, you’d better cut out a lot of the gold-plating on that top-drawer plan.

The FRA’s three plans, and their price tags, are: Read more »

The Five Biggest Philadelphia Transportation Stories of 2015


If anything, 2015 was the Year of the Bike on the transportation front locally, with major new facilities opening up the promise of faster, easier bike commuting, adding steam to a steady climb in practical bike use. And one major event that promised to disrupt lives all over the city instead opened everyone’s eyes to the potential contained in car-free streets (done right this time; no one’s interested in bringing the Chestnut Street Transitway back from the dead). But the biggest transportation story of the year is the one that’s still not over yet. Herewith, my picks for Top Philadelphia Transportation Developments of 2015: Read more »

SEPTA’s Big Regional Rail Schedule Changes Start Sunday

SEPTA's Ron Hopkins explains new service patterns on the Warminster, West Trenton and Airport lines (left). A map of the regional rail system with a North Broad bottleneck highlighted. Photos | Sandy Smith

SEPTA’s Ron Hopkins explains new service patterns on the Warminster, West Trenton and Airport lines (left). A map of the regional rail system with a North Broad bottleneck highlighted. Photos | Sandy Smith

Back in 1985, when service began on SEPTA’s Airport Regional Rail line, the agency was still trying to get its railroad operations act together after a long and crippling strike in 1982. Management couldn’t guarantee that the trains would run on time, so in order to ensure that trains to the airport did, it was kept separate from the paired former Pennsylvania and Reading railroad lines that operated through the tunnel.

Now, 30 years later, the same problem has surfaced, but this time, it’s the result of the Regional Rail system choking on its own success. Steady ridership gains over the past several years have led to longer dwell times at stations, and the delays these cause ripple throughout the system. As a result, the Airport Line is once again being uncoupled from the rest of the network as part of a larger reorganization of Regional Rail schedules and timetables.

Ron Hopkins, SEPTA’s assistant general manager and chief operating officer, called the schedule changes that take effect Sunday “the most comprehensive schedule change in 20 years” at a news conference Wednesday afternoon (December 9th). Read more »

Toll System Tested at Delaware River Crossing

Credit: Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

A rendering of the new all-electronic toll system as seen coming from the Delaware River Bridge crossing into Pennsylvania. Credit: Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

When you cross the Delaware River from New Jersey next year, you might want to smile: Cameras will be watching.

A new tolling system is coming to the Pennsylvania Turnpike in January 2016, affecting drivers who use the toll road to cross the Delaware River and connect to I-95 and the New Jersey Turnpike. AET, or All-Electronic Tolling, will make use of either E-ZPass or your car’s license plate to collect the a toll coming across the Delaware River crossing into Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) said in a press release. Read more »

Uber Launched its Own Video Game


So, Uber just launched a new video game. Seriously.

But it’s not just meant to be a good time — it’s meant to recruit new drivers.

Called UberDRIVE, the game takes place in San Francisco and tasks users with making pickups and delivering passengers safely to their destinations. Here’s how the company describes it in a recent blog post. Read more »

SEPTA, Others Turn to Hackers to Improve Transit

Septa regional rail train

SEPTA and others have turned to hackers to help enhance the mass transit experience throughout Philadelphia.

This past weekend, SEPTA and Code for Philly hosted a hack-a-thon to figure ways to better get around the city. A couple dozen coders met at SEPTA’s Center City headquarters to use the organization’s open data to improve the public transportation.

Here are two apps that caught our eye: Read more »

The Brief: America’s Infrastructure Problem

Emergency personnel work the scene of a train wreck, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia. |Photo by Joseph Kaczmarek/AP

Emergency personnel work the scene of a train wreck, Tue., May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia. | Photo by Joseph Kaczmarek/AP

1. Amtrak Crash Sparks Debate Over Country’s Crumbling Infrastructure

The gist: Last night, an Amtrak train en route to New York City derailed in Philadelphia’s Port Richmond neighborhood. At least six people are dead, according to city officials and a Temple University Hospital doctor. A minimum of 65 are injured. “It’s an absolute disastrous mess,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “I’ve never seen anything so devastating.” He said the cause of the derailment is currently unknown. “We do not know what happened here. We do not know why this happened.”

Why it matters: More than anything, what matters is that at least six people lost their lives and dozens more were injured. Right now, we have no idea what led to this tragedy, and any speculation to that effect would be irresponsible. Still, last night’s crash has ignited a debate on social media and elsewhere about America’s crumbling infrastructure. That debate is only going to grow louder in the weeks ahead. Congress was already scheduled to consider a bill this week that would cut Amtrak’s funding, even as, according to The Atlantic, “ridership has increased by roughly 50 percent in the past 15 years, and ridership in the Northeast Corridor stood at an all-time high in 2014.” Democrats had previously “been expected to take a run at boosting the bill’s funding for Amtrak, but the debate at Wednesday’s markup is sure to take on more urgency in light of the crash,” Politico reports. The Amtrak derailment may also spur action by state and local officials. After a CSX train derailed in Philadelphia last year, City Council held a hearing on the incident.

Read more »

The Bicycle (Riding) Lobby Has Won, and Philly Will Never Be the Same Again

How many there rode bikes? A LOT. | Photo credit: Jim Kenney Twitter feed.

How many in the audience at the 2015 mayoral mobility forum rode bikes to get there? A LOT. | Photo credit: Jim Kenney Twitter feed.

For years now, a lot of the shorthand, sarcastic, political insider criticism of Mayor Michael Nutter has referenced his affinity for bike lanes. As in: “Yeah the poverty rate sucks, but hey, how about those bike lanes!”

Part of that has been driven by a deep-seated conviction (I’d argue it’s a mistaken one) among many elected officials that Nutter cares way more about Center City interests than “neighborhood” ones. But dislike of Nutter doesn’t explain everything. Bike lanes, and really the entire “mobility” agenda—which includes everything from cycling infrastructure, to road paving, to pedestrian accommodations, to traffic enforcement and much more—has long provoked epic eye-rolls whenever raised with the city’s political class. In other words, these concerns have been dismissed by a lot of powerful people as little more than the obsession of entitled Center City millennials, and thus unworthy of City Hall’s attention.

But if Thursday night’s Better Mobility 2015 Mayoral Forum was any indication—and it was—then the political calculus has changed, and City Hall will likely be forced to reckon more seriously with questions of pedestrian and cyclist safety in the future. Read more »

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