Alex Deering Response to 5th Square Questionnaire

Read 181st District Democratic candidate Alex Deering's responses to the 5th Square 2018 Candidate Questionnaire. Visit our 181st District Campaign Page for more candidate questionnaire responses, event listings, and more.

Candidate Name: Alex Deering

Candidate Introduction:

I am a user of public transit and I am a firm believer that access to transportation can be very helpful in the goal of breaking down barriers to entry and accessing resources. Many people facing tough economic challenges depend on access to roads for employment and other day to day activities. Having access helps ease the many hardships in the lives of underserved people. It has always been my goal to find ways to empower people in as many ways as possible. Land use and public transit issues are critical and very nuanced, that is why it takes experts, operators and people who are familiar with public transit to collaborate, so we can create best practices that support all stakeholders.

1. Act 89 transportation funds have increasingly been diverted to the state police budget, reducing the funds available to pay for infrastructure projects. What is the best way to safeguard this revenue to ensure that Commonwealth residents see all the transportation improvements they were promised when state lawmakers raised the gas tax?

I am in favor of capping the Motor License Fund contribution at $500 million. Additionally, I believe in placing a timeline on Act 89 funds. We should allocate the Act 89 funding to infrastructure, but place a concrete timeline on the infrastructure projects. That way, constituents will know infrastructure is a priority issue and any limits on state police will be temporary.

2. U.S. DOT opened the door to state tolling of federal highways at the end of the Obama administration. Would you support expanded road pricing of state and federal highways to fund transportation and infrastructure maintenance?

I do not support expanded road pricing of state and federal highways to fund infrastructure projects. Many people facing tough economic challenges depend on the free access of those roads for employment and to seek employment. I would not advocate for putting any additional financial burden on the average taxpayer. I am, however, in support of finding other funding sources for road infrastructure, such as taxing large businesses or obtaining “corporate sponsorships” for infrastructure projects in lieu of tax benefits.

3. Will you advocate for a "university pass" plan to include heavily-discounted transit passes in tuition for all Temple University students? What will you do to improve the quality of transit service in the 181st District, and north Philadelphia more broadly?

I am in full support of a university pass for Temple University students, especially as Temple is known internally as a commuter school. This will especially benefit students from historically underrepresented groups and their ability to travel throughout the city without being encumbered. To improve the quality of transportation in the 181st and North Philadelphia, I believe we have to make public transport more accessible for the aging population. This means increasing disability access and the presence of security so that more mature members of our community feel safe moving to and from public transport routes.

4. In Pennsylvania, traditional taxi companies and Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) alike are not required to provide Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs), and the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s recent efforts to incentivize more WAVs have fallen flat. Meanwhile, SEPTA’s paratransit service is notoriously limited, requiring waits of more than a day. What should be done to create more accessible on-demand transportation options for residents who rely on paratransit services?

I cannot tell you how many times I have noticed the lack of WAVs and even ramps in the city’s public transit sectors. This problem goes hand in hand with the issues facing older residents as I mention in the previous question. So many Philadelphians take the ability to physically ride SEPTA for granted. Too many of our SEPTA stops and stations have staircases and uneven routes. Currently, many stations are being redesigned and upgraded. This must also mean creating ramps, elevators, and WAVs for access.

5. In 2017, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called on states to implement automated enforcement measures to reduce speed-induced deaths and injuries. If elected, will you introduce or co-sponsor state enabling legislation to allow municipalities to pilot photo-enforcement speed cameras in School Zones and on High Injury Network streets.

I am in support of any speed measures that constituents want to pilot. However, I am not in favor of politicians determining speed laws. We must rely on road experts and consultants to determine speed limits and the appropriate amount of speed motorists should use. Some studies show that slowing speeds can be just as dangerous. School Zones, of course, must have pragmatic speed laws enforced. I will rely on experts to inform my policies on speed and road legislation.

6. According to state crash data, North Broad Street is one of the most dangerous streets for pedestrians in the whole city. What will you do as a state rep to get PennDOT on board with design changes to make Broad Street safer for pedestrians?

First, I would like to meet with pedestrians who frequent North Broad Street to hear their specific concerns with the street and its traffic. Then, I would like to schedule a conversation between the constituents, PennDOT and myself. I know we all want to hear PennDOT’s reservations, if any exist, to the redesign of North Broad Street. I hope to use this platform to address the safety of Broad Street and use my voice, alongside the pedestrians’, to make enough noise for PennDOT to make a change.

7. Pennsylvania is the only state in the U.S. that bans local law enforcement from using radar for vehicle speed enforcement. Recently a Mayor's Radar Coalition has formed to support lifting the state ban. Will you co-sponsor legislation to lift the ban?

Some proposals to expand use of radar only make the tool available to police in state’s biggest cities, similar to the way the state has rolled out camera enforcement of traffic signals. Red-light camera technology is only allowed in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the southeastern Pennsylvania counties that surround the state’s biggest city.

I do not want to lift the radar ban, and traffic traps be created in poor areas to pad coffers instead of making streets safer. If research shows ways to implement policy that can raise public safety, without putting a burden on our most vulnerable citizens, I could support lifting the ban.

8. How do you resolve the tension between regional planning goals and local zoning powers in cases where local sentiment is out of sync with sustainable planning objectives like sprawl containment, desegregation, or concentrating housing development near transit? Does state policy strike the right balance, or are changes needed?

I think local communities need to be more involved in how their areas are zoned. We have the RCO system here in Philadelphia, which allows public opinion on specific projects in small areas, but I think we need to make sure that people understand the regional plans of elected officials and urbanist. In my experience the community is interested in infrastructure improvement, but sometimes do not really understand all that is included in infrastructure for the region, and are really only focused on their small communities. I think the state officials could be more accountable to the community by explaining regional goals and how the affect the local community so that the people could influence policy and development.

9. Do you support amending the state's Municipal Planning Code to encourage transit-oriented development near state-funded transit and commuter rail stations similar to California's recent pro-transit bill SB-827, which removes most zoning restrictions on dense housing construction near high-quality transit?

I will fully support any legislation that alleviates the housing crisis being faced by many people in Philadelphia. And I do believe this kind of legislation can do that. However, just as this problem is nuanced, so is the solution. I want to support this legislation knowing that some of the dense housing construction will be reserved for mixed-income use. Families in difficult economic straits deserve stable housing as well.

10. Due to a Corbett-era rule change, Pennsylvania’s building code is no longer automatically updated to reflect the international building code, causing us to fall years behind on code updates. This has hard harmful effects on building sustainability, public safety, and insurance costs. State lawmakers recently passed a one-time carve-out for the city of Philadelphia, allowing us to update our building code, but only for commercial development. Will you support or introduce legislation to allow Philadelphia to continually update our building code for both commercial and residential development?

I will support and introduce legislation that allows for commercial and residential building codes to be updated. This is a necessity. As new developments across the city continue to rise, older buildings, like residential properties (and schools), fall further and further behind sustainability. However, we have to be sure not to be place the cost of updating these homes on those who cannot afford it. More fact finding is needed to determine how to bring residential properties up to standard reasonably and cost efficiently.

11. The century-old Separations Act requires multiple bids for all different parts of public construction projects in Pennsylvania, making public works projects unnecessarily expensive and inefficient, and precluding Design-Build firms from bidding on public construction projects. Will you support and advocate for repeal of the Separations Act?

I believe it is time that we join the modern business world, but I feel we must do so carefully. The Separations Act appears antiquated, but are there possible compromises between the act’s detractors and the unions who value the act, as it allows them to operate independently of design firms. Though often seen as anathema, dialogue between every party involved is needed. I believe a middle ground exists between Separations Act and its abolishment exists. Perhaps raising the $4,000 threshold would be a good start.

12. Tell us more about what you bring to the table as an ally for urbanist politics in Harrisburg. What makes you the right person to advance the urbanist movement’s goals politically or substantively at the state level?

I have over 10 years of experience serving people who need services. From working in the classroom, to supporting teachers, working with patients to apply for medical benefits, painting curves and beautifying my community, my path and work has been directed at supporting and empowering people. I have advocated and fought to find ways to raise the quality of life for the constituents of my division here in the city. I am now ready to expand my base and advocate at on the state level. With the national attention we will receive from the historical precedent of this race, it will give me a large platform to speak about the issues my community faces. I will leverage this influence to ensure we have resources to advance causes that are the most pressing both in, my community, Harrisburg and Washington, DC.