At-Large: Joe Cox Response to 5th Square Questionnaire

Read At-Large Independent candidate Joe Cox's responses to the 5th Square 2019 City Council Candidate Questionnaire. Visit our 2019 City Council Campaign page for more candidate questionnaire responses.

Candidate Name: Joe Cox

Candidate Introduction

My name is Joe Cox, I am a Bike Courier and Activist who is running for City Council At Large as an Independent candidate because I believe in Creating A More Equitable Philadelphia. I have traveled Philly's streets for years seeing how dangerous it can be for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. I want to create protected pedestrian walkways and bike lanes all throughout the city to protect pedestrians and cyclists from drivers. Dangerous and deadly potholes need to be fixed immediately to protect cyclists and drivers.

SEPTA needs the funding to make better decisions with our public transit. SEPTA needs to be more accessible and stations and cars should be much cleaner for riders. Bus and train infrastructure needs to be better repaired and maintained. Ending the Abatement easily pays for these protections. Ending the 10 Year Tax Abatement for new developments is essential to restoring equality in the housing market and our schools. In 2019, it artificially inflates the price of housing; now turning what was once development into gentrification: shutting out lower income buyers from buying property in their own neighborhoods. The city loses money from not taxing new developments. We should tax new developments at their standard market rate in 2019: bringing in millions of dollars to the City and kicking out inflated housing prices for buyers. Those funds could go towards any number of new programs for the City: properly funding SEPTA, expanding Vision Zero, creating Affordable Access Housing, and hiring those in extreme poverty. These are simple measures that, when enacted, would make Philadelphia a more equitable place to live.


The below questions are related to policies that reflect use of the streets are used by all Philadelphians including pedestrians, as well as bicycle, bus, car riders and drivers. A priority of 5th Square is placing front-and-center the concerns of the elderly, children, and residents utilizing mobility assistance.

1. Many curb cuts and sidewalks in the city are blocked by parked cars, resulting in inadequate and unsafe crossings for seniors, residents utilizing mobility assistance, and parents with small children. In your view, what should City Council do about this problem?

When I am elected to City Council, I will introduce a measure completely revamping our city streets. We need protected painted pedestrian walkways with clear yield signs and speed humps on high traffic streets. Daylighting intersections would immediately make it so that no car could park close to a sidewalk. Ramps onto sidewalks would be clear for pedestrians to commute safely. Strict ticket enforcement by the Philadelphia Parking Authority and Police would scare people away from creating danger by simply choosing where to park their car. The newly proposed public safety enforcement officers could help enforce these laws, as well. These are all valuable improvements I look forward to creating in City Council.

2. What is your opinion of the Kenney administration's progress on their Vision Zero street safety initiative? Is the current pace of progress acceptable to you? If not, what would you do differently? How would you use your Council position to accomplish this?

Vision Zero is a fantastic global effort to make streets safer everywhere. I firmly agree that instituting data driven analysis of traffic safety is key to standardizing and tracking the safety of our city streets. The High Injury Network, Crash Data Tool, and Electronic Crash Report (TraCS) systems are steps forward. However, while the implementation of evaluation systems has progressed, structural improvements need to quicken. As City Councilmember At Large, I would focus on small scale improvements over the entire city, such as: daylighting intersections, fixing potholes, protecting bike lanes, and creating pedestrian yield walkways on every intersection. While great work has been done making major changes to dangerous corridors like the Roosevelt Boulevard, more can be done on larger scales. The current pace of Vision Zero is not acceptable, which is part of the reason why I am running. We should treat our roads as a public health crisis, because they are! There are deadly potholes all throughout Philadelphia, and we don’t even have any real bike lanes. We need to advocate much louder for the rights of everyone on the road. We need to plaster signs throughout all of Philadelphia so drivers know the law. We need to take Vision Zero far further.

3. Will you support “daylighting” intersections to restore clear lines of sight near crossings for drivers and pedestrians through the use of plastic bollards and curb bumpouts, with prioritization for school zones, intersections with high pedestrian volume, and high crash intersections? How many intersections should be "daylighted" each year?

Further reading on daylighting:

Absolutely. Daylighting Intersections makes every commuter safer. This needs to happen at every intersection in the City of Philadelphia. There are about 21,000 intersections in Philadelphia and I believe after two years we could reach that goal, or about 900 intersections per month (30 per day across several teams and the entire city). This is an attainable goal that I look forward to implementing across every neighborhood.

4. Philadelphia has some of the lowest per-capita spending among our peer cities on basic street maintenance, slowing down the rollout of life-saving design changes that are part of Mayor Kenney's Vision Zero initiative. If elected, will you advocate for a larger Streets Department repaving budget?


5. Will you support a Mayoral initiative to create a municipal street sweeping program, even if it means motorists will need to move their vehicles a few times a month?

Absolutely. All Philadelphians deserve clean streets. I plan on working within Council, with the Mayor, and with caring organizations to make street sweeping an opportunity for Street Citizens to transition out of homelessness. Street sweeping is a job that anyone can do, but that must get done. A high-paying wage would make it so they could transition easily out of their situation, all the while making Philadelphia a cleaner city. Hiring Street Citizens exponentially increases the value of Philadelphia with more people working more jobs, living in more homes, and putting more into the local economy. Street sweeping initiatives need to be done on a citywide level, in every neighborhood and every zip code. As for moving our vehicles: Philadelphians have had to move them before, and we will move them again. I believe that once residents see the city making a genuine effort to clean, they will be happy to do their part. We have a beautiful city and residents want their neighborhoods to be beautiful. I am not a fan of the current plan to use gas-powered blowers to clean the streets. They create far more pollution than cars and blow dust into eyes and lungs. We need brooms and buckets; that’s all.

6. Will you vote to repeal Council's 2012 legislation requiring a Council ordinance to remove travel or parking lanes, and once again empower Streets Department safety professionals to make these decisions administratively?

Further reading:



Our goal is to shift the city's overall transportation mode share radically toward transit and active mobility, and away from single occupancy vehicles, for the benefit of public health as well as the environment.

1. Philadelphia currently only funds around 11 percent of SEPTA's budget, with the state and federal governments funding the majority of the operating and capital budgets. This is one of the lowest local contributions in the country, per-capita. If elected, will you advocate for increasing dedicated local transit funding? If so, what revenue source is best?

I believe that Philadelphia should take responsibility for its own Public Transit. We can afford to have higher quality public transportation by Ending the Abatement, raising the price of public parking permits, and increasing SEPTA ridership. Philadelphia would then have more sway in SEPTA Board decisions once we increase our stake in it. Keeping in mind, we are not the only county to use SEPTA: neighboring counties must also pay their fair share for using the same transit system. Money saved from consolidating lines would also reduce the overall cost of SEPTA.

2. The City Bus system works to improve air quality as well as reduce traffic congestion. Unfortunately, city bus ridership has fallen dramatically over the past few years, and route performance has become increasingly unreliable. Which of the following measures would you be willing to advocate for to increase bus ridership?

  • Bus-only lanes on more major streets Yes
  • Automated photo enforcement of bus-only lanes and bus/trolley stopping zones Yes
  • All-door boarding with off-board fare payment Yes
  • Free transfers between buses, trolleys, and subways, funded by the City Yes
  • Stop consolidation to speed up buses Yes

Other: Properly clean and care for SEPTA vehicles, depots and transportation centers.

3. Will you support funding a City pilot program to provide free SEPTA transit to all children under 12 years of age?

The current cut-off is 4-years-old, after which children are required to pay the full fare

Yes. Our campaign is about making Philadelphia equitable. In America's biggest poor city, reducing the stress of transportation expenses for parents would help.

4. Over 30,000 Philadelphia public school students are currently ineligible for subsidized TransPasses, because the School District does not provide passes to students living within 1.5 miles of their local school. Do you support universalizing student TransPasses so all students can use them?


5. Residential permit parking needs an overhaul. The current cost for an annual parking permit for car owners to store their private vehicles on public streets is just $35, and many streets do not require a permit. Which reforms to permit parking would you be willing to consider, if elected?

  • Capping permits at the number of available spaces in each parking district Yes
  • Neighborhood-wide opt-in for permit parking, as opposed to block-by-block petitions Yes
  • Blacklisting addresses of new buildings with no parking from eligibility for street permits Yes
  • Employer permits for commercial corridor workers near residential permit zones Yes

Other: I would also consider increasing the price of an annual parking permit. To get a better perspective, twelve monthly SEPTA passes costs $1,152 for a Rider while a Driver only pays $35 for parking on public space.

6. SEPTA and the City are exploring a bus network redesign that could greatly improve bus service frequency and usability at little additional cost. Improving service will involve some trade-offs, however, like more stop consolidation and transfers. How should Councilmembers be approaching this initiative?

Further reading:

As Councilmember At Large, I will approach this initiative from the mind’s eye of the Philadelphian who uses SEPTA. I ride my bike everywhere I go. For everyone else, if buses came more frequently, then Riders would get to where they needed to go more reliably and use SEPTA more often – even at the cost of having to walk a few extra blocks.

Although, I do see this as being a problem for elderly and disabled Philadelphians whose bus stop might get consolidated farther away from their homes, restricting their travel. We need to make sure the buses are not hurting the poor and those with disabilities. We need to make SEPTA decisions much more accessible and transparent to everyone. We need to hold citywide transportation hearings to address all transportation issues to solve these problems. City Council should work with experts in transit design to seek the best practice that works for Philadelphia. I look forward to seeing the proposed redesigns.

7. Do you support Council President Darrell Clarke's Charter change proposal to create a new class of unarmed officers to enforce traffic violations?

Further reading:


Land Use and Zoning

Our goal is to promote the most efficient use of land in our city, fostering accessible, walkable communities in which all Philadelphians can reside, regardless of economic status. We believe in building more housing, reducing costs, increasing the vitality of our commercial corridors, and facilitating transit-oriented development. Philadelphia made great strides toward this vision with the 2012 Zoning Reform package, and the next City Council should defend and expand on that progress.

1. Only 13% of land in Philadelphia is covered by the multifamily zoning categories eligible for City Council’s new Mixed-Income Housing program. Do you believe 13% is the appropriate percentage? If not, what is the right number?

I do not believe that 13% is an appropriate percentage. I would imagine that a 4 year goal of doubling the multifamily zoning categories would be achievable without destabilizing housing. Over the course of four years, that would be a little over 3 percent, per year.

2. In 2012, City Council voted to eliminate or reduce minimum parking requirements for many zoning districts, because parking minimums increase housing prices, driving, and traffic congestion. Will you vote to eliminate the last of the minimum parking requirements still remaining in the zoning code, which would mainly affect Center City, University City, and areas near the subways?

Yes, I would. City council made a good decision in 2012 and we can build on that progress. We need to re imagine the urban landscape in Philadelphia. We are one of, if not the most biked large city in the country, and our infrastructure needs to reflect that. I believe we can re purpose asphalt for green spaces, walk able parks and community owned recreation. Our city is becoming more dense in fewer zip codes, yet the current laws do not properly take that into account. If we eliminated these laws we could clear traffic congestion, improve walkability, help the environment by planting more trees, and promote the use of public transit by making stops more accessible.

3. The same 2012 zoning reform bill contained language legalizing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which allow property owners to have an additional rental unit on their property. City Council unfortunately never finished the job, and didn't write in which zoning districts should permit ADUs. Where would you allow ADUs?

I would like to see ADUs expanded to more zoning districts. I would start with RSD and RSA zoning districts and look to expand on other zoning districts that have open lots. I believe that this could help ease the burden of trying to find housing where tenants are often limited to apartment buildings. The evidence suggests that these types of dwellings are rented for less than traditional apartment units and could help the current affordable housing crisis we have. City council should look to other cities where ADUs are implemented to find best practices and data which would help us make better decisions.

4. In 2017, City Council revamped the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Overlay ordinance, which would allow greater density and less parking within 500 feet of designated transit stations. Will you support a citywide bill designating TOD overlays for all city transit and regional rail stations?

Yes. Transit stations and rail stations should be accessible to more residents within a smaller radius than they currently are. This type of ordinance would help people use public transit more efficiently and increase overall usage. As stated in previous questions, Philadelphia has changed a lot and we have the chance to re imagine the current urban landscape.

5. What should be Philadelphia's strategy for keeping neighborhoods affordable as they see more growth and development? Is City policy striking the right balance now, following City Council's recent affordable housing package? If not, what is left to do, in your opinion?

Keeping our neighborhoods affordable is one of the biggest challenges city council will have over the next four years. You do not have to travel far within the city to see how current policy is not striking the right balance. The first thing we need to do is define affordable. In America's poorest big city most families are not making 50% of the AMI, rather, they are making a lot less. 1 in 5 families are making 20% of the AMI, or 16,600 annually. We have seen gentrification on steroids which has destabilized the affordable housing market cause massive displacement. The ten year tax abatement is one of the main reasons for this problem. We need to abolish the abatement so that revenue can come back to the city. I would like to see city council revisit the construction impact tax. In my opinion, we took a step back and compromised out of fear and a lack of political will. Massive non-profits who act more like massive conglomerates are another reason we have seen less affordability, especially in areas like Grey's Ferry and University city. I would like to see these non-profits pay PILOTS to the city. The fact that a center for research was recently completed for 275 million dollars while our children don't even have books to research basic mathematics is an ethical problem and establishments should pay their fair share to operate in our wonderful city.