Candidate Blogging: Nelson Diaz on Encouraging Philadelphians to use Public Transit

Last week we sent The 5th Square 2015 Candidate Questionnaire to all candidates for City Council and Mayor. In that questionnaire we gave the option for candidates to reach out directly to voters via our blog. 9 different topics were offered. Below please find Nelson Diaz's response to Topic 3. For the list of other topics offered and the entirety of Diaz's responses to our Candidate Questionnaire, please see the link to the PDF at the bottom of this post.

Please Note: posting of Candidate Questionnaire responses does not constitute a 5th Square endorsement. Candidate endorsements will be released at a later date.

NelsonDiaz_SEPTA.jpgNelson Diaz on Encouraging Philadelphians To Use Public Transit

Author: Nelson Diaz

I’d like to talk a bit about improving our mass transit network, borrowing from my environmental policy agenda on my website. Today, the Schuylkill Expressway and 95 are frequently jammed for miles in either direction at rush hour – not to mention the Blue Route or Turnpike in our suburbs, which are just as bad. The solution is not more road capacity that will inevitably be filled via “induced demand”; it’s to get cars off our roads and get more people to use mass transit.

Part of the problem is simply that too many jobs in our area are outside of Philadelphia itself. Our dysfunctional tax policies have driven employment into the suburbs, the single biggest reason that 40% of Philadelphians with jobs have to commute out of the City to work every day. If we want to get cars off the road, we have to bring more jobs into our City where people will use mass transit or transit alternatives, rather than personal automobiles, to access them. That’s why my tax reform and economic development plans are extremely relevant to the environment.

In order to make it possible for residents and workers to use mass transit effectively, it is also vital that we make some investments in our transit infrastructure. One of these is likely to be expensive: Extending the Broad Street Line to the Navy Yard. This would likely cost $500 million or more, according to the most recent estimates by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and PIDC. The expense is necessary, however, if the Navy Yard is going to reach it’s full potential as the next economic engine of Philadelphia without putting more cars on the road.

There are also a number of less expensive but no less consequential investments we can make to promote mass transit and transit alternatives. The most important of these to the future of our city will be to inaugurate direct, express commuter rail access to Central New Jersey and New York City. By changing services patterns and through-running existing NJ Transit service from Trenton, we can make it significantly easier and/or cheaper for commuters to travel between places like the Route 1 Pharmaceutical Corridor, New Brunswick, or New York to Center City.

We can also do a huge amount to make our buses run more efficiently. More than half of all SEPTA riders take buses, and too many routes are subject to overcrowding and unacceptably slow travel times. Our goal has to be to work with SEPTA to dramatically increase speed of travel system-wide for buses, create more consistent and reliable headways, and reduce dwell time, with top priority for key routes.

Philadelphia has experimented with consolidating bus stops to bring distances in line with industry standards, traffic signal prioritization, and common sense solutions like putting stops on the far side of intersections. Philadelphia and SEPTA should also work together to adopt off-board fare payment with police spot checks. It is also vital that we aggressively enforce existing bus and bike lanes citywide, including with increased traffic cameras, and look for opportunities to physically separate express bus lanes; painting lines on a street is meaningless if drivers and delivery trucks simply ignore the restrictions and park or drive in space that’s supposed to be reserved for transit alternatives. Combined, based on the experience of cities that have adopted these kinds of changes on key routes, we could improve both performance and ridership by a minimum of 10% on every route and 25-30% on key routes.


For the rest of Nelson Diaz's Candidate Questionnaire, please click the link below:

Candidate Questionnaire - Nelson Diaz (D) Mayoral Candidate