Issues

Photo by Charl Folscher
5th Square is Philadelphia's urbanist political action committee. 

Our mission is to achieve a more accessible, sustainable, and equitable Philadelphia for all residents through better mobility, public space, and planning policies. 

TRANSIT


Our primary transit advocacy goals are aligned with those of the Transit Forward Philadelphia coalition, of which 5th Square is a founding member.

  • EQUITY: Everyone in the Greater Philadelphia region benefits from transit, but some are more affected than others when it doesn’t work well. Low-income residents and residents of color are more likely to commute without a car. Transit improvements should lift up all residents, but they should be prioritized for those who rely upon transit the most.

  • ACCESS: Where a person can go determines the opportunities they can pursue and the resources from which they can benefit. Whether it’s the ability to move throughout the city and region or move to a new job, transit should provide all residents and visitors with reliable access to their destinations.

  • SAFETY: All forms of transportation – transit, walking, biking, and driving– should prioritize human life and safety. Transit is the safest mode of urban transportation, and shifting auto trips to transit will save lives.

  • SUSTAINABILITY: Our transit system must be sustainable and resilient, so it can provide ongoing service to the entire community and continue improving to meet changing needs. It must also align with goals set by the City and international bodies related to reducing carbon emissions. The transportation sector represents about 23% of total carbon emissions in the Greater Philadelphia region. A shift toward transit (and away from cars) can reduce these emissions and help achieve climate commitments.

Learn more about the policy changes we are working towards in the links below and then become a member or sign up to volunteer to help 5th Square win some of these changes at the state and local level.

An Improved Transportation Network


Secure Transit Funding


User Experience & Fare Policy


Transit Oriented Development


Recent Transit Wins


PUBLIC SPACE


Cultural Shift at PennDOT

Some of Philadelphia’s most dangerous streets for pedestrians and cyclists based on injury statistics are PennDOT-owned arterials, many of which are major downtown streets and commercial corridors running through very urban parts of the city. So far PennDOT has been indifferent to calls from safety advocates for engineering changes to these roads that would calm traffic.

PennDOT has not yet embraced Vision Zero’s goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries and are monomaniacally focused on moving as many vehicles as possible. At the same time, PennDOT officials are on autopilot spending billions on expanding and widening highways, and negating all the benefits of Governor Wolf’s important climate change initiatives.

We believe roads need to be designed to move people and not just automobiles, giving priority to the safety of the most vulnerable road users.

Along with a shift in the state transportation budget toward greener and cleaner ways of getting around, we also need a cultural shift in the agency and a rebalancing of priorities, especially in PennDOT’s District 6 office serving the Philadelphia region. Its location amid the sea of highways out in King of Prussia, inaccessible by good transit, is a perfect symbol of the current state of the agency’s thinking.

Reexamining our deadly car-centric engineering practices would have immense benefits in so many areas. Our transportation dollars could be put to better use creating jobs in walkable locations, making people’s daily journeys easier and greener, and saving lives by reducing crashes. Every trip taken on foot, bike, or public transit means fewer automobiles on the road.


Automated Speed Enforcement

The PA State legislature recently approved a pilot program of automated speed cameras for use on Roosevelt Boulevard and highway work zones throughout the state. This is a huge win for Philadelphia’s Vision Zero efforts to eliminate road deaths and serious injuries. Roosevelt Boulevard has long been considered Philadelphia’s most dangerous roadway, and even tops national lists of most dangerous highways.

Speed cameras have been shown to reduce the incidence of all crashes, serious injuries, and deaths. Automation also frees police officers to handle criminal investigations and eliminates concerns about racial profiling and bias that can accompany manned traffic enforcement.

Automated speed enforcement has also enjoyed widespread adoption nationwide as nearly two dozen states have legislation authorizing its use. Cities like New York and DC have expanded their programs to school zones and problematic streets and are seeing the benefits from such programs in lowering speeds and injuries

We advocate for the expansion of automated speed enforcement here in Philadelphia to ensure the safety of all our roadway users.


Allow Local Law Enforcement to Use Radar for Vehicle Speed Enforcement

Pennsylvania is currently the only state in the nation that denies local police the option of adding radar speed guns to their speed enforcement toolbox. Despite perennial attempts by Mayors and state lawmakers to get this bill passed, radar is still limited for use only by the state troopers.

Expanding radar technology to local jurisdictions will slow down drivers and save lives. The technology will also reduce opportunities for human and mechanical error when recording drivers' speeds, and ensure greater accuracy.

At the same time, lawmakers should consider this technology a short-term stop-over on the path to more widespread use of automated enforcement. Any legislation should apply clear rules for its use that leave little to the personal discretion of officers, in order to reduce any potential for misuse and avoid amplifying racist patterns of policing.


Cameras for Congestion-Related Enforcement

As Philadelphia’s population and economic vitality grows, vehicle congestion is worsening as more users compete for our limited road space. Our streets aren’t getting any wider, but we still need them to move more people. This has resulted in an increase in illegal parking and stopping which impedes people on buses and trolleys, and in other vehicles, as well as creating more dangerous walking and biking conditions.

We support state enabling legislation to allow cities like Philadelphia to use cameras for congestion-related enforcement. Areas that should be enforced by camera include bus lanes, corner clearances, crosswalks, delivery zones, and non-curb pickups and drop-offs by ride-hailing drivers. Currently, the law allows for enforcement only upon the observation of an officer. Cameras allow a more cost-efficient alternative and are less subject to human and systemic biases.


Act 89 Funding for Transportation

Act 89, the most recent major transportation funding bill, was signed into law in 2013 by Governor Tom Corbett to fund road projects, bridge repairs, and public transit. But over the past six years, the state has diverted $4.25 billion to the State Police instead of funding many of the transportation infrastructure projects lawmakers promised. 

We support Governor Wolf’s proposal to implement a fee on Pennsylvania municipalities that rely solely on State Police, which would allow the state to properly fund transportation projects throughout the Commonwealth. Additionally, money should be prioritized for transit, walking and cycling projects rather than wasted on expensive and environmentally disastrous highway expansion projects that are unlikely to reduce congestion.

 

LAND USE


Eliminate Minimum Parking Requirements

Minimum parking requirements for residential, office, and mixed-use developments are a regressive hidden tax on non-drivers that makes housing more expensive, increases driving and congestion, and only boosts the number of cars in the neighborhood. 

About a third of Philadelphians either don’t have the means to own a vehicle or simply don’t want to own one, and this is especially true of the Millennials and Baby Boomers who have been moving here in recent years. If residents want to rent or buy just a house—without an unwanted parking space bundled in—they should have the freedom to do that. City government shouldn't put its thumb on the scale for more parking and driving at a time when our elected officials have rhetorically committed themselves to fighting climate change and improving our air quality.


Separations Act

Enacted more than 100 years ago, the Separations Act mandates separate prime contractors for public construction projects in the areas of general construction, electrical, plumbing, heating & air conditioning. This is referred to as a Multiple Prime Delivery System and it requires the state government to bid separate contracts for the general contractor and the main specialty contractors—electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and HVAC—for most public projects. Pennsylvania is one of three remaining states with a Separations Act.

The Separations Act is an outdated law that bogs down public works project delivery at every turn of the design, bid, and management process resulting in broken budgets and inefficient management of public project funds. It’s a dry but important issue that concerns how much public infrastructure our dollars can buy. Funding levels matter, but project delivery costs matter just as much. 


Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a regional cap-and-trade program for the Northeast U.S. that requires polluters to pay for their emissions. Since 2009, the initiative has run a cap-and-trade program that has cut the annual average CO2 emissions from electric generation in nine participating states.

Pennsylvania is the fourth largest greenhouse gas emitter in the country. It’s also a large producer of coal and natural gas, and a net exporter of electricity. The state’s participation would expand RGGI at a time when the Trump administration has reversed actions to curb emissions.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order directing the Department of Environmental Protection to join the initiative, however it faces opposition within the State Legislature, and even within segments of the Democratic Party.

Joining RGGI would accelerate our state’s transition away from fossil fuel energy, and we support Governor Wolf’s efforts. We have concerns about what the revenue from RGGI will be spent on, however, and call on the legislature to prioritize public transit and multi-modal transportation projects over electric vehicle infrastructure and other car infrastructure.


Help us win a more accessible, sustainable, and equitable Philadelphia: Become a Member to help 5th Square win some of these changes!