5th Square's mission is to achieve a more accessible, sustainable, and equitable Philadelphia for all residents through better mobility, public space, and planning policies. Learn more about the policy changes we're advocating to candidates and elected officials, and then sign up to volunteer to help 5th Square win some of these changes in city government.
SEPTA Key has made it much easier to pay for transit, but SEPTA has refused to eliminate one of the most inconvenient and counterproductive parts of their fare policy: the $1 transfer penalty.
It's time for SEPTA to give riders a break, and stop charging an extra $1 penalty to transfer between buses, subways, and trolleys. When SEPTA charges an extra $1.00 for transfers, that's an unfair penalty for everyone whose home isn’t on the exact transit line as their job, family, school, grocery store, or place of worship. And it costs SEPTA more to run the system this way!
One SEPTA fare should cover your whole trip. With free transfers, every SEPTA rider would have the opportunity to access the whole city, on equal footing with every other rider.
SEPTA and the City should reexamine SEPTA's fare structure from top to bottom looking for opportunities to reverse inequitable fare policies, institute fare capping, and ensure that their products work for all transit riders and organizations who interface with the transit system, like social service organizations.
Free SEPTA for Kids Under 12
Charging children full freight for transit once they turn four-years-old puts transit out of reach for many families when it should be the cheapest way to get around. Philadelphia should follow the lead of many of our peer cities and increase the age limit for free rides. SEPTA, City Council, and local foundations should work together to pilot free rides for children under 12 for a test period to determine how many youths ride transit and what this policy would cost.
Universalize Student Passes
Older students who live more than a mile and a half from school receive a free monthly transit pass paid for by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but about 33,000 students who live closer to school than that do not. The School District should follow Seattle's lead and universalize these passes for all students, increasing young people's freedom of mobility. They should also make the passes functional on weekends, and raise the weeknight cut-off time from 7 pm to 8 pm as a benefit to older students who may use transit to travel to and from after-school jobs.
University Pass for All Higher-Ed Institutions
Unlimited access to Philadelphia's network of subways, trolleys, and buses should come included with tuition or employment at all of the region’s colleges and universities. Elected officials should work to encourage SEPTA and academic leadership to embrace the model established by the University of Pittsburgh and the Port Authority of Allegheny County, in which heavily discounted transit passes are automatically included in tuition and compensation packages for students and university employees, respectively.
5th Square is working with the SEPTA Youth Advisory Council toward this goal and our coalition made important progress toward this goal with SEPTA's 2017 fare tariff changes, which allowed SEPTA management to enter into bulk fare contracts with all kinds of organizations. This proposal would be revolutionary for student mobility and access to opportunities throughout our region, and provide a substantial new predictable local revenue stream for SEPTA.
End Council Control of Streets
In 2012, City Council took over control of street restriping for bike lanes and other alterations involving removal of travel lanes, parking lanes, or turns lanes. This legislation makes Philly the only big city in the U.S. where installation of new bike lanes require a City Council ordinance. Not surprisingly, our bike lane striping rates have fallen off a cliff since 2012.
City Council control ensures that Philadelphia will never have a 21st Century bicycle network in any true sense of the word 'network', and that the process will always be painfully slow and disjointed, and susceptible to NIMBY sabotage. We can now say for sure this process isn't working.
Fast-Track Vision Zero
It is time for City Council, the Streets Department, the Philadelphia Police Department, and the Mayor’s Office to redouble their commitment to the Vision Zero Action Plan, and fast-track its recommendations.
Public officials must do more than pay lip service to the goals of the Vision Zero Action Plan—they should actively look for ways to speed along implementation and remove political, policy, and administrative bottlenecks to saving lives. In addition to low-hanging fruit like educating street users (especially drivers) about safer practices, officials should be lobbying Harrisburg to increase penalties for drivers who kill or injure pedestrians and cyclists, legalize automated enforcement in school zones and on the High Injury Network, as well as seeking increased funding for re-engineering our streets to reduce vehicle speeds, improve lines of sight, and increase safety.
Complete the Protected Bike Lane Network
A network of safe transportation infrastructure is critical not only for current cyclists but also as a means to encourage future cyclists to discover the many benefits of cycling. In some places, access to a city-wide network of PBLs can be truly transformative for families and individuals. Many Philadelphia neighborhoods are challenged by a mix of low household income, low car-ownership rates, long transit commute times, and poor public health. The bicycle - an affordable, fast, efficient, reliable mode of transportation - can be transformative in the lives of many Philadelphians who are not being adequately served by the City, but only if officials commit to installing a true network of protected bike lanes spanning the whole city.
Sweep the Streets
It’s time to start taking our filthy streets seriously as a municipal problem, not just an issue for individuals. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, for just $5.8 million a year we could sweep every street in the city once a week, and it would also cost only $12 million up front to buy the sweepers.
This isn’t about money - this is about recognizing that the convenience of leaving your car parked indefinitely isn't a higher priority than clean air and water or clean streets. Mayor Kenney made a campaign promise in our 2015 questionnaire to bring back citywide streetsweeping, but since that time, it's been downgraded to a long-term possibility with no accountability metrics for citizens to hold him accountable.
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.
Finish Zoning Remapping
The 2012 zoning code reforms can’t work until City Council and the Planning Commission finish remapping all districts. When then-Councilmember Kenney asked the Planning Commission in 2014 how long it would take to complete zoning remapping, they said they could have it completed by the end of 2019 if they could hire additional staff, and they estimated that this would cost only $3 million.
Money isn't everything though. City Council members still need to approve the dozens of zoning remapping ordinances that Planning has drafted but that still haven't been passed into law. As a general principle, any new zoning remapping bills should refrain from reducing housing capacity in places that are seeing more population growth, and should try to accommodate it instead—especially in the most central neighborhoods close to jobs and our best transit service.
Citywide Transit-Oriented Development Overlay
In 2017, City Council updated Philadelphia's Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Overlay language in the zoning code to allow denser housing with lower parking requirements close to transit stations, but they never named the stations this would apply to, and the few individual station bills that were proposed haven't gone anywhere. It's time for City Council to move beyond tinkering with individual stations, and do something that will really make a big difference. In the 2020 legislative session, City Council should pass an ordinance adding TOD Overlays to all subway, trolley, and regional rail transit stations in the city.
Finish Legalizing Accessory Dwelling Units
Accessory dwelling units (ADUs)—dwellings that sit on the same parcel as a principal dwelling—are an easy and non-descript way to increase infill housing options without visibly changing the character of neighborhoods. Expanding ADUs was one of the recommendations of Mayor Kenney's Historic Preservation Task Force, because of how they can make historic designation an easier sell politically by creating a new rental revenue stream for historic building owners. The 2012 zoning code rewrite included some very progressive language allowing for ADUs, but as with the Transit-Oriented Development Overlays, City Council never wrote in which zoning districts should allow them. City Council should legalize accessory dwellings in all areas of the city wherever the zoning requirements for open space can still be met—not only in areas like Northwest and Northeast Philadelphia with a more suburban character.
Pass the Historic Preservation Task Force Plan
The Kenney administration's Historic Preservation Task Force recommendations contained some very progressive ideas for preserving historic buildings while adding to the supply of housing, new incentives for preservation and adaptive reuse, retooling the abatement to encourage reuse, legalizing Accessory Dwelling Units, and upzoning historic buildings to reduce or remove the cap on the number of housing units they can include. It's a good start toward finding a balance between preserving older buildings and increasing our housing supply, and City Council should turn it into a real bill.
Land Value Tax
It’s time to reform our tax system for the 21st Century. Most tax policy experts agree that Philadelphia should shift taxes toward things that can’t move (land and buildings) and away from mobile sources like workers and investors to achieve the most fair and equitable tax distribution. Concentration of land wealth in the city is a big problem for achieving broadly-shared prosperity and a more equitable distribution of the fruits of the city's recent growth. The next Mayor and Council should commission an analysis of the economic and equity impacts of making the millage rate for land five times the rate for improvements, in a revenue-neutral shift.
Help us win a more accessible, sustainable, and equitable Philadelphia: Sign up to volunteer to help 5th Square win some of these changes in the next City Council session!