Newsletter: Free Transfers WIN | Politics From Home: Vote By Mail + Take the Census 💻 | Mobility During Coronavirus 🏃‍♀️

Weekly Newsletter, Issue 107


Out of an abundance of caution, 5th Square is indefinitely postponing all our scheduled events and meet-ups.  Thank you for your interest and we hope to resume these meetings soon!



While many of us are spending more time at home, here's one way we can still participate in local politics: vote from home in the upcoming election. With the recent changes to PA election law, any registered PA voter can request a mail-in ballot for any reason: either online here (if you have a valid Pennsylvania ID), or by mail from your county's election office. The request must be accepted by the elections office by April 21st.


Filling out the Census is another civic function everybody can all do from home. Every household should get a mailing from the Census Bureau this month (if you haven't gotten it already) with instructions. You can do it online at (website available in 13 languages) or by phone. There's concern that the pandemic will result in an undercount, and therefore underfunding and underrepresentation, so please remind your all your friends and neighbors to fill it out.


In an article about our region's transit network seeing a dip in ridership due to coronavirus, 5th Square chair Dena Driscoll weighed in on ways the transportation system can support with the social distancing the pandemic requires.

For those able, Driscoll said, now might be the time to consider alternative forms of transportation, such as walking and biking, to prevent overcrowding on public transportation.

She offered suggestions to help systems run efficiently, such as closing certain streets for bikes or buses that could see supplemental service. The method could almost work like a snow emergency route, she said.

“We could leave the space for people who really need it,” she said.

Tom Gralish, Inquirer Staff Photographer


The week before SEPTA's Fare Restructuring Plan announcement, we published an op-ed in the Inquirer, "SEPTA transfer fees are an outdated, burdensome penalty on Philadelphians" making the case against charging $1 for transfers. Not only is the policy inequitable, but it works against SEPTA's goals of increasing accessibility of the whole network.

Charles Fox, Inquirer Staff Photographer


5th Square is part of a new 10-member coalition of organizations organizing transit riders for improvements to the system, and a fairer, more rider-friendly fare system. Read all about Transit Forward Philly coalition and what we hope to accomplish this year.

Photo: The Philadelphia Inquirer


South Philly Review writes about the safe injection site controversy, and the politics of siting this important resource for fighting addiction. West Passyunk Neighbors Association President and 5th Square member James Gitto was quoted in the article saying the city should stick to the official zoning process when considering such a facility.

Gitto, perhaps uniquely, approaches the subject from a zoning perspective. In Philadelphia, for example, somebody who wants to open an auto repair center can do so without community approval so long as the plot of land they plan to open on is already zoned for it. These are referred to as “by right” projects. This, Gitto argues, is effectively what Safehouse was doing at the Constitution Health Plaza – opening a medical facility in a building that’s already been zoned for it. Therefore, no community approval should be necessary.

“It sets a bad precedent to force community meetings for projects that are by right,” he said. “It makes the zoning code pointless.”

Safehouse vice president Ronda Goldfein. | Photo by Tom Beck


SEPTA recently released their Fare Restructuring Plan that includes some bold steps in the right direction like eliminating the $1 Transfer Penalty for the vast majority of riders and a significant reduction in child fares to $1 up through 11 years of age. 

Our volunteers were at the fare restructuring announcement to ask questions about the plan, and support some big moves from SEPTA in our direction. This is a watershed moment in SEPTA's thinking about their fare plan that could mean more affordable and seamless journeys for tens of thousands of riders.


After three years of sustained advocacy from 5th Square, including a One City/One Fare campaign that garnered over 1,500 signatures and support from City Council members, this proposal is a sign of what is possible when transit riders organize. 

We're not done yet. We believe an even better deal is possible, and we're asking you to join us as a member and work with us this spring to advocate for better policies like fare capping, unlimited transfers, and a commitment to free child fares.






The Philadelphia Inquirer | Philly’s street sweeping means we have to move our cars. So?

The Philadelphia Inquirer | In Philly, you can buy a property for $1, be convicted of a crime, not pay taxes, and still keep your home

The Navy Yard Blog | PIDC Announces Philadelphia Navy Yard Development Partner Shortlist - The Navy Yard Blog 

WHYY | To reach hard-to-count communities, a play about the census during tax-prep season


Pittsburgh City Paper | Gisele Fetterman says we need to embrace safe-injection sites for those afflicted by drug addiction

WHYY | As debate rages over a supervised injection site, some ask, ‘do public meetings empower privilege?’


The Philadelphia Inquirer | SEPTA transfer fees are an outdated, burdensome penalty on Philadelphians


Passyunk Square Civic Association | Board of Directors (Due 4/3)


The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) Fellowship Program provides a unique experience in urban and regional planning to serve in various departments at the Commission over the course of a year. (Due 4/17)

Serve Philadelphia is holding its Civic Engagement Academy.  The Civic Engagement Academy is about inspiring local community change through training and skills development.

SEPTA Citizen Advisory Committee - Membership Application - this group is made up of transit riders representing Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties. There are currently a number of vacant positions and we are seeking transit riders, from across the SEPTA service region to apply to become a CAC member.



The application period for the 2020 AARP Community Challenge is open! The AARP Community Challenge provides small grants to fund "quick-action" projects that can help communities become more livable for people of all ages. Applications are being accepted for projects to improve housing, transportation, public space, technology ("smart cities"), civic engagement and more. (Due 4/1)

DVRPC's Competitive Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) seeks to fund transportation projects that will improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion in the DVRPC Region. CMAQ eligible projects will demonstrably reduce air pollution emissions and help the DVRPC region meet the federal health based air quality standards. (Due 5/29)

PWD’s Soak It Up Adoption program. This grant-based green stormwater infrastructure (‘GSI’) monitoring and engagement program is actively seeking new partners for 2020. The bottom line is that civics and nonprofits who are eligible can receive small, annual grants to care for constructed GSI within their borders. The program is built upon a two-prong approach of weekly GSI site visits, and reporting, as well as community engagement.



SEPTA | Manager of Planning Programs - (Managing the Comprehensive Bus Network Redesign !!!)

Community Design Collaborative | Executive Director (!!)

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia | Communications Manager

New Kensington Community Development Corporation | Economic Development Director

City of Philadelphia | Department of Revenue Technical Writer

City of Philadelphia | Department of Commerce Director of Data - Office of Economic Opportunity

City of Philadelphia | Procurement Department | Local Business Entity Coordinator

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation | Property & Concessions Manager

The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability | Senior Energy Management Analyst

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health | Public Policy Advisor

The Pew Charitable Trusts | Senior Officer, Pew Fund in Philadelphia

Women’s Community Revitalization Project (WCRP) | Organizing Director

TRA | Project Analyst

South Kensington Community Partners | Greening Programs Coordinator

The City of Philadelphia's Department of Commerce | Director of Business Development - Strategic Technology Initiatives

Theatre Philadelphia | Executive Director

Riverfront North Partnership | Greenway Stewardship Assistant

West Philadelphia Skills Initiative | SEPTA - Bus Operator Program

5th Square is Philadelphia's urbanist political action committee.

We're an all-volunteer grassroots organization advocating for safe and affordable transportation, abundant housing, and more and better public spaces. You’re receiving this email if you signed up via our website, attended one of our events, or supported one of our advocacy campaigns. 

Support our advocacy with a recurring monthly contribution of $5.