Note: This newsletter will be a special one with two urgent action items and a celebration of all the work we have done in the past year!
We are really starting to gain momentum having just signed up our 250th subscribing member and we want to start 2021 strong pushing for a more accessible, sustainable, equitable Philadelphia for all residents.
Please support our work by becoming a member today. We still have some shirts left to give away to new sign-ups, so join today and claim your FREE T-Shirt!
🚲 LAST CALL FOR SPRING GARDEN ST SURVEY
The City is holding a public open house for improvements to Spring Garden St. that ends TODAY, with multiple ways to provide input:
- An online survey asking where bicycle lanes should be located
- An interactive map to share your experience
For the survey, we agree with our partners at the Bicycle Coalition and ask that you “like” Option 1 featuring a parking-protected bike lane and dislike the other options (a median bike lane and a standard bike lane, respectively).
🚲 ACTION: COVID HOTEL EVICTIONS
Philadelphia's Office of Homeless Services is evicting people from COVID prevention hotels and moving them to placement sites with no hot water, shared rooms, and far from transit. Please call or email city officials to ask for adequate spaces and better transparency.
📅 2020 YEAR IN REVIEW
2020 has been a year of tremendous growth for 5th Square! It was our sixth year as an all-volunteer organization -- our supporting member base doubled to 250 members in this year!
Thanks to the work of our dedicated volunteers, our newsletter email list remains incredibly strong, growing to 16,000 contacts. We have also been growing our presence on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Our media presence was huge in 2020, having been mentioned in 70 news articles in print, online and over radio and getting seven editorials printed in the Inquirer and WHYY’s PlanPhilly.
Here is a list of some of the work we have done in the areas of transportation, land use, and public space, to advance a vision for a more accessible, sustainable, equitable Philadelphia for all residents.
🗳️ Organizing & Elections
2020 was a crazy year in terms of electoral politics. Between the extended primary season, the introduction and expansions of mail-in and early voting, and the nail-biter general race where Philly played an outsized role -- 5th Square was there through it all.
We kicked off the year with a very well-attended Candidate Meet & Greet in February at our short-lived physical space in Kismet Spring Arts. We met with candidates running for PA State Representative and State Senate ahead of the primary election.
In April, came out with our primary endorsements for 6 candidates for State Representatives covering districts across Philadelphia. This was based on candidate questionnaire responses and several polls with our subscribing member base. We are proud to report that 5 of our endorsed candidates made it into office this year.
In May, we continued to connect our followers with state-level primary candidates through several lunchtime zoom chats discussing our issues.
For the remainder of the year, we focused our efforts on educating voters on the many new options to vote safely during the pandemic whether through mail, early with satellite election offices, or in-person at their consolidated polling site.
If you want a voice in our organizing and elections process, join us today as a member today and help us pick who to endorse next election season!
🚴 Safer Streets & Vision Zero
We mobilized support for a safer Washington Ave, kicking off with a (pre-pandemic) in-person South Philly meetup and organizing turnout for neighbors and users of this dangerous road to attend the City's virtual open house and provide feedback. The City has since come out with a commitment to the safest 3-lane option with protected bicycle lanes! This is a very important project and we are committed to making sure that this happens in 2021.
In the wake of tragic roadway deaths on West and Southwest Philly's Cobbs Creek Parkway in 2020, we cohosted a petition with Cobbs Creek Neighbors for immediate safety improvements. We also met with and got feedback from local elected officials at the state and local level. In response, PennDOT and the Streets Department laid out their short and long-term plans for this roadway, including a pilot for speed cushions!
In response to the pandemic, we released the Recovery Streets Platform with our partners the Bicycle Coalition, the Clean Air Council, and Feet First Philly. This platform provided a roadmap to the city for opening streets to people and ensuring active modes of transportation and transit don't take a backseat to private car use. We also co-hosted a webinar in August on this topic. While we would still like to see more progress from the City here, we are thrilled to see the extension of outdoor dining to former parking spaces and traffic lanes.
We are also seeing the fruits from our 2019 petitions for increased road safety on the Grays Ferry Avenue Bridge and on 22nd Street in Center City. We are happy to see PennDOT respond with a commitment to build a westbound protected bike lane on the Grays Ferry Bridge in Spring 2021 and to see a protected bike lane on 22nd Street.
A big issue we hoped to see pass in 2020 is SB565, the Parking Protected Bike Lane Bill, which didn't come up for a vote in PA State Senate despite multiple calls to action and amazing turnout. A big issue is the bad amendment introduced by State Sen. John Sabatina, representing Far Northeast Philly, which attempted to make it much more difficult to get roadway safety improvements here in Philly. We are hoping that 2021 is the year we see parking protected bike lanes legalized for our most dangerous roadways.
🏙️ Yes to Housing & Fair Zoning Policies
In late February, 5th Square came out in support of supervised injection sites with our #YIMBYforSIS online campaign and petition. We have provided support in submitting an amici brief for Safehouse and mobilized residents to contact their councilmembers to voice their support for these important addiction treatment centers.
We also activated neighbors to join their RCOs in two well-attended virtual events. Seeing the outsized influence that Registered Community Organizations play in matters of zoning and street design, 5th Square is working on making sure our voice matters in this most local level.
In addition to our city-wide work, we have helped with RCO and Zoning Board meeting turnout to good developments that align with our goals for transit access, density, and sustainability.
We also mustered opposition to bad projects that tried to entrench our region's dependence on cars. We successfully opposed a Super Wawa gas station slated for the Delaware River Waterfront.
We also organized a petition and council hearing turnout to oppose Society Hill Civic Association's exclusionary zoning overlay. While this bill ultimately became law, we applaud Mayor Kenney's effort to oppose this bill in his first veto.
🚌 Better Transit
5th Square's transit work really gained traction in 2020. This year we worked hard to deliver a clear message at SEPTA fare hearings, help launch a new transit advocacy coalition, work with partners to demand transit funding, and provide facemasks to SEPTA workers.
In January, we campaigned SEPTA to Fix the 15 Trolley through organizing a petition and mobilizing riders and advocates to deliver the message at a SEPTA board meeting. From this, we got a commitment from SEPTA to restoring the trolleys after its planned construction project ends.
In March, we ushered in the Transit Forward Philadelphia Coalition with an enormous launch event -- taking our fight for better transit to the next level.
The biggest win of 2020 came from our advocacy with SEPTA's fare restructuring.
Here, we saw the culmination of our 3-year-long campaign for Free Transfers. We held a petition with over 1,500 signatures and drove turnout to countless SEPTA Board meetings. Our campaign also garnered support across a broad spectrum of advocacy orgs, City Councilmembers, and the Mayor's Office.
Ahead of SEPTA's fare policy hearings, we also released our 'Fair Fares' platform and campaigned the transit agency to improve equity and system efficiency through its fares.
In the end, we won big, showing the power of advocacy! SEPTA announced that it would provide its riders with Free Transfers and Free Rides for Children under 12!
Adapting to the pandemic for the second half of 2020, we shifted our focus towards transit funding at the federal and state levels. We co-hosted virtual events with Sen. Bob Casey, SEPTA GM Richards, Rep. Evans, and PennDOT to drive home the importance of public transit funding for our region.
We partnered with Sew Face Masks Philly to sell SEPTA-themed face masks, using the proceeds to provide free masks for transit workers. We also used these masks in our #savetransit social media blitz, emphasizing the importance of transit funding with our elected officials.
In response to the closure of a few SEPTA Regional Rail lines and plummeting ridership, we released a petition asking the transit agency to fully restore service and lower fares on Regional Rail to better suit our times. We gained traction by publishing an opinion piece with WHYY and got support from the Inquirer's Editorial Board. We also hosted a webinar on Transforming Regional Rail with esteemed Penn Professor Vukan Vuchic.
🥂 Celebrating the Biggest Wins of 2020!
5th Square is ending this bizarre year with a celebration of 2020's biggest victories for our region and the hope for many more to come!
SEPTA Fare Restructuring: Free Transfers & Free Children’s Fares
SEPTA's Commitment to Restoring the 15 Trolley
Washington Ave. Safety Improvements: Safest Option Selected
Cobbs Creek Pkwy: PennDOT Speed Cushion Pilot
Grays Ferry Ave. Bridge: Protected Bike Lane
22nd Street in Center City: Protected Bike Lane
Zoning Board Rejecting Giant Gas Station on the Delaware River Waterfront
Multiple Election Victories in State Level Races
These wins are only possible with your help!
Please support our work us by becoming a member today. Join today and claim your FREE T-Shirt!
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.