Newsletter: 🚋 A Setback for Trolleys / 🛣️ The Return of Cars / 🚂 Reforming Commuter Rail

Weekly Newsletter, Issue 148


Tom Fitzgerald of the Inquirer wrote about how Amazon outbid SEPTA for land in Southwest Philly originally envisioned for a trolley maintenance yard -- and the lasting impacts this may have on modernizing our trolley fleet.

TOM GRALISH / Inquirer Staff Photographer

In the article, Kingsessing resident and 5th Square member, Will Tung, spoke about how trolleys have always taken a back seat in both politics and planning.

We see year after year, Regional Rail gets all this investment. I’d like to see some equity.

This is a sentiment also echoed by Southwest Philly community groups in the article... instead, we will get an Amazon warehouse that will clog business corridors and trolley routes with delivery trucks and non-union jobs that are subject to automation.

At 5th Square, Trolley Modernization is high in our transit advocacy priorities and while we want to see immediate progress, we also want SEPTA to take the time and effort to get this once-in-a-generation project right.

Thank you very much to those who have helped us fight for a better, faster, more accessible trolley fleet, and letting our representatives know the importance of functional transit.

Want to join us in our fight for the future of trolleys? Sign onto our petition calling for federal funding of SEPTA's Trolley Modernization Project.


Inga Saffron writes about the post-pandemic return of cars and the need for Philadelphia to their return.

While Philadelphia’s elected officials focus on the city’s immediate economic health, they also need to be thinking about its long-term survival. And that means shaping policies that will create a less car-dependent, more climate-friendly, people-centered future.

YONG KIM / Inquirer Staff Photographer

The article mentions the need for MLK to permanently dedicate space for active transportation and go on a road diet for safety. The last thing we need is for MLK to go back to being the pre-pandemic high-injury companion highway to I-76.

Saffron also points out the regressive nature of reducing the parking tax and how SEPTA and our elected officials really should be taking this opportunity to make sure we have a future with less cars in our city streets.


Jake Blumgart of Governing delves further into the concept of commuter rail reform, this time examining whether agencies across the US can implement better platforms, high-tech fare systems and fewer workers in its delivery.

Today the future of America’s commuter rail model, including its heavy staff levels, is in doubt because of COVID-19. Unlike their counterparts in Europe or eastern Asia, these lines are a boutique service and offer few options on the weekends or weekday non-peak commuting periods. That’s because U.S. regional rail systems have long been oriented toward suburban white-collar commuters.

David Kidd/Governing

This is a companion piece to Blumgart's first article, Taking the ‘Commuter’ Out of America’s Rail Systems and looks into reforms which we at 5th Square have been advocating for years -- in terms of making SEPTA's rail system work beyond the traditional suburban commuter.

We have most recently gained traction on this issue with our our petition for SEPTA to restore service & lower fares on regional rail, and its companion opinion piece on WHYY.

Most promisingly, regional rail reform has been picked up as a priority in the Philadelphia Transit Plan, a forthcoming fare study by DVRPC, and SEPTA's promise to develop a Regional Rail Master Plan.

Support a more livable and sustainable city by becoming a 5th Square member TODAY!

Annual Subscriber, $60 per yearMonthly Subscriber, $5 per monthOne Year of Membership, Starting at $60


Wednesday, June 2, 2021, 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM
ULI Philadelphia: Benefits and Burdens - Case Studies in Transportation Equity in the Philadelphia Region

Metropolitan Planning Organizations often find it challenging to measure equity impacts of major infrastructure investments, but understanding these impacts is critical to ensuring future projects meet equity standards and goals. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) tasked a team of Temple University Graduate students to define a clear way of measuring equity to evaluate past projects and inform future policy and planning decisions. During this presentation hear from DVRPC about the scope of this project and the two student teams on their findings and recommendations after developing a methodology and applying it to eight past infrastructure projects ranging from transit to roadways to trails.

Saturday, July 24, 2021
TransportationCamp PHL 2021 Summer Gathering

As discussed prior to TransportationCamp PHL 2021, the TCPHL21 team is pleased to be hosting an optional extension of the conference — the TCPHL 2021 Summer Gathering — on Saturday, July 24, 2021. The gathering will be an opportunity for TransportationCamp participants to interact with one another in an in-person setting, accounting for the improved global pandemic conditions. Additional details will be shared in the coming weeks, but you can expect a day of fun urban exploration with fellow TransportationCamp participants, concluding with a happy hour in the afternoon.


Lower Poquessing Creek Trail Feasibility Study - "The Philadelphia City Planning Commission wants your help planning a 4.3 mile section of the Lower Poquessing Creek Trail. Please provide comments to on where you would like connections to the trail, how you would use a new trail, and more. Having input from residents, local businesses, and community groups will help us identify challenges and determine the best trail alignments and access points. Please contact Keith Davis at [email protected] with any questions, comments, or suggestions.

SEPTA Forward: Bus Revolution Survey - As part of SEPTA's bus network redesign, they will be looking for input from transit riders and community members throughout the process.  Please take a moment to tell them your hopes for the project and early thoughts about SEPTA’s bus services. The survey will take 2-3 minutes to complete. 

phila2035: The 25th Street Transportation Safety Study - The 25th Street Transportation Safety Study will look at ways to improve traffic and road conditions along 25th Street. The study will cover the area from Washington Avenue to Passyunk Avenue. The project will partner with nearby residents and businesses to propose short- and long-term safety improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) and Michael Baker Intl., a transportation planning firm, will guide the study and engagement.



WHYY / Opinion: How public space in Philly can help combat anti-Asian racism / Teen Girls Need Better Public Spaces to Hang Out

The New York Times /Can Removing Highways Fix America’s Cities? / Where Covid’s Car-Free Streets Boosted Business



West Philly Local / Cedar Park community association supports controversial housing development at 48th and Chester

Pittsburgh City Paper / Transit-Oriented Development and a potential new path for growth in Pittsburgh

Vox / The housing shortage makes housing discrimination much easier / What the White House Means When It Says Housing Is Infrastructure

WSJ / Biden’s Neighborhood Revitalization Plan Looks to Detroit for Inspiration

Volunteer with 5th Square


2021 Healing the Planet Grant Program - The Healing the Planet Grant Program, funded by The GIANT Company, aims to build environmental stewardship by connecting people and families to community green spaces, improve community green spaces, support environmental restoration efforts, and support community gardens. Applications will be accepted for $2,500, $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 and $25,000. Interested applicants that have smaller projects that do not meet the minimum grant of $2,500 are encouraged to expand the scope of their project or partner with another organization. Applications for less than $2,500 will not be considered. A list of criteria for eligible projects can be found below. Applications will be accepted online June 1, 2021 through June 30, 2021 at 5:00pm EST.

PHFA - 2022 Housing Policy Fellowship Program Application - The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency ("PHFA") is accepting applications for the 2022 Housing Policy Fellowship Program. The Fellowship will provide an opportunity for the selected recipient to undertake a project/program that addresses a housing issue of significant interest/relevance to the applicant. PHFA is attempting to create a cadre of new leaders that will think creatively and broadly about possible solutions to the ongoing affordable housing needs of Commonwealth residents. Due 6/18


WHYY / Plan Philly Reporter

Delaware Nature Society / Education Coordinator


Philadelphia Parks & Rec / Seasonal Maintenance Attendant - Mifflin Sq Park

Philadelphia Zoo / Job Opportunities

Johnson, Mirmiran, and Thompson Inc. / Transit Facility Architect/Team Leader

CHOP / Assoc Dir Volunteer Relations

Fairmount CDC / Executive Director

Playworks / Program Manager

Pennsylvania Voice / Reflective Democracy Associate

Pennoni / Planner / Urban Designer

City of Philadelphia - Department of Commerce / Director of Communications

City of Philadelphia - OIT, SmartCityPHL program / Data Fellow

South Philly Food Co-op / Cashier & Guest Services Associate, Grocery & Wellness Department Clerk, Produce Department Clerk, Bookkeeper + Member Data Manager

The Food Trust / Director of Finance

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) / Transportation Planner

Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC) / Policy Director

The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice in the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University / Practitioner-Researcher, Program Manager, Interim Operations and Human Resource Specialist, Senior Research Associate, Research Associate, Graphic Designer, Manager of Marketing, Office Manager

FMC / FP&A Business Partner – Global Research and Development and Global Regulatory

Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson / Traffic Section Head

ULI Philadelphia / Associate, ULI Philadelphia

Bread & Roses Community Fund / Director of Grantmaking

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation / Summer Jobs

Transit Forward Philadelphia / Transit Fellow

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.