Mayor: Rebecca Rhynhart response to 5th Square questionnaire

Rebecca Rhynhart, running for Mayor of Philadelphia


I’m running for Mayor because Philadelphians deserve a mayor who works as hard as they do.
I am the only person running for Mayor that has executive branch experience. While working for two Philadelphia Mayors for close to a decade and five years as the independently elected city controller — I have a proven record of creating real pathways to change for our city by identifying issues and connecting with stakeholders to guide the change needed to make government work for the people of this great city. I also know our city’s budget inside and out, what’s working and what isn’t.
As Controller I looked at our city’s most pressing challenges and how our city departments operated. I know what was working and what wasn’t, I made recommendations on how our government could better serve our residents. That is where my authority ended, Controllers can only recommend, Mayors must act and as Mayor I will take action on day one.


Short Response:

1. (a) Will you commit to reducing Philadelphia’s annual traffic deaths in half by 2026?


(b) Do you support redesigning Philadelphia's most dangerous roadways if this means eliminating travel lanes for automobiles and parking spaces?


(c) Daylighting is a pedestrian safety measure achieved by replacing curb parking spaces near an intersection with flexible posts, planters, or bollards – increasing visibility for pedestrians and drivers. Do you support daylighting more intersections in Philadelphia if this means removing parking spaces?


2. Will you support a ballot measure to establish a PHL Department of Transportation, combining the transportation division of the Streets Department with the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (oTIS)?


3. After two terms in office, the Kenney Administration will have built 30 miles of protected bicycle lanes. Will you support an expansion of Philadelphia’s network of protected bicycle lanes by an additional 30 miles by 2028?


4. (a) The pilot speed camera program on Roosevelt Blvd has changed driver behavior, improved safety, and saved lives. Do you support making the speed cameras on Roosevelt Blvd permanent?


(b) Do you support expanding speed camera enforcement to more high-crash corridors across Philadelphia?


Comments on the above short response questions:

Not only do I support creating a Department of Transportation but on Day One of my administration I will appoint a senior level official who will oversee the aforementioned departments and ensure each department is aligned with our infrastructure goals including vision zero, while we wait for an official charter change to create the new department.

Long Response

5. Despite the city taking a Vision Zero pledge to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2030, more than 120 people died on city streets in 2022. What will you do to significantly lower the rates of traffic deaths in Philadelphia?

The best way to significantly lower the rates of traffic deaths in Philadelphia is to redesign our city's most dangerous roadways to increase pedestrian and bike commuters' safety. The data shows that 80% of all traffic deaths and serious injuries on just 12% of Philadelphia streets. Transforming our most dangerous streets will involve making significant investments into our capital budget specifically for Vision Zero- aligned projects.
There are strategies that have proven to be successful in other cities, such as daylighting, that should be prioritized and included in all our city’s roadway improvements. As Mayor, I will leverage the historic federal funds available from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Last August, Senator Casey announced $25 million in funding for the “Great Streets PHL” project to make safety improvements to high-crash corridors in historically disadvantaged communities and areas of persistent poverty. This funding specifically targets seven high crash areas and will provide safety countermeasures. This project is only made possible by leveraging federal funds. It is estimated that Philadelphia could receive as much as $735 million in funding from the IIJA, more than half of which comes from competitive grants. Under my Administration, the Deputy Mayor of Infrastructure, and eventually the Department of Transportation, will constantly evaluate which opportunities are made available to municipalities to improve the safety of our streets and will aggressively pursue the funding opportunities.
My appointed senior level official overseeing transportation and infrastructure will also lead an effort to re-evaluate our ordinances and laws regarding street improvement. This re-evaluation will seek to understand what barriers our ordinances have created that hinder our ability to improve our streets and utilize common sense safety measures effectively and efficiently. Once these barriers are identified my administration will work urgently to create new ordinances to help streamline these much-needed improvements.

6. Many curb cuts, crosswalks, bus stops, and sidewalks across Philadelphia are routinely blocked by illegally-parked vehicles. How will you address this specific problem?

If we are going to seriously prioritize pedestrian safety, then we need to implement smart solutions to address illegal parking as Illegally parked vehicles jeopardize the safety of pedestrians.
First and foremost, we need to enforce parking regulations by hiring and deploying unarmed Public Safety Enforcement Officers to patrol Center City and other areas and commercial corridors with high levels of illegal parking. My administration will also advocate for the PPA to utilize parking enforcement technology, such as plate recognition software, to more efficiently identify violations and issue citations, as recommended by my office's audit of the PPA in 2020.
As Mayor, my administration will develop a citywide parking plan with the goal to increase loading zones in both residential and commercial areas, install electric vehicle charging stations and ensure an equitable residential parking permit system. By strategically increasing our loading zones we can dramatically decrease the number of illegally parked cars. This strategy will only be successful if we enforce our parking rules and regulations.
Lastly, we need to empower our residents to report illegally parked cars. It is our residents who have the most interaction with cars that are illegally parked at bus stops, on sidewalks and in bike lanes. Through significant improvements of 311, we can allow our residents to report instances of illegal parking, verified with photos, to crackdown on those individuals who park illegally and potentially hold repeat offenders accountable for their actions.

7. What is your plan to ensure the city’s sidewalks are safe and usable for all pedestrians, including people with disabilities and families with strollers?

The City of Philadelphia needs a sidewalk improvement process and plan. The first step in establishing this process will be to get an accurate accounting of the conditions of our sidewalks. Under my administration we will prioritize increasing the curb cuts across our city through the master road paving schedule. We must make our sidewalks more accessible to those with disabilities and families with strollers.
The walkability of our city will be a top priority of the Department of Transportation and within that scope will be the quality of our sidewalks. Starting with our most disadvantaged neighborhoods, this department will evaluate the conditions of our sidewalks and determine which sidewalks need city intervention for their repair.
By and large sidewalk repairs are the responsibility of property owners. As the poorest big city in America, we need to recognize the financial hardship many of our residents' face. Therefore, my administration will develop a grant program to help low income property owners repair their sidewalks.


Short Response

1. Will you support an expansion of the current municipal street sweeping program, even if it means non-compliant motorists may receive parking violations or have their vehicles towed?


2. Do you support easing regulations on outdoor dining streeteries and facilitating more parklets and pedestrian plazas even if this means eliminating space for parking?


Long Response

3. Place-based interventions like greening vacant lots, repairing abandoned homes, and planting street trees in Philadelphia is linked to a reduction in violent crime, a decrease in illegal dumping, and lower rates of depression among residents. How will your office work to accomplish these place-based interventions in historically-disinvested neighborhoods?

Under my leadership as City Controller, my office reported on the correlation between neighborhoods historically redlined and high levels of poverty, gun violence and other negative outcomes. We must recognize that our communities are still suffering from the wrongs created by racist government programs such as redlining, and we must be intentional in the actions we take to address those wrongs.
As Mayor, I will activate the emergency operations center to coordinate the operating departments to make immediate improvements to the neighborhoods that have experienced historical disinvestment as part of my public safety plan. Specifically my administration will focus on the 14 zip codes (out of 40) that have the highest level of violence. In the first 90 days my administration will tow the 35,000 abandoned cars littering our streets, repair dangerous abandoned buildings and clean our vacant lots. It will be a priority of my administration to invest in our neglected neighborhoods and show our residents that our city cares about them.
Greening these neighborhoods serves multiple purposes that improve the health of the neighborhood. We know that these disadvantaged neighborhoods have higher temperatures, are more prone to environmental concerns, such as flooding, and generally have a lower quality of life due to increased littering and illegal dumping. As a city we are committed to increasing our tree canopy and as Mayor I will prioritize these neighborhoods to benefit from the tree canopy programs, such as the planting of street trees. We cannot just encourage our residents to adopt a street, as a government we must invest more into maintaining those trees and, where appropriate, repair tree damaged sidewalks for our residents.
Lastly our city owns approximately 8,500 vacant lots and properties, my administration will prioritize turning these lots into affordable housing to help grow our city but in the interim we would develop a program to allow neighborhood associations to utilize these lots for community gardens and spaces while these lots are in the process of being dispersed to developers. The bureaucracy of government should not overly contribute to the blight of our neighborhoods, when possible, we should be allowing our residents to utilize this land for their common good.

4. Philadelphia’s public spaces suffer from two main types of improper waste disposal: littering and illegal dumping. For decades, the City’s reduction and removal efforts have been woefully inadequate. What would you do to solve this issue?

The responsibility of cleaning our city should fall to our municipal workforce. As a city we rely on residents to report illegal dumping and volunteers to pick up litter and keep our streets free of debris. To shift the responsibility of keeping our streets clean from our residents to our municipal workforce, my administration will take the following steps. As Mayor I will expand the SWEEPS unit in the Streets Department and put more city employees on the ground citing incidents of illegal dumping. To further enforce incidents of illegal dumping, my administration will prioritize installing cameras to monitor areas that are known sites for illegal dumping. Monitoring alone will not solve the problem. We must enforce the rules and utilize progressive discipline for those who illegally dump. In addition, we need to reevaluate the rules and regulations of our sanitation centers to ensure those rules are not creating unnecessary barriers that put some of our residents in a position to illegally dump. Philadelphia continues to be the only major city without regular citywide street sweeping, this must change. We cannot let the cleanliness of our streets decline because residents will not move their cars. Other municipalities have managed to have regular street sweeping and mitigate residents' concerns about parking, we can and will do the same. Under my administration we will look at the best practices from other cities to determine what can be adopted here in Philadelphia. Whether it's containerized trash bins, like those being piloted in New York City or track trucks with automated loading arms, there are more efficient ways for our city to pickup and manage trash. By utilizing more efficient means of trash collection we can free up resources to deploy sanitation workers to clean up litter easing the burden currently on volunteers. Finally, we need more trash cans across our city and should explore utilizing underground trash containers to expand our trash collecting capacity. There are far too few trash cans that are publicly available, especially when you leave the greater Center City area. As we improve staffing levels in sanitation and deploy more efficient tactics of trash collection we can dedicate staff to handle the public trash cans to keep our streets and commercial corridors clean and litter free.

5. The city has struggled to staff and adequately fund city services , which has resulted in reduced hours at libraries, pools, and recreation centers. How would you ensure consistent and convenient hours for these facilities?

As a former budget director, I know that when the mayor prioritizes a program or department, the money can be found. It is imperative that our youth have access to activities and programming all year round. Therefore I will make it a priority to fully fund our libraries and parks and recreation centers and yes under my administration our pools will open at the beginning of the summer. Library, parks, and recreation services should not be considered luxury and should not be the first things on the cutting block when making tough budget decisions.
Regarding our pools, my first budget as Mayor will have a budget increase to reset the pool opening cycle. Rather than have our pools unable to open until the new fiscal year (July 1st) we will increase funding to allow pools to open after Memorial Day of fiscal year 2025. Going forward money will be allocated each fiscal year for pools to be open from July to September and again May to June of the budgeted fiscal year (fiscal years run July-June).
The gap between when Parks and Recreation summer services begin and when the school year ends is unacceptable and leaves many parents without any options for childcare or activities for their children. As a city we can and will fix this.


Short Response

1. Do you support the City of Philadelphia enrolling all municipal employees into the SEPTA Key Advantage program?


2. Do you support the City establishing a fare discount program for low-income riders?


3. Do you support congestion pricing - a toll for vehicles entering Center City and University City during peak travel times - with funding used for improving public transportation?


Open to Exploring

4. Do you support increasing the cost of monthly residential parking permits and using the funds for improving public transportation?

Not necessarily opposed, but believe there are more substantial means to generate this needed revenue, including collaborating with the collar counties on a joint plan for increased funding.

5 (a). Do you support expanding bus-only lanes throughout Philadelphia, even if this means removing a lane of travel for personal vehicles or parking?


(b) Do you support using camera technology to enforce bus-only lanes and bus stops by ticketing violators?


6. Will you advocate for increasing local transit funding to SEPTA?


7. Do you support a subway/metro line for Roosevelt Blvd?


8. The City of Denver launched a popular e-bike rebate program in an effort to reduce vehicle miles traveled. The rebate program offered $1,200 for income-qualified residents and $400 for everyone else for e-bike purchases. Do you support a similar program here in Philadelphia?


9. Do you support micro-mobility initiatives such as scooter share programs for Philadelphia?


Comments on the above short response questions:

I am opening to studying the concept but at the current moment I am not in support of this proposal. There are still many low income residents who do not use public transportation because it is unreliable and rely on car sharing or driving their own vehicle to work. I would not support a policy that puts a further burden on those residents.

Long Response

10. What are your ideas for combating Philadelphia’s problem with traffic congestion?

Philadelphia was recently named the 4th most congested city in the United States. This designation is not a surprise to anyone who commutes in and out of our city. Short term solutions like conducting traffic studies at our most congested intersections to ensure that the congestion isn’t caused by our infrastructure or deploy parking enforcement officers to prevent cars from double parking or blocking the box might immediately alleviate some of our heaviest congestion but does not address the root cause of the congestion, namely the overreliance on cars to commute in and around our city.
To truly ease the congestion on our roadways we need solutions that will increase the use of public transportation, walking, biking and other forms of commuting that don't involve motor vehicles.
We should encourage more of our residents to use biking as their primary means of commuting by expanding our network of bike lanes to ensure that every neighborhood is accessible via designated bike lanes. My administration will prioritize establishing new and protected bike lanes and will leverage capital improvements to roads as an opportunity to create more protected bike lanes. To further expand residents options, we must continue to expand the Indego Bike Share network to reach more of our city's neighborhoods and explore other shared programs such as e-scooters.
We must also make SEPTA more efficient and more reliable. Some of our neighborhoods must still rely on driving into the city because of the inconsistent and inconvenient SEPTA services, which is why I support the Roosevelt Boulevard subway line and will advocate for state and federal funding for the massive infrastructure project. This subway line would give residents in Northeast Philadelphia a convenient, reliable and quick way to access Center City allowing many of our residents to forgo using their cars. In addition, to make riding the bus more efficient, we will expand the number of bus only lanes and utilize technology to enforce the lane restriction, allowing our buses to travel more freely through our streets. Lastly we need to explore ways to incentivize our residents to use SEPTA, this can include an income based fare discount system and expanding the SEPTA Key Advantage Program.

11. What are your solutions to ensure SEPTA rebuilds its ridership post-pandemic?

SEPTA is still trying to recover from the severe negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on its ridership. The next Mayor must work with SEPTA's leadership to accelerate SEPTA's recovery and make much needed improvements to our public transportation system.
One way to ensure SEPTA rebuilds its ridership is to incentivize our residents to use public transportations rather than other modes of transportation. One of the best ways to incentivize our residents is to implement more progressive fare policies. As Mayor I will work with SEPTA to explore expanding the eligibility requirements for the reduced fare program to make more residents experiencing poverty eligible for the program. My administration will also work with SEPTA to promote and expand the SEPTA Key Advantage program, encouraging more of our employers to purchase transit passes for their employees in bulk at a discount. Beyond expanding two programs that SEPTA already has in place, as Mayor I will advocate that SEPTA make additional fare policies and, where appropriate, allocate resources to help offset the costs. Most importantly I will advocate that SEPTA fully integrates our regional rail system and subway service within Philadelphia. Currently passengers who ride the trolley, subway or bus can not transfer to regional rail. This has a disproportionate negative effect on our lowest income residents who often have jobs that require them to travel further away from the city. The sheer cost of regional rail and the lack of transfer options make riding regional rail an unrealistic choice for those low income residents despite it being a more efficient mode of travel. Making regional rail a true part of the SEPTA network will encourage more residents to utilize the service. Other progressive policies that should be considered include eliminating all transfer fees and exploring implementing fare capping that has been successful in cities across the world such as London and Portland Oregon.
Lastly we need to make SEPTA clean and safe. SEPTA cannot accomplish this alone. SEPTA's current SCOPE program provides services to unhoused individuals who use SEPTA stations as shelter; this program should be expanded citywide. To help accomplish this, under my administration, the city will make community response teams available to SEPTA to provide direct services to those in need on their buses, subways and trolleys. In addition our Streets Department will ensure that all of our public transportation stations and stops have updated and proper lighting. Much of the cleanliness and safety issues on SEPTA are a spillover from issues happening in our neighborhoods and on our streets. Tackling our biggest issues such as the opioid crisis and gun violence will make our public transportation system safer. You can find my plan to tackle the opioid crisis here and my plan to make our neighborhoods safer here.
SEPTA is in the midst of a complete redesign which has the potential to make our system more efficient and effective. As Mayor I will advocate to ensure that any changes SEPTA makes are done with the best interest of our residents in mind. I will direct the appropriate departments to make changes to our infrastructure to further enhance the improved SEPTA system, including improvements to street lighting and creating more bus only lanes across our city.

Personal Travel Habits

1. How often do you ride a bicycle for transportation in the city?


2. How often do you ride public transportation in the city?


3. How often do you travel by car in the city?


4. Will you commit to taking public transportation at least one week of each year while in office?


5. How do you typically commute to work? Describe your experience traveling in Philadelphia and what you would do to improve it.

For the majority of my career in Philadelphia I have commuted to work by walking. These walks allowed me to experience first hand the challenges the city is facing even in Center City. Everyday commuting I see unsheltered individuals struggling with mental health challenges. I see litter on our streets and as a commuter I have to navigate through sidewalks blocked by construction sites and illegally parked vehicles. In addition I see numerous cars blocking intersections and bike lanes causing more difficult and dangerous commutes for our residents. I know many of these issue are more prevalent in neighborhoods outside of Center City.
Regarding my commute specifically, as Mayor I will ensure our operating departments enforce the rules and regulations on the books. I will increase the number of L+I inspectors in the field to issue citations for illegally block sidewalks around construction sites and parking enforcement officers to issue citations for illegally parked cars. I will lead this city with courage and will use compassion care to address issues with our homeless population and get them the help they need and deserve. As stated earlier in this questionnaire, I will work to clean our city and reduce litter by providing more trash cans and repurposing our sanitation workers to increase litter pickup.
Though I do not personally bike, my husband is an avid cyclist and has shared his thoughts regarding our bike infrastructure. As stated earlier I will take several steps to improve that infrastructure and make our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclist alike.


Short Response

1. Do you support eliminating minimum parking requirements for all of Philadelphia’s zoning categories?


2. Will you veto or vote against downzoning overlays?

I believe that any vetoes against downzoning overlays should be handled on a case by case basis.

3. Do you support legalizing Single-Room Occupancy dwellings (SROs) in all multifamily and commercial zoning districts across Philadelphia?


4. Will you support designating Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) overlays city-wide, allowing increased commercial and residential zoning density near all rail transit stations in Philadelphia?


5. Should our city government encourage the growth of Philadelphia’s population back to 2 million residents?


6. Should our zoning allow for denser housing in high-income, high-amenity neighborhoods to accommodate more residents?

My administration will create a city wide housing plan to address the need for more affordable housing and market rate housing. Once this plan is developed we will work with City Council to implement the plan and create a public dashboard to keep our residents informed of our progress. Base on this plan, my administration will consider zoning in all neighborhoods and advocate for the necessary changes to accomplish our goals.

Long Response

7. The affordability crisis hits renters harder than owners. Philadelphia Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) estimates the city needs about 70,000 affordable rental units to meet demand. How will you address this affordable housing shortage?

To ensure shared prosperity, we must increase the number of affordable housing units in our city. All of us deserve the dignity of a roof over our head, no matter your income level. Philadelphia has an affordable housing problem and yet the city owns 8,500 vacant properties and lots throughout the city. These properties present a unique opportunity to build affordable housing for our residents. As Mayor I will direct my administration to create a citywide housing plan that prioritizes affordable housing options in every neighborhood and to work with City Council to implement the plan. My administration would also develop a public dashboard so residents can track the progress we make towards building more affordable housing to accommodate our residents.
We need a diversity of options available to support our ability to meet our residents’ needs on affordable housing, thus I would be supportive of measures to allow Single Room Occupancies and Accessory Dwelling Units.
I would also prioritize keeping individuals in their home by expanding the renter eviction program so that we can subsidize the rents of individuals on the brink of eviction while making sure that “mom and pop” owners with 1-3 properties can keep their bills paid.
Additionally, my administration would implement a door-knocking effort in gentrifying neighborhoods to inform long-term homeowners about existing city programs that would ensure they can remain in their homes, such as the Long Term Owner Occupants Program (LOOP) and the Senior Tax Freeze.

8. Record low housing supply has pushed up home prices, closing off the possibility of home ownership to many first-time homebuyers. The median home value in the Philadelphia metropolitan area has reached $320,000, increasing $100,000 from 5 years ago. How can we keep neighborhoods affordable and sustainable as Philadelphia sees more growth and development?

I believe it's important that we acknowledge the history of housing policy in Philadelphia and our country, that it was racist and designed to suppress the ability of Black residents to build wealth. The repercussions of these policies continue to be felt today which is why we must target investments in redlined neighborhoods to level the uneven playing field created by these historical outcomes.<br/ > As our city's economy grows, a key priority of my administration will be to ensure that all our residents benefit from that growth. My administration will invest in workforce development and job training that will be available in our most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Models like West Philly Skills Initiative show what can be achieved when programs upskill residents and connect them to existing opportunities at local universities, businesses, city government and trade unions. My administration will also explore leveraging federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to bridge the gap for residents by piloting a universal basic income for our most disadvantaged residents.
As mentioned in my previous response, I would expand the renter eviction program to subsidize the rents of individuals facing eviction so that they can stay in their homes. I would also be supportive of measures to allow Single Room Occupancies and Accessory Dwelling Units to ensure we have a diversity of affordable housing options available to meet our residents’ needs in addition to my administration’s efforts to keep long-time residents in their homes by increasing awareness of existing programs to accomplish this.
I would also support measures that increase density in areas with high need for affordable housing in order to reduce competition for existing moderately-priced housing.

9. Philadelphia faces some serious headwinds from more residents and businesses considering leaving the city for the suburbs, more than at any point in the last two decades. What do you think must happen to ensure the region’s economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic comes out in urban-Philadelphia’s favor?

As Mayor, I will lead the way on recruiting new businesses who will offer family- sustaining wages to come to the city by convening and directing our city departments to make it easier for new businesses to grow here.
I believe one of the most important steps, the mayor needs to take to spur more business and job growth is to improve the ease of doing business with and in the City of Philadelphia. This involves two components: reducing the red tape and bureaucracy barriers that bog down the ability to do business in our city and reevaluating our tax structure to ensure we’re offering a viable path for small and emerging businesses to set up shop in our city without transferring the tax burden to our middle and low- income residents.
It’s also important that we address quality of life issues and make sure that our city is clean, vibrant and safe. My administration will address the lack of on-time trash pickup and ensure that our public spaces are clean and safe.
My administration will also preserve and expand our city's tree canopy which has decreased over the last decade or so. Tree canopies help produce clean air, reduce C02, provide shade from the sun, and actually reduce temperatures. Studies show the tree canopy also has positive effects on the life of our residents, facilitating higher levels of physical activity and lowering crime.


Tell us more about what you bring to the table as an ally for urbanist politics in City Hall. Why should 5th Square endorse you over other candidates running for your position? What makes you the right person to advance the urbanist movement’s goals politically at the local level?

We have a great city but we're in critical moment where we need a leader who has a clear vision and the background knowledge to overcome our greatest challenges and reach our highest potential.
I know our city's budget inside and out and from my time in the Controller's office, I have the blueprints for how to make our city run more efficiently and equitably for all of our residents. As City Controller I showed the courage necessary to change the status quo and that's exactly what I would do as Mayor, too.
My vision is to create a safer Philadelphia, a cleaner Philadelphia – so that we can shine through as the great city that we are! A city where the arts flourish, where our cultural institutions along with our history, neighborhoods, and sports teams, are on display. My vision is for our youth to have opportunity no matter their zip code – through fixing our public schools and creating workforce pipelines to our fastest- growing sectors that offer family-sustaining wages. And all along, my vision is to use data to make decisions, to operate our city in the best in class way.
What sets me apart is that I have the experience and the courage to make that vision a reality.