PA State Rep 187: Will Gross response to 5th Square questionnaire

Will Gross, running for State Representative, 182nd District


I believe we cannot keep sending the same kinds of people to Harrisburg and expect different results – which is to say I believe that there are enough career politicians and political insiders in Harrisburg and it’s time for fresh air. As a Progressive small business owner at OX Coffee, the husband of a union organizer, a proud member of the AAPI community and a person who has proudly championed a living wage & delivered it within my power, I present a choice voters will notice and be proud to make. No other candidate in this race has been on the ground dealing with many of the issues that are critical to understanding these issues as I have. I am a service worker first, and a small business owner second. I am a Barista, a coffee roaster and have worked with my team in the highest risk environments since the beginning of the pandemic. I understand the need for everyone to have access to health care, because like so many others, I’ve been caught between being on Medicaid and affording Obamacare. I understand what it’s like to live in fear of a landlord. I understand what it’s like to work as an adult for an unlivable wage. I also understand the reality of owning a small business nearly crushed by the pandemic, left to figure out how to care for a staff through those turbulent times. If we are going to move forward, if we’re going to act swiftly on these specific issues and create sustained progress, we need someone who will be able to articulate the needs of the people and I believe I can be that voice.


1 (a). Some of Philadelphia’s most dangerous streets for pedestrians and cyclists based on injury statistics are PennDOT-owned arterials, many of which are major downtown streets and commercial corridors running through densely-populated parts of Philadelphia. Would you use your position to support safer urban arterials by pushing PennDOT to adopt Vision Zero and complete streets policies? (


1b. What types of legislative and policy changes are needed to correct this problem at PennDOT?

We need to prioritize people over cars in this city. There can be no compromise on safety for those cycling or walking in any neighborhood of this city. What's currently happening on Washington Avenue in my neighborhood perfectly illustrates this. We have a major road within the city that has historically been deadly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. It is just plain wrong that council members are able to stall or deny the safest option from the people of our communities and that is exactly what's happening at the present time. We need to invest in more public transportation, in better lighting for all of our streets, in more protected bike lanes, in lowering the speed limit and installing more traffic speed cameras. We must also investment in our roads. Far too many of our streets are in such bad shape that it's almost alarming when you are able to walk, cycle or drive 3-4 blocks without seeing massive pieces of road missing, masses of earth creating obstacles, sinkholes or potholes.

2 (a). Will you co-sponsor the ‘Vulnerable Road User’ Bill which increases fines for causing death, serious and bodily injury of vulnerable roadway users by careless and reckless driving? (


2 (b). Parking-protected bike lanes have a row of street parking between vehicle traffic and the bike lane. These kinds of lanes are allowed now on city streets, but not state roads, which are among the busiest and most dangerous for bicyclists. Will you co-sponsor the parking protected bike lane bill? (


3 (a). State lawmakers like Nikil Saval and Brian Sims endorsed the Safer Washington Ave campaign’s demands and played a helpful role in showing support from elected leaders. Will you join these other elected officials in publicly endorsing Safer Washington Ave and future road safety campaigns? (


3 (b). How would you listen and respond to constituents who oppose road safety measures out of fears of traffic congestion and gentrification?

We all come from different perspectives, but I think we can all agree that seeing needless injuries and deaths each year in our city is horrific and unacceptable. We need to prioritize people over cars in this city. It is not right that folks fear riding a bicycle or going for a walk in our neighborhoods. If we prioritize walking, public transit and cycling in this city, far fewer folks would be inclined to drive and therefore we'd see a decrease in that form of traffic. We must show respect for our pedestrians and cyclists by prioritizing safety. To those who oppose this direction or these types of safety measures, I'd hope to illustrate ways that this city can become safer AND less congested with cars.

4. Pennsylvania passed legislation enabling automated speed enforcement on Roosevelt Blvd and highway work zones. Do you support the expansion of automated speed enforcement to School Zones and on other High Injury Network streets throughout Philadelphia? (



All of our streets in all of our neighborhoods must be safe from dangerous driving and drivers. The automated speed enforcement on Roosevelt Avenue has made an incredible difference in safety and we absolutely should expand this type of enforcement, particularly for those streets within school zones. All of our children should be able to walk to and from school without fearing dangerous driving or drivers. Our streets belong to all of us and we must do everything we can to ensure the safety of those most vulnerable.

5. Do you support state-enabling legislation for congestion pricing, permitting municipalities and regions to institute tolls on cars entering into the most congested areas, and using the funds for improvements to transit, and for infrastructure for walking and bicycling? (



I support any type of device that we can implement to decrease the amount of cars within the city and increase funding for our roads, protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety. We need to move in a direction in prioritizing people and cyclists over cars and this could be an incredibly effective way to make folks think twice before driving into the city. Funding public transit by way of this type of legislation is a way to offer a real alternative to more people wanting to come into the city.

6. Transportation is the third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania. While many elected officials are relying on people adopting electric vehicles, we would like to see the commonwealth play a more active role in reducing car dependence. What do you see as the solution to combat these emissions, enhancing mobility and improving safety in your district and Pennsylvania more broadly?(

We need to invest in more public transportation solutions in this city. We need to invest in more subway lines, in more more trolley lines, in adding electric buses and ensuring our roads are safe for these electric buses. We need to invest in renewable energy as a state and adopt a Green New Deal for PA. We need to move away from fossil fuels, create green jobs and green industry and make it worth while and affordable for folks in more rural areas to actually purchase electric vehicles (the vast majority of folks cannot afford a Tesla!).

7. Would you support prioritizing the East Coast Greenway multi-use trail system by accelerating the completion of gaps in its network, improving safe walking and biking connections to underserved neighborhoods, and creating a dedicated maintenance funding source to upgrade existing trails in need of repairs? (


8 (a). State gas tax revenue has been decreasing due to improvements in fuel economy and a switch to electric vehicles. Of the options in Gov. Wolf's Transportation Revenue Options Commission Report, which recommendations do you support the most? (

I think that bridge tolling, congestion fees and managed lanes make complete sense. Encouraging carpooling and adding smaller tolls on many bridges could go a long way toward building revenue for much needed improvements and development for alternatives to driving.

8 (b). Should our commonwealth continue to fund highway expansion projects as a means to combat congestion?


9. What are some of your own ideas for enhancing mobility and improving road safety in your district and Philadelphia more broadly?

We must add more protected bike lanes with actual cement barriers, we must add bicycle traffic lights, we must add better lighting for all of our streets, we must add more funding to traffic flow research and studying traffic light timing, we must install more speed cameras especially in areas where injuries and deaths have occurred, we must lower the speed limit in the vast majority of our streets and we must incentivize the use of public transit by way of investment.


10 (a). Do you support the Transit For All PA funding platform to generate $1.65 billion dollars/year to replace Act 89's funding for transit? (


10 (b). Do you support legislation enabling local governments to implement new transit funding mechanisms, while ensuring that local funds are supplemental and not used to replace a shortfall from the state? (


10 (c). How would you propose raising the necessary funds for Pennsylvania's public transit going forward?

I think that further interstate taxation, corporate income and head tax increases, wealth tax increases and luxury vehicle taxes make the most sense.

11 (a). SEPTA is undergoing several projects to reform the way it currently operates including redesigning its bus network, improving its wayfinding, reimagining regional rail, and modernizing its trolley system. Do you support these efforts? (


11 (b). If so, how would your district benefit, and what will you do (or have done) to ensure that SEPTA can advance these changes? If not, how should SEPTA spend its capital budget instead?

I think longterm we need to invest in trolley and subway service in this district and across the city. We need more lines for both trolley service and subway service. People will use them, there is no question. We'd see an immediate decline in cars in this city. We need to invest in more electric buses, add buses and add lines as well. We can absolutely do this as so many other cities, some much smaller than our have.

12. Do you support dedicated bus and trolley lanes and legislation enabling automated enforcement cameras to deter other vehicles from using these lanes? (



Getting on or off a trolley shouldn't include fearing your safety, it's very simple. We must make it impossible for someone to be struck by a car that's walking on or off a trolley car. Again, this goes back to the idea of prioritizing all other forms of transport over cars. Envisioning it as the trolley's road that the car is fortunate to share.

13. What are some of your own ideas for solutions to improve the quality (frequency, speed, and accessibility) of transit service in your district and Philadelphia more broadly?

We need more bus lines, more trolley lines, more regional rail lines and more subway lines. We need these lines not only in the center of our city, but in all neighborhoods and in all communities. We have to mean it when we say we want it. We have to mean it when we say that there is a better, more safer way to live, work and raise a family in this city and that that means less cars and prioritizing all other forms of transportation.

Land Use

14. The price of a typical home in Philadelphia was increasing at a faster rate than the ability of a typical Philadelphian to pay for it. Do you see a major component of this problem as constrained housing supply due to restrictive zoning laws? (

Yes and No


I believe there is an incredible lack of affordable housing in this city at the present time and that new development is not addressing this issue as well as it could and should be. There is also the issue of the hundreds upon hundreds of abandoned or unused buildings in our city that should be rehabilitated to be used for housing. On top of this there is the issue of a living wage for the state of PA. As prices go up, wages must rise as well. In order for us to make a living wage possible for all employers across our city and state, small businesses in particular, I have a plan that involves taxing empty store front landlords that do not make a good faith effort to rent their properties. Please read this article I wrote for the inquirer last year to learn more about that plan:

15. Would you support state-based efforts to preempt local zoning and land use controls to encourage housing development particularly in affluent and transit-rich areas? (



Yes I would, absolutely and I would focus my efforts on providing affordable housing in all new development.

16. If elected, what will you do to make housing, both market-rate and subsidized, more affordable?

This is a two sided issue, the first is the actual cost of living and the second is earned income. We NEED to have a living wage in the state of PA. We can and must move toward that now. We must also ensure that all new development offer housing that realistically takes into account the average earned income of the community.

17 (a). An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a self-contained home with its own kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area on the same lot as the main house. They can be used to keep multi-generational families together, to give homeowners the option to rent part of their property, and to give seniors more options for aging in place. Do you see permitting ADU construction as an important element in increasing housing supply? (


17 (b). What efforts will your office take to ensure seniors can age in place?

Giving those seniors in our communities the ability to live independently with dignity is an absolute priority. Promoting and allowing ADUs to be constructed is a key part of seeing this through. We must also provide seniors with volunteer opportunities throughout the community and I can absolutely see a state representative's office tackling this.

18 (a). Philadelphia is currently experiencing over 1,000 overdose deaths annually, a significant public health crisis. Do you see supervised injection sites as an important element in the battle against addiction deaths? (


18 (b). Why or why not?

I believe this is a moral question. What can we realistically do to prevent unnecessary death? Safe injection sites are a piece of the answer. As is treatment, as is investing in the deployment of health professionals for overdose victims, as is going after those who created this situation to begin with. As we approach the solution to this question, we must also train those in areas of high usage in narcan application.

19. Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania DEP are moving to participate in a program that would limit harmful carbon pollution from power plants in Pennsylvania. This program is called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and it would have power companies pay for the pollution they generate while setting caps on future pollution. Different interest groups within the Democratic Party have taken different positions on this, with some building trades unions on one side and environmental groups on the other. If elected, would you support joining RGGI? (



We have to move away from fossil fuels now and the RGGI is a step in the right direction. It is not as aggressive as I would like personally, but it is a heck of a lot better than we are doing now, which is essentially nothing. States all around us have either joined or are in the process of joining and it is in our best interest that we join now.

20. Tell us more about what you bring to the table as an ally for urbanist politics in Harrisburg. What makes you the right person to advance the urbanist movement's goals politically or substantively at the state level? How would you build support for pro-urbanist policies among your colleagues from outside our region?

I am a pedestrian, a cyclist, a sometimes driver and a small business owner who depends on people getting to and from my shop on 3rd street safely. I am someone who has lived in cities across this country with public transit systems that not only work, but that deter folks from driving. Places where having a car is an absolute inconvenience. We must reshape our culture around movement in this city. We must make it more equitable. We must make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. We must invest in our people and place people ahead of cars. We must think bigger and not be deterred by folks who say it cannot be done. That way of thinking, those narrow minds will not get us to where we need to go. I am not someone who simply talks about progress, I am someone who makes actual, tangible progress. I brought a living wage to the workers at OX Coffee and I am proud of that. I can articulate our shared needs and I can do my part to frame the argument so we see this vision through.