Philadelphia’s Path to Zero
Philadelphia will invest in safer roads and transportation through the Vision Zero Action Plan
By Mayor Jim Kenney
Philadelphians have suffered greatly because of COVID-19. In fact, as I write this, we have seen more than 80,000 cases and more than 2,000 deaths. But I’m convinced that those numbers would have been worse without the strong response led by the City’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley. He and his team developed protocols using the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as from the Health Department’s own case investigation and contact tracing interviews. Philadelphia’s ongoing protocols are fully grounded in the latest science and are revised in the most appropriate manner as the local situation and federal guidance changes.
Just as physical improvements to transportation infrastructure should be long lasting and sustained, community engagement should also build relationships.”
The financial impact of COVID-19 has been nearly as devastating as the human toll, with businesses shuttered, thousands laid off, and major portions of our region’s mass transit system shut down as workers ended their commutes to work remotely. The City’s budget suddenly faced a $750 million deficit that was closed primarily through painful service cuts and job reductions.
Philadelphia’s most immediate Federal need, after a vaccine, is direct and flexible local aid to deliver essential services and support to residents and businesses in the face of cratering tax revenue. The City of Philadelphia has hundreds of millions of dollars in shovel-ready infrastructure projects, everything from sewer replacements to street paving to bike lanes. We can get our residents back to work with quality jobs that pay a good living wage and lower our 17%+ unemployment rate the day Federal infrastructure funding shows up.
The acute financial crisis on top of long-running issues facing Philadelphia, including chronic underfunding of our aging infrastructure, could not have come at a worse time. Our most significant transportation problems have not gotten better during the pandemic, they have gotten much worse. Over the last nine months we have also seen a dramatic increase in traffic deaths. The month of July 2020 was the worst single month during my administration when 24 people were killed in crashes over 31 days. Together with all the challenges Philadelphians have faced this year, these tragic deaths make our Vision Zero efforts more important than ever.
In response, my administration released a new 5-year plan: the Vision Zero Action Plan 2025. The plan builds on Philadelphia’s progress over the last three years and advances the next phase of work using a safe systems framework. The path to achieving Vision Zero is not accomplished easily and requires a fundamental and widespread commitment to systemic change from how we design our roads, how we regulate speed limits, and how we invest in safe transportation alternatives to driving. It will take all of us to reach zero.
While I am committed to reaching zero fatalities, we need our State and Federal partners’ full participation. The State holds the keys to tools such as automated speed enforcement and even the ability to set safe speed limits. The Federal government holds the purse strings to truly fund safe infrastructure and streamline project delivery. Federal agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) must also compel the large automakers to design vehicles that not only keep occupants safe but keep pedestrians and cyclists outside of the vehicle safe as well.
Just as the pandemic heightened our traffic safety crisis, it also elevated the crises of social justice and climate change. Improving mass transit is part of the solution to both. While ridership is drastically down today, a recovered and reimagined Philadelphia needs a fully functional transit system to make real progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to keep Philadelphians moving to jobs and schools in an inclusive manner.
My administration will soon release a plan so we can continue to work with SEPTA, New Jersey Transit, and PATCO to improve opportunity and access for all residents, especially people of color who extensively use the bus network, as do young people, seniors, people with disabilities, and households in poverty.
Furthermore, community partnerships and dialogue are essential in equitable planning. A fundamental principle of CONNECT: Philadelphia’s Strategic Transportation Plan is that residents should have a say in the infrastructure decisions that affect their lives. Just as physical improvements to transportation infrastructure should be long lasting and sustained, community engagement should build relationships. When the City and our partners are planning changes to transportation design or programming, we commit to transparent processes that are grounded in community dignity.
Mayor Jim Kenney is the 99th Mayor of Philadelphia. Since 2016, Mayor Kenney has fought to increase equity in every neighborhood to ensure that Philly is a city that works for all. To learn more, visit phila.gov.