The Philadelphia City Planning Commission is about to complete their long-awaited Philadelphia 2035 Citywide Plan. Philadelphia 2035 is a comprehensive plan to guide the city’s development and policy planning for the next 25 years. I recently attended the Philadelphia 2035 Open House at the AIA Bookstore, a week after attending the Planning Commission meeting where the preliminary draft of the plan was presented to the public. The Planning Commission is trying to obtain community input before presenting the final draft that will guide planning and policy for the city for the next two and a half decades.
Philadelphia 2035 starts with a historical overview of the city’s development – from colonial roots to manufacturing capital to the economically diverse city of today – and then makes certain predictions about the next 25 years. The plan predicts that the city will add 100,000 new residents and 40,000 new jobs in the next 25 years. I think that those predictions are rather modest (the city added 21,000 new jobs in 2005 alone), but the commission decided to use an average between small growth and extensive growth as a benchmark to plan from. Then the plan is divided into three sections: Thrive, Connect, and Renew. These are intended to point out the city’s strengths to build on, connect the various employment, cultural, and residential areas to each other, and renew areas that have much vacant or underutilized land. It is very extensive because it touches on most aspects of the city’s economy, quality of life, environment, and relates the city to the wider region and the global economy.
The most relevant aspect of Philadelphia 2035 that demands planning is the connections between various employment and cultural areas. Most aspects of the city’s economy and quality of life are covered by other city agencies, but connecting these important areas to each other and the city’s and region’s residents requires planning to judge how these areas relate to each other and how people can get to these places from other places in the city and beyond. So, I’m going to focus on the transit connections of the plan.
Some transit improvements have been discussed for a while, including the Roosevelt Boulevard rapid transit, extending the Broad Street subway into the Navy Yard, putting a PATCO light rail line onto the Delaware waterfront that could extend down the middle of Market East, and a rapid transit line under the Parkway that would extend into Fairmount Park and end at 52nd Street & Lancaster Avenue. At the open house, I suggested other ideas. For instance, there has been talk about renovating the raised train trestle on 25th Street in South Philadelphia for a rail line. They could have a rail line originating in the Navy Yard (and a spur from the Airport) that would extend up 25th Street, go underground and turn east onto Washington Avenue for 3 blocks, then go up 22nd Street. It could end at the Parkway, or turn and go under Spring Garden Street down to Delaware Avenue. That route would connect several residential areas with the Navy Yard, the large business district west of Broad and the Parkway. Also, the PATCO light rail along the Delaware waterfront could extend down Pattison Avenue to the Sports Complex and then the Navy Yard. Both those lines, along with the Broad Street line, could give the Navy Yard three rail lines connected to different parts of downtown. Other options could include a rail line on the underground right-of-way just north of Callowhill Street that would connect the Convention Center with the Centennial District of Fairmount Park and also ending at 52nd & Lancaster. There could possibly be a subway under Ridge Avenue, west of Broad to East Falls, since there is already a mile long subway under Ridge Avenue east of Broad that extends to Franklin Square. There, maybe, could be a subway under Germantown Avenue up to the Wayne Junction train station, which is about to be renovated. And, perhaps, there could be light rails or trolleys running east/west through streets in North Philadelphia, such as Lehigh or Allegheny Avenues, or through South Philadelphia, such as along Washington, Snyder, or Oregon Avenues.
The Roosevelt Boulevard rapid transit could be the best rail line to add. It could connect to the Market/Frankford line and the Broad Street line. That means there could potentially be one train from the Navy Yard and one train from the 69th Street Terminal each going to the far Northeast, or even into Bensalem. But, I think that it should extend down Route 1 west of Broad Street. It could be an El over the Roosevelt Expressway in North Philadelphia and then go over or under the Schuylkill River then onto, or under, City Avenue for several miles. This would allow riders to travel back and forth between the busy employment and retail centers of the Northeast and the busy employment and retail centers of City Avenue without going through downtown. This could alleviate congestion on the regional rail system and allow easy rail access along one of the busiest road corridors in the region.
Also, there could be more rail stations in some locations in the inner city. Some examples are being considered already, such as a new subway station around 19th & Market and a new station at 52nd & Lancaster for several rail lines. I think they could add a new station on the regional rail line at 9th & Girard to connect that area to Center City. These new stations could be used for short route lines that would run more frequently than the regional rail and stay in the inner city locations. Also, it’s time for PATCO to extend their line in the city to 30th Street Station.
All these ideas and more can be shared with the Planning Commission on their Philadelphia 2035 website, and their facebook page. You can download the plan there or your share ideas and learn about future public meetings.