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New Car-Free Public Space Remains a Challenge to Create

A new study from Drexel University's Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation surveys the obstacles and challenges making it more difficult to build car-free public spaces, like plazas and parklets, in Philadelphia.
September 23, 2019, 12pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"Plazas and parklets — parking spaces repurposed for other uses — remain a relative rarity in Philadelphia, and a new study has determined that a lack of staff, funding and leadership, and a convoluted bureaucracy contribute to keeping neighborhoods from embracing these improvements," according to an article by Jason Laughlin.

Despite the wide variety of options available for transforming public space currently devoted to automobile travel or storage, barriers to entry remain at almost every step of the process in Philadelphia, according to a new report by researchers from Drexel University, with help from officials at the city.

According to Laughlin, "the study found people consistently didn’t have enough information about how to apply to build a parklet or plaza, lacked money to invest in one, and were confused by the city’s processes. A flow chart of the city’s application to create a parklet or plaza showed an eight-step odyssey through city agencies and public approvals that offered no clear sense of cost or specifics about what was needed for a site to gain approval. Reviewing an application could take days or a year, depending on how busy the relevant agencies are."

The article includes more on the benefits of parklets and plazas, and local examples of processes that have achieved completion in Philadelphia despite the myriad challenges that stood in the way.

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Published on Wednesday, September 18, 2019 in The Philadelphia Inquirer
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