Opinion: Philadelphia Mayor is Failing Transit Riders

By staying conspicuously absent from the controversy over the closure of the Somerset El station, the mayor has avoided involvement in an issue that affects the whole city, according to Philadelphia's leading architecture critic.

2 minute read

April 2, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

SEPTA Bus Transit

Tupungato / Shutterstock

Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Inga Saffron argues that Mayor Jim Kenney's absence from public discussion about the recent closure of a SEPTA station is a "failure of leadership" from the city's highest elected official.

Last Tuesday, a crowd of residents marched to protest the closure of the Somerset El station. "Even though more than a week had passed since PlanPhilly broke the news of SEPTA’s plans, the mayor had yet to utter a word publicly about the loss of a busy station on the region’s most-used transit line — in a neighborhood that is home to the health aides, restaurant workers, and janitors who have helped Philadelphia get through the pandemic." Residents claim that the decision to close the station was sudden and "unilateral," with no set timeline for when the project will be completed.

The closure, Saffron writes, is an issue for the entire city. "Losing even a single station on the Market-Frankford Line weakens the entire network, which gets 80% of its ridership from Philadelphia." The "fluid timeline" is also concerning, as "temporary transit closures have a way of becoming permanent."

"It’s worth noting that SEPTA recently reopened its Chestnut Hill West Regional Rail Line, which was closed early in the pandemic, in response to pressure from the affluent northwest of the city. That entire line had an average weekday ridership of 543 in March, according to a SEPTA spokesman. Meanwhile, 800 people a day were using the Somerset Station in the same period, down from a pre-pandemic total of 1,900." The city's mayor, argues Saffron, should get involved to ensure that none of the city's neighborhoods get left behind. "In these dark and difficult times, we need a mayor to be an advocate for the whole city, someone who will console us and offer us hope."

Sunday, March 28, 2021 in The Philadelphia Inquirer

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

A view straight down LaSalle Street, lined by high-rise buildings with an El line running horizontally over the street.

Chicago to Turn High-Rise Offices into Housing

Four commercial buildings in the Chicago Loop have been approved for redevelopment into housing in a bid to revitalize the city’s downtown post-pandemic.

April 10, 2024 - Chicago Construction News

Purple jacaranda trees in bloom in Los Angeles with tall white Art Deco buildings in background.

LA County Releases Draft Community Forest Management Plan

LA County's Chief Sustainability Office just released the discussion draft of Room to Grow, the first Community Forest Management Plan for the county.

April 21 - Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office

Aerial view of downtown Seattle, Washington at dusk.

Seattle Downtown Plan Expands Permitted Uses

The Downtown Activation Plan shifts from Euclidean to form-based zoning to encourage more commercial development.

April 21 - Governing

Large water pipe with brown water pouring out into dirt ditch.

Southern Water Infrastructure at Risk From Climate Impacts

A water main breaks somewhere in the United States every two minutes, according to an estimate from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

April 21 - The Conversation

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.