One of the main issues that city planners are taking into consideration is that as the commuter-rate rises, so do the fatality rates.
“It’s starting to look like [the Boulevard] is at a little bit of a capacity,” said Thompson. “It’s getting’s to a point where something needs to be done.”
Some action being taken to relieve the congestion is to add more commuter services through Transit First and a possible commuter rail or subway.
Transit First is a system that gives SEPTA bus drivers the ability to turn traffic lights green as they reach the intersection to speed the ride of bus passengers, a small incentive to encourage taking the bus. It has already been implemented on certain bus lines throughout the City of Philadelphia.
A possible commuter rail has been rumored since the 1990s, and the idea is dug up from the grave every few years in hopes of bringing more drivers off the road and into public transportation. Most recently, the DVRPC backed out of its plan to extend the commuter rail line into the Northeast in early 2013 due to insufficient funds.
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission conducted the US 1 Roosevelt Boulevard Corridor Study
in 2007 to address the transportation and safety disputes that occur from the Boulevard from Ninth Street to Grant Avenue in Philadelphia, a total of eight miles. The study recognized that the high volume roadway produces high pedestrian traffic within the urbanized population and has contributed to fatalities over the years. The report made several suggestions for specific intersections where striped crosswalks, visual and audible countdowns, and midblock crosswalk stops were needed. A majority of these pedestrian safety recommendations have been implemented.
PennDOT has also been in collaboration with the Philadelphia Streets Department and SEPTA to align multiple crosswalks with bus stops as part of a $1.4 million Mid-Block Cross-walks and Safety Enhancement Plan, which originated in 2009 by the state agency. The work planned by PennDOT has since been left uncompleted and delayed due to lack of funding.
Drag racing has also killed several people, pedestrians and car accident victims alike, along the Boulevard. Besides increased police intervention, Philadelphia started implementing the controversial red light cameras at the Boulevard’s worst intersections in 2004; there are now 10 intersections along the Boulevard equipped with red light cameras and since their implementation, accident and pedestrian death rates have reportedly decreased.
However, the problem isn’t just the congestion or the drag racing, but it’s the pedestrians themselves too.
Nancy Ostroff, a Northeast resident, said jaywalkers should be ticketed just like speeders. “There are laws on the books about jaywalkers,” she said. “If police would start ticketing jaywalkers, maybe there would be less deaths.”
Several of the incidents where pedestrians were struck or killed along the Boulevard actually involved pedestrians who were walking into oncoming traffic without a crosswalk or against a red light. Though there are ordinances against jaywalking, it is not policed like several other issues such as speeding or reckless driving or running red lights.
“People feel like they can cross in the middle of the road or beat a red light because it’s their neighborhood,” said Joe Ciliberti, a Northeast resident.
Many people still see the Roosevelt Boulevard as a great and essential part of Northeast Philadelphia. It brought urbanization, economic growth and community to an otherwise empty farmland. It provides easy access into the city and into the further suburbs and allows for a large amount of movement within the communities. However, the Boulevard was built when not much else existed in that area and automobiles ruled the roads. As the community around it has evolved, city planners must figure out how this road will evolve with it from auto-centric
with no pedestrian activity to auto-driven
with expected pedestrian activity.
Kayla Devon is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University's Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.