PlanPhilly

Mid-year review: 2014 transportation predictions

This winter PlanPhilly looked ahead at 2014 and noted four exciting transportation-related projects scheduled for completion: SEPTA's New Payment Technology (NPT), bike share, the Schuylkill River Boardwalk and the Dilworth Plaza makeover. Now, midway through the year, we've checked in on each of these projects to see where they stand. 

    • SEPTA NPT testing on a Route 23 bus, spring 2014
      SEPTA NPT testing on a Route 23 bus, spring 2014
    • Echelman's fountain at night. The mist, color coordinated with the transit lines, shows subway and trolley movement below. Photo courtesy of Center City District Philadelphia
      Echelman's fountain at night. The mist, color coordinated with the transit lines, shows subway and trolley movement below. Photo courtesy of Center City District Philadelphia
    • The fountain during the day. Echelman hopes visitors will interact with the fountain. Photo courtesy of Center City District Philadelphia
      The fountain during the day. Echelman hopes visitors will interact with the fountain. Photo courtesy of Center City District Philadelphia
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NEW PAYMENT TECHNOLOGY 

As we reported last week, NPT is delayed but still progressing. NPT will replace SEPTA's token-based payment system with an electronic system that will allow passengers to pay with smartcards or NFC-chip equipped devices like smartphones. 

SEPTA is about to conduct a system pilot with employees. The success of that pilot will determine when SEPTA starts rolling out the new system. SEPTA officials says they are in the final phase before launch, but they do not have an official release date. 

DILWORTH PLAZA

When it comes to Dilworth Plaza no news seems to be good news. The project is still on schedule to finish in September, but Center City District (CCD) would not say more than that. Spokesperson Linda Harris said CCD may be making an announcement soon. 

The $55 million project is transforming Dilworth Plaza to the west of City Hall into an inviting, level park with a cafe, green space and gateways to the transit system below. One of the central and more complex features will be a dry-mist fountain designed by world renowned artist Janet Echelman. 

    • Cutler stands with the model bike-share bike
      Cutler stands with the model bike-share bike
    • Philly's bike share system is set to roll out in spring 2015
      Philly's bike share system is set to roll out in spring 2015
    • Philly Bike Share prototype.
      Philly Bike Share prototype.
    • Aaron Ritz and Rina Cutler take a selfie next to the bike share prototype
      Aaron Ritz and Rina Cutler take a selfie next to the bike share prototype
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BIKE SHARE

Originally scheduled to roll out this fall, Philly's bike share system is now going to launch in spring 2015. Last week City Council passed a resolution to approve the bike share vendor (B-cycle) and operator (Bicycle Transit Systems) the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) selected, and the City recently received a $3 million grant to help ensure a socially equitable bike share system. One million of that grant will be used to establish bike share stations in low income neighborhoods. 

"Generally our tendency is to go out and talk about bike share on a pretty regular basis," said Rina Cutler, Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities. "For us the next steps are trying to identify where the [station] locations are and then go out in those neighborhoods to help build consensus."

Next steps also include securing the sponsor who will name the system and determining the color of the bikes. 

    • This spring a flood swamped the Schuylkill River Boardwalk, Photo by Tommy Leonardi
      This spring a flood swamped the Schuylkill River Boardwalk, Photo by Tommy Leonardi
    • Schuylkill River Boardwalk, Photo Courtesy of SRDC
      Schuylkill River Boardwalk, Photo Courtesy of SRDC
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SCHUYLKILL RIVER BOARDWALK

Despite the impressive flooding this spring, the Schuylkill River Boardwalk is still on track to be finished this fall. The work is delayed two to four weeks though because the contractor did lose tool boxes, lumber and railings in the recent flooding. Fortunately there was no structural damage. 

"When we designed it we knew it was going to be flooded at certain times of year," said Lane Fike, Director of Capital Programs at Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC). "This was a pretty monstrous flood."

The remaining work includes pouring a few concrete spans and installing railings and solar lighting. 

Next SRDC is getting cost estimates for a trail segment they plan to build in front of the new CHOP development. SRDC hopes to start construction on that segment in early 2015. 


About the author

Christine Fisher, Transportation reporter

From 2012-2014 Christine covered transportation, writing about everything from pedestrian concerns to bicycle infrastructure, bridges, trail networks, public transit and more. Her favorite assignments sent her bushwhacking through Philadelphia’s yet-to-be-cleared bike trails, catching a glimpse of SEPTA’s inner workings or pounding the pavement to find out what pedestrians really think. Christine also covered community news for Eyes on the Street, where her work ranged from food sovereignty to public art and urban greening. She first joined PlanPhilly in fall 2011 as an intern through a partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods website. 



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