• Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.
      Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.

Searching South Philly for sustainable streets

Do you know how often a pedestrian is hit by a car in Philadelphia? Or how many bathtubs worth of water are treated by the stormwater planters on 13th Street?

As part of DesignPhiladelphia, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) and the Philadelphia Water Department held a sustainable streets scavenger hunt that sent participants looking for these and other answers in South Philadelphia. A main goal of Saturday’s event was to introduce Philadelphians to what a “complete street” is and how green infrastructure can be incorporated into street planning to help manage storm water run off.

  • Before the scavenger hunt, Madeline Bell and Aisha Malika from the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center demonstrated how water can flow through porous pavement


Both the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) and MOTU have grand visions for the future of Philadelphia’s streets. MOTU has drafted its Complete Streets Handbook, which is in public comment period until November and which will help guide roadway development that suits all users. The water department has started on its 25-year, $2 billion Green City, Clean Waters plan, which will implement green infrastructure to manage the city’s storm water. Both departments want to create ideal streetscapes that serve all users – motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists – and serve multiple functions – in this case, both transportation and storm water management.

“One of our most important [focus areas] and a place where we can have the most impact is our streets in Philadelphia,” said Jessica Brooks, PWD manager of green infrastructure planning.

  • The stormwater planter at 13th and Wharton streets is the first of its kind in Philadelphia


During the scavenger hunt, city staff were stationed at four area intersections to explain to event participants and passersby how storm water management is or could be in use and how each location might benefit from a complete street makeover.

The sustainable streets scavenger hunt brought participants to
  • 13th and Wharton streets, where storm water planters border Columbus Square
  • 10th Street and Washington Ave, where a combination of complete streets and PWD green infrastructure could create a slower, greener, more pedestrian and bicycle friendly roadway
  • Percy Street, where the water department has installed porous paving that allows water to flow through the roadway surface into a stone bed beneath, and
  • 9th and Ellsworth streets, where a nearby construction project is an example of how future, larger developments will help manage storm water runoff.
  • MOTU's Charles Carmalt spoke with scavenger hunt participants about improvements that could be made to areas like 10th Street and Washington Ave


The scavenger hunt ended at Cantina Los Caballitos where participants who could answer the questions above [1. Every 4 hours a pedestrian is hit by a car in Philadelphia and 2. The stormwater planters on 13th Street treat 7,100 gallons or 142 bathtubs per storm event] and several others had a chance to win a bicycle rack or a rain barrel.

For more information on the city’s complete streets efforts, visit http://philadelphiastreets.com/handbook.aspx, and for more on the Philadelphia Water Department’s green infrastructure, visit their “Big Green Map.”

  • PWD's Pete Reilly demonstrated how water poured directly onto the porous paving on Percy Street seeps into the ground, rather than puddling


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