PlanPhilly

Infrastructure

    • Next Rotem will build 75 rail cars for Boston's MBTA and 56 rail cars for Denver's transit system

The way SEPTA buys equipment is sluggish and outdated, but fixing it means compromise

Last week PlanPhilly reported that SEPTA is expected to award a contract to build bilevel railcars for service on regional rail lines. Today Jim Saksa takes a step back to explain…

    • 31st and Market SEPTA elevator rendering, March 2017 Art Commission

New elevators for SEPTA's 30th Street trolley and El station

Big changes are coming to 30th Street Station. The ambitious Schuylkill Yards project will transform the area, and SEPTA has plans to refurbish one of its busiest stations in tandem with…

    • I-95 construction, 2016 | Michael Klusek, EOTS Flickr Group

PennDOT Secretary hopes to connect the planning dots with new initiative

PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards is a planner, in the professional sense of the word. That slightly unusual fact—most of her predecessors had traffic engineering backgrounds—helps explain her excitement for the…

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ABOUT INFRASTRUCTURE

Infrastructure like roads, water pipes, and sewage systems is simultaneously the most crucial element of urban form while also being the least appreciated.  These forms often run below ground and out of sight and are typically paid for by government agencies, so builders and users alike often take their efficient construction for granted.  However, most infrastructure is very expensive to produce and absolutely necessary for successful urban design. Though its form is rarely seen or acknowledged when it’s working properly, its function can make even the most beautiful of streets an experiential nightmare.  It represents the building blocks of our built environment, and therefore typically comes first in most urban construction.


An important discourse on infrastructure planning, especially in today’s times of factoring energy consumption into the planning process, comes from the suburbs, where low-density developments are built on undeveloped land without previously laying the infrastructure foundation necessary to ensure that the homes are habitable. The sprawl requires local governments to extend public services out to reach these faraway developments, the cost of which can be exorbitant.  In fact, the square footage necessary to connect these distant communities often yields projects that are too expensive to cover with tax payments.  The current trend in planning toward “smart growth” initiatives encourages building in previously developed areas.  These areas are typically well-served by traditional forms of infrastructure.  This infrastructure provides important connections, but it is often aging and therefore requires millions of dollars in upkeep and maintenance, which city governments cannot afford on their own.  This is why infrastructure was central in President Obama’s economic revitalization strategy, highlighted by the “stimulus” bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

UPCOMING EVENTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE

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