Philly Celebrates Launch of New Transit Advocacy Coalition

Attribution: "Philadelphia-2009-10-12-029" by pquan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Transit Forward Philadelphia, an unprecedented coalition of local organizations focused on making the regional transit network more equitable, accessible, safe and sustainable , celebrated its official launch today. The launch coincided with a panel discussion and Q&A featuring the General Manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA),Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for City of Philadelphia's Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (oTIS), and City Council Member Helen Gym. 

Transit Forward Philadelphia, supported in part by the American Cities Climate Challenge, is led by eleven Philly-based organizations: 

  • AARP Pennsylvania
  • Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
  • Clean Air Council
  • Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania
  • Economy League of Greater Philadelphia
  • 5th Square
  • Service Employees International Union 32BJ (SEIU32BJ)
  • Sierra Club and Philadelphia Climate Works
  • PenTrans
  • The Sustainable Business Network
  • Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations

With impending changes to Philly’s transit system, including opportunities to redesign the bus network, this coalition, which is meant to represent the community’s voice, is launching at a critical moment. Beyond the redesign, the coalition has an opportunity to amplify voices around other issues that affect Philadelphia’s transit network. An INRIX, Inc study found that the city ranks ninth for the worst congestion in the country. On average, Philly drivers spend 112 hours sitting in traffic per year at a cost of $1,568 per driver. This not only hurts residents’ wallets, but drastically increases the city’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and causes an economic strain in major transit corridors like Center City. This congestion also affects SEPTA, its buses, and all of the city’s bus riders by reducing bus speeds and making the system less reliable.

The struggles of congestion, paired with falling city-wide SEPTA ridership, have created the need for a coalition like Transit Forward Philadelphia to advocate for a better, more equitable transportation system.With groups representing labor, commerce, elderly rights, health and the environment, the breadth of the coalition’s diversity makes it truly historic. Together, they have united with a singular mission: to promote transit improvements that benefit all Philadelphians. 

This coalition demonstrates the growing surge of momentum around, and in recognition of, the connection between our beleaguered transportation system and the climate crisis. With Philadelphians taking the charge on creating a more equitable transit system while fighting climate change at the same time, the sky seems to be the limit for similar advocacy initiatives to follow suit—particularly as the coalition hopes to grow its membership even wider. 

About the Authors

Emily Barkdoll

Deputy Director, Strategy and City Engagement, American Cities Climate Challenge

Kari Ross

Program Assistant, American Cities Climate Challenge

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