Philadelphia

America's Long Suffering Rail Commuters

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The long, streaking commuter trains (suburban rail) carrying workers mostly into and out of downtown every day may give the impression of “rapid transit.” However, regardless of the top speeds they reach, the average suburban rail rider spends far more time traveling to work than those using other modes of getting to work (Figure 1). They spend far longer than the majority of commuters, who drive alone. Even in the New York combined statistical area (CSA), with the largest suburban rail network a majority drive to work (Figure 2).  read more »

Dispersion in US Metros Increases Even Before COVID-19: New Census Estimates

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The latest US Census Bureau metropolitan area population estimates (for 2019) were largely lost in the coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.  read more »

Of Niche Markets and Broad Markets: Commuting in the US

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The six transit legacy cities - mostly urban cores that grew largely before the advent of the automobile - increased their concentration of transit work trips to 57.9% of the national transit commuting, according to the 2018 American Community Survey. At the same time, working at home strengthened its position as the nation’s third leading mode of work access, with transit falling to fourth. The transit commuting market share dropped from 5.0% in 2017 to 4.9% in 2018.  read more »

Ridership Falls Another 2.9 Percent in June

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June 2019 transit ridership was 2.9 percent lower than in June 2018, according to the Federal Transit Administration’s most recent data release. Ridership dropped in all major modes, including bus, commuter rail, heavy rail, and light rail. Ridership also dropped in 41 of the nation’s 50 largest urban areas, declining even in Seattle, which had previously appeared immune to the decline that is afflicting most of the nation’s transit industry.  read more »

The Philadelphia Revival Story

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My latest piece will be in this Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer but is already available online now. It’s about the nascent revival in Philadelphia over the past decade, and its relevance, or rather lack of relevance, to many other struggling cities in Pennsylvania. Here’s an excerpt:  read more »

How Does Housing Stock Affect Urban Revitalization?

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The second of Pete Saunders’ nine reasons why Detroit failed is “poor housing stock,” particularly its overweighting towards small, early postwar cottages. Here’s a sample:  read more »

New York, Legacy Cities Dominate Transit Urban Core Gains

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Much attention has been given the increase in transit use in America. In context, the gains have been small, and very concentrated (see: No Fundamental Shift to Transit, Not Even a Shift). Much of the gain has been in the urban cores, which house only 14 percent of metropolitan area population.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Philadelphia

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Philadelphia was America's first large city and served as the nation's capital for all but nine months between the inauguration of George Washington is the first president in 1789 and the capital transferred to Washington, DC in 1800.

Before the early 1900s, the United States Census Bureau had not developed a metropolitan area (labor market area) concept. However, the website peakbagger.com has attempted to define earlier metropolitan areas based on concepts similar to those used today. In the case of Philadelphia, this is important, because it was somewhat unique in having virtually adjacent, highly populated suburbs that make comparisons of municipal populations (the only population data available) misleading.  read more »

New Central Business District Employment and Transit Commuting Data

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Photographs of downtown skylines are often the "signature" of major metropolitan areas, as my former Amtrak Reform Council colleague and then Mayor of Milwaukee (later President and CEO of the Congress of New Urbanism) John Norquist has rightly said. The cluster of high rise office towers in the central business district (CBD) is often so spectacular – certainly compared with an edge city development or suburban strip center – as to give the impression of virtual dominance. I have often asked audiences to guess how much of a metropolitan area's employment is in the CBD. Answers of 50 percent to 80 percent are not unusual.  read more »

No Fundamental Shift to Transit: Not Even a Shift

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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is out with news of higher transit ridership. APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy characterizes the new figures as indicating "a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities.” Others even characterized the results as indicating "shifting consumer preferences." The data shows either view to be an exaggeration.

1935 and 2013  read more »