DRWC, with its consultant team led by Foursquare ITP and other project partners like SEPTA and City agencies, has completed a comprehensive transit study and near-term action plan to boost access and improve the experience of getting to and from the Delaware River Waterfront and the many new parks, trails, and other destinations that are drawing more and more people every day.
The Waterfront Transit Study specifically focuses on ways that DRWC itself can immediately encourage transit to the river and improve upon existing City and SEPTA public transportation services. This study explores ways to achieve a more dense, walkable, and human-scale Waterfront for Philadelphia, consistent with the vision established by the Master Plan for the Central Delaware.
New private residential and retail development, coupled with investments in public spaces, are transforming the Delaware River Waterfront from a commercial and industrial corridor into a mixed-use neighborhood and recreation destination. The Waterfront Transit Study begins with an existing conditions analysis that attempts to understand how these trends are impacting the corridor’s mobility needs.
Transit is increasingly crucial as more events are hosted at public spaces along the Waterfront. This study determines that most events are hosted in the afternoon or nighttime, and on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays; existing transit is often at its most sporadic and low capacity at these times. Additionally, the more than 15 development projects proposed across DRWC’s six-mile jurisdiction will dramatically increase the population. Most of these new projects are of a lower density than the maximum allowed under current zoning. The lower land-use density poses a challenge to realizing improved transit investments as density strongly correlates with transit demand. The challenge for the Waterfront is that the relationship between transit and development goes both ways: generating higher-density development that is less car-centric would be easier if transit access was improved.
The study showed mixed results on whether the Waterfront is transit-friendly – on the one hand, 300,000 residents currently have a one-seat ride to the Waterfront through public transit. Conversely, the physical roadway of Delaware Avenue/Columbus Boulevard in its current form does not meet the Master Plan’s vision of an urban, multi-modal boulevard. High traffic speeds, roadway width, poor maintenance, and inadequate pedestrian and bicycle facilities all pose a challenge for pedestrians and cyclists. Signage and bus stop conditions are also in need of repair or improvement towards a more non-car-centric design.
Public Input and Engagement
On October 9 and 10, 2018, DRWC’s Planning and Development team hosted two public meetings – one at the Independence Visitor Center and one at Old Swedes’ Church. The purpose of the “open house” style meetings was to share an overview of existing conditions related to transit to and along the Waterfront, and to invite feedback on some of the ideas that might inform preliminary recommendations. In addition to these open houses, the consultant team created an online survey that saw almost 1000 respondents. DRWC also incorporated questions about transit use into its summer data collection project.
Community feedback confirmed that multiple transit gaps barriers exist along the Waterfront, including transit gaps (ex: lack of bus lines, infrequent service,) infrastructure gaps (ex: hostile pedestrian environment,) and information gaps (ex: lack of information about transit options.)
While much of the Waterfront is already within walking distance of bus service or Market-Frankford Line (MFL) train service, there are still several opportunities to enhance transit services within the public realm to better meet the needs of people traveling to and along the Delaware River Waterfront. In the long-term, DRWC envisions a larger-scale transformation of the Waterfront through the reconstruction of the Delaware Avenue corridor into an urban boulevard with dedicated transit lanes. However, this large transformative investment is still likely over a decade away from being realized, and smaller incremental transit improvements can be made by DRWC and its partners in the near future.
Implementation and Phasing
Since large-scale transformations to Waterfront transit are long-term goals, the study recommends a series of transit improvements that DRWC can initiate in the “near-term” more quickly. Some examples include the following:
- Increase frequency of bus routes along the Waterfront
- Provide better information about existing transit options and unify signage
- Ensure bus stops meet safety and accessibility standards
- Add shade, seating, lighting, and public art to transit points
- Improve crosswalks and sidewalks
- Invest in more connector streets, such as Washington Avenue
- Create dedicated ride share pick-up/drop-off points
- Ensure transit alternatives in case of construction and events
Stay tuned for additional updates and announcements by checking this page, following DRWC on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram or signing up to receive updates on design and planning on the waterfront. We’d also like to thank our project partners: SEPTA, the Philadelphia Streets Department, the City of Philadelphia Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (oTIS), Philadelphia City Planning Commission, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Central Delaware Advocacy Group (CDAG), and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).
Final Report: Waterfront Transit Study
DRWC Transit Study Boards