March 14: Storm update | Nestel + Fenerty | Infrastructure report card

This season’s messiest storm, has been a combination of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and challenging road conditions so far. NewsWorks reports that Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York have declared states of emergency and most schools and businesses have closed for the day. Public transit systems, including SEPTA, PATCO, and NJ Transit are running on storm schedules or suspending service along certain routes, so be sure to check before you travel. Check the city’s Office of Emergency Management site for updated information about the snow emergency and city services. And remember, the city has enacted a Code Blue, enabling additional services for individuals experiencing homelessness. Call the outreach line at 215-232-1984 at any time to help. PlanPhilly will keep sharing weather updates today via twitter. Be careful out there.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has released the 2017 “infrastructure report card,” and America did not test well. As a whole, there were more losers than winners this year. America’s cumulative grade, which includes transit, waste, and parks, among other categories, is a D+.  America’s public transportation systems scored even lower, earning a D-, the lowest grade of any form of infrastructure in the country. Keystone Crossroads’ Eleanor Klibanoff goes over exactly what this means for Pennsylvania’s public transit systems. Pennsylvania’s infrastructure grade, back in 2014, was a C-.

The Inquirer reports that SEPTA’s top cop, Thomas Nestel III, earned $100,000 from contract work for the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) over 10 years. The contracts, some of which were no-bid, were awarded and signed by Nestel’s friend and neighbor, Vince Fenerty, the former PPA director who was forced out of the job after it came to light that he sexually harassed two female employees.

In today’s world of open data, cities, planners, and the curious have a striking amount of information at their fingertips. Bob Gradeck, project director of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, cautions that a wealth of data alone cannot help counties and cities tackle regional issues such as affordable housing or transportation. Instead, he reminds practitioners to use data as a tool to inform the decision-making process, as “there’s no substitute for talking with people, but particularly people who can easily access city and county information.” Keystone Crossroads’ Margaret Krauss covers the data center’s progress and community participation efforts.

Alexander Dukes, a United States Air Force Community Planner, contributes to Strong Towns to discuss the three core features of land development that guide managing municipal design: arrangement of land, use of land, and form of land. Duke urges municipalities to develop a regulatory system that considers these core features, which, as part of a participatory planning environment, “expresses the public consensus for how the town or city should develop,”

Another best practice for cities and counties to steal are case studies in operational efficiency. Next City goes over the Operational Excellence in Government project, which aggregates over 200 state and local reports on efficiency. Government officials can use the meta report to compare reports side-by-side, use the project’s searchable database, and find cost-saving opportunities and implementation guides that may work best for their municipality.

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