May 19: Amtrak engineer taken into custody | Philly housing prices up 22% | Bike to Work Day

Brandon Bostian, the engineer operating Amtrak 188 when it derailed in 2015 killing eight passengers and injuring 200 others, was taken into custody Thursday morning, the Inquirer’s Jason Laughlin reports. Attorney General Josh Shapiro charged Bostian last Friday, just seven hours before the statute of limitations was set to expire, with eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, causing a catastrophe; and numerous counts of reckless endangerment. NBC 10 reports that National Transportation Safety Board investigators analyzed the engineer’s cellphone to determine whether he was distracted by the device and found it had been turned off before and during the incident. Laughlin writes that Bostian was ordered release on an $81,000 “sign-on bond,” meaning he does not have to pay anything as long as he appears for his court dates.

Philadelphia housing prices are up 6.1% over the last quarter and 22.2% over the last year, but is this sustainable? ESI’s Jonathan Tannen explores the argument that “this boom in prices represents the continued trend of Americans revaluing urban lifestyles,” regional job growth that has outpaced the national average, and “a decrease in overt racism, as new-comers are willing, or at least less likely to outright reject, moving to the ‘inner city’.” Tannen cautions that if this trend continues, “Philadelphia will need to shift its paradigm, from a city desperate to attract residents and investment, to one trying to manage it for the good of all,” and recommends strategies including 1) requiring developers to build affordable housing and higher-density small units, 2) requiring a diversity of types and densities of housing developments in neighborhoods to encourage integration, and 3) capturing the boom by taxing new wealth to provide investment in public education, institutions, and infrastructure.

The Pittsburgh Penguin’s new arena is the subject of a federal fair housing investigation, Keystone Crossroads’ Margaret J. Krauss reports. In 2007, the Penguins negotiated with the state, county, and city, agreeing to “keep the franchise in the city for 30 years, in exchange for a new arena and exclusive development rights around their old arena.” The Hill District Consensus Group, a neighborhood planning organization, filed the complaint against the project with HUD, arguing that “because there’s not one single unit that they plan to build that will be affordable for an average black family, that the result of their plan will discriminate against black families and is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.” The city had used eminent domain in the late 1950s to bulldoze nearly 80 city blocks of the Lower Hill district to build the Penguins former home, the Civic Arena.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission voted unanimously to investigate the Pennsylvania-American Water Company’s request for an annual revenue increase of approximately $107.9 million, or 16.4 percent, Lehigh Valley Live reports.  Pennsylvania-American, which provides water and wastewater services to about 2.3 million Pennsylvanians, “says the increase is needed to pay for constructing and replacing treatment facilities, infrastructure and equipment for providing high-quality service and meeting state and federal drinking water and wastewater standards.”

May 19th is Philadelphia’s annual Bike To Work Day. For those riding in in the morning, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has energizer stations providing snacks, bike lights, coffee, and flowers at 13th and Pine, the Penn Museum, along the Schuylkill River Trail, and Dilworth Park. Participants are encouraged to share photos on social media using the hashtag #BikeToWorkPHL

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