October 14: SEPTA strike averted | Bus driver stories | City Branch study | Eastern State Penitentiary grant | RACP funding | housing market improves | Nutter’s planning pride

Good morning, Philly. Here’s what we’re reading:

The Inquirer reports that SEPTA and regional rail locomotive engineers have reached tentative agreement for new contract terms, likely averting the possibility of a strike. The engineers have been working without a contract since 2010, and the new contract would result in a 13.3% wage increase after April next year. The possible new contract would end in July 2015, which means negotiations for the next contract are imminent. SEPTA is also negotiating with Transit Workers Union Local 234, which represents bus, subway and trolley operators.

A SEPTA bus driver shared anonymous observations from years on the job with PhillyMag. Among the driver’s insights are some suggestions to make SEPTA better: Riders need to be more respectful (don’t leave trash, puke, or play your music too loud). Management needs to hit the streets twice a year to do the very jobs they supervise. Also, don’t make buses stop at every corner.

Could the City Branch find new life yet?  Next City unpacks the City Branch Transit Feasibility Assessment undertaken by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to see how the City Branch could accommodate transit in the form of bus-rapid transit, and if a park could coexist with a new transit route.

It is full-on Terror Behind the Walls season at Eastern State Penitentiary, which brings in needed funds to stabilize and repair the landmark former prison. Now there’s more good news for Philly’s fifth most visited tourist site: Eastern State Penitentiary received a $500,000 state grant to do stabilization and waterproofing work.

Nearly 80 Philadelphia projects are seeking funding from state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, amounting to a $341 million ask. The Business Journal breaks down some recent RACP requests – for projects like Dietz & Watson’s new facility and the Comcast Innovation & Technology Center.

Third quarter numbers show Philadelphia’s housing market continues to improve, the Inquirer reports. An analysis of third quarter data demonstrates that Philly’s sales volume is up and economist Kevin Gillen found “saw some of the biggest post-bubble price appreciation in many of the city’s lower-income areas, while higher-income neighborhoods appeared to take a timeout.”

Mayor Nutter has always been a pro-planning mayor and he counted his administration’s planning and zoning accomplishments before the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Planning Association yesterday. You can read his speech here.

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