September 11: Many thoughts on SEPTA | Houston’s bus redesign | Monument Lab

Transit’s the talk of the town in today’s news. Civic and cultural assets, too.

The transportation secretary, agriculture secretary, fire commissioner, and PennDOT all voice concern over the GOP-backed House plan to redirect billions of dollars, WITF’s Katie Meyer reports. They all have the same message—these “surplus” funds are committed for future projects, and would force agencies to renegotiate on the commitments made to farmers and volunteer emergency workers. Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards cautioned proposed cuts “could mean a 30 percent reduction in operations and fare hikes.”

Speaking of agencies impacted by the proposed state budget, the Philadelphia Citizen’s Diana Lind has a few thoughts on what SEPTA needs to change to remain viable, including an OTIS-Chamber of Commerce committee, streamlined bus service, and finding new funding sources. For more on SEPTA’s response to the GOP House budget proposal, check out Jim Saksa’s in-depth rundown.

Meanwhile, SEPTA may be taking cues from Houston’s dramatic bus-network redesign, writes Jason Laughlin. In response to the city’s unsuccessful piecemeal attempts to meet booming development, Houston’s transit agency spent two years on an overhaul of bus system focused on frequency, efficiency, and coherent routes. The result? “Improved on-time rates, fewer rider complaints, and a 7 percent rise in ridership with bus and light rail ridership combined.” However, in eliminating redundancies to streamline the network, the agency recognized that some communities ended up with less frequent service.

On to Philly’s civic assets: Jen Kinney tells the tale of two rec centers, the Lawncrest Recreation Center and Sturgis Playground. Both neighborhoods straddled between gentrification and decline, yet Sturgis got a significant makeover in 2013. Urban design firm Gehl Studio and Next City surveyed users of both Sturgis and Lawncrest, noting the role of council representation in light of changing demographics and community-led public-private partnerships. Neighborhood organizers behind both rec centers share their hopes and concerns on Rebuild.

On Philly’s cultural assets in civic spaces: Conrad Benner shares his two picks for the launch of Monument Lab, a curated exhibition to incite a “city-wide conversation about history, memory, and our collective future.” Mayor Kenney joins the stage with curators Paul M. Farber and Ken Lum, Jane Golden, and three Monument Lab artists to discuss How to Make a Monument and the City Hall Courtyard houses the official kick-off.

Philly’s love affair with public spaces: local officials, developers, and organizers will be discuss small changes that transform urban spaces at a very PlanPhilly happy hour this Wednesday, September 13th. Art Commission Chair Alan Greenberger, the Navy Yard’s Prema Gupta, the Land Bank’s Angel Rodriguez, PHS’s Matt Rader, and Wexford’s Joe Reagan make up the all-star lineup on this timely discussion. Have thoughts on what you want the panelists to talk about? Hit us up with your questions beforehand.

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