Three-alarm fire destroys North Philly church

A three-alarm blaze consumed a North Philadelphia church near Temple University Thursday afternoon, 6ABC reports. Pastor Frederick Tookes of the Original Apostolic Faith Church of the Lord Jesus Christ 1500 block of North Broad Street told 6ABC that his family church has served the community since the 1970s and can’t imagine how the fire ignited. “We closed up Tuesday night, made sure building was secure, made sure it was safe and then I got a call that our building was on fire,” Tookes said. Due to smoke in the tunnel near the Cecil B. Moore Station, SEPTA suspended Broad Street Line trains between Erie and Walunt-Locust Stations and redirected passengers to enhanced Route 4 bus service. The fire started before 2:30 p.m. and was under control by 4 p.m. About 70 people have been evacuated, most from student housing. No one from the church was inside at the time and no injuries have been reported.

PA Army Corps offices confident about congressional spending bill

Both the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia District offices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are optimistic that the $1.3 trillion congressional spending bill will mean good things for Pennsylvania waterways, WHYY News’ Keystone Crossroads reports. Last week’s 2,200-page omnibus spending bill nearly doubled funding for construction work led by the Army Corps, though the Corps’ headquarters is still working out how the monies will be allocated. Philadelphia officials “hope to see funding to complete a long-running project to deepen the Delaware River channel from 40 feet to 45 feet, which is in the final year, according to district spokesperson Ed Voight. “If the Corps is close to finishing a project it generally tries to do so,” Voight logicizes. “Anybody does. If you’re 90 percent done on a major project, you’re usually going to finish it.”

Dockless bike share: the future is deliberately considerate.

As sexy as the allure of dockless bike share technology may be, Philadelphia’s deliberate decision for bike share 2.0 must focus on preserving and promoting ridership diversity, argues Mark Dent, contributing to the Philadelphia Citizen. “Diversity is nearly nonexistent” in bike share programs in much of the rest of the country, Dent writes, and “numerous dockless companies have shown few efforts to promote their services to underserved communities.” Philly has been paving the way compared to peer cities’ bike share programs, an edge we must work to maintain. Dent cites a 2015 PlanPhilly article by Jon Geeting that estimated 80 percent of bicycle commuters in the city were white, 10 percent Asian, 4 percent black and the rest another race. By summer 2017, Indego shared that 67 percent of riders were white, 12.5 percent black, 10 percent Asian, 6 percent Latino, and 4.5 percent more than one race. About 30 percent of those commuters earned $35,000 or less. D.C.’s Capital Bikes, by comparison, reported in 2016 that 80 percent of its users were white and 4 percent black. Both Spin bike share in Seattle and China-based Ofo told Dent that the compamies didn’t keep track of data on their users’ race or income levels. Other dockless companies Dent reached out didn’t respond. “Nothing from any of those companies—even a mission statement on their websites—hints at the importance of reaching underserved people or areas,” Dent writes.  

So then. The opportunity with dockless lies in the price and the footprint. The challenge is the business model, Dent concludes. The existing “app-based payment systems are simple but require users to have smartphones and credit cards, both detriments to lower income citizens” and “scattering 3,000 bikes across a city doesn’t familiarize new users with Philadelphia.” Philadelphia’s struggle to make Indego’s users reflect the city’s diverse population as a whole suggests that bike access alone won’t solve the problem, Jim Saksa wrote in January. So as Philly considers bike share 2.0, Dent raises the question: could Philly force the industry to adjust and maintain our diversity goals?

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