Limiting our Potential: How Center City Congestion Impacts all Philadelphians

In recent years, Center City Philadelphia has grown in its attractiveness and activity, and with it has seen an increase in the number of pedestrians, transit riders, cyclists, and drivers of all types that share its narrow street grid. At the same time, the emergence of ridesharing and online shopping has put new kinds of demands on the grid. The resulting traffic congestion impacts the lives of residents throughout the city, costing them valuable time and limiting their ability to reliably access employment opportunities and amenities.

While congestion is in part a signal of success, if not managed properly it reduces the attractiveness of downtown Philadelphia as a business location, limiting job growth and opportunities for Philadelphia neighborhood residents and undermining a key competitive advantage of the city. Further, delays impact buses to a greater extent than cars, deepening existing equity challenges and setting into motion a vicious cycle by incentivizing riders with sufficient means to find alternatives, compromising the future competitiveness of the bus system while adding even more traffic to the roads.

This report does not evaluate potential causes or offer tactical recommendations for mitigating congestion, or address issues related to speed and safety, but rather seeks to quantify the economic and social losses that congestion engenders. The scale and scope of these impacts demonstrate that there is much to gain from addressing this issue.

Philadelphia Congestion Report Cover 2019
“While congestion is a sign of our recent success, its imposes costs that limit our attractiveness and put a ceiling on our growth.
When the street grid gets crowded, buses experience worse delays than cars. This means that riders who rely on transit suffer even more than drivers. This can create a vicious cycle by making transit service relatively less attractive, which can lead to ridership declines that put even more vehicles on the road.”
-Dr. Richard Voith
ESI President and Principal
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