Thursday, October 27, 2016

Meet the New Boss, Not the same as the Old Boss

Mayor Kenney has taken an interesting step forwards in making Philadelphia city streets more user friendly for pedestrians, cyclists, and cars. He has appointed Philadelphia's first Complete Streets Director, Kelley Yemen. Ms. Yemen comes with a strong pedigree, including a Masters in City and Regional Planning from Rutgers and 9 years of experience. Including four years working in New York City working for the city as a Project Manager and Pedestrian Planner.

As the Complete Streets Director, Ms. Yemen’s job will be to act as traffic director for the city streets and water departments, planning commission, and licensing and inspection to coordinate plans to improve roadways for cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists. With her first stated goal will be to examine how the city can create a improve how the Philadelphia's bike lanes can better connected.

I hope she is up for the challenge, because she has her work cut out for her. First off she has to deal with multiple city agencies all of whom operate like medieval fiefdoms. All too often accountable to no one, even within their own organization.

Then of course there is the problem of the current status of the bike lanes in Philadelphia. All too often they are a patchwork network that seem to start and stop in a random manner. Creating a more uniform network is going to take a lot of work. Work that will be hampered by the deal with the devil made the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia with the Philadelphia City Council.

That deal was when the BCGP in exchange for an ineffective Safe Streets Bill gave Philadelphia City Council final approval over the installation any new bike lane that removes a lane of traffic or parking. No matter what city engineers recommend. Worse yet it does not have to be a council member who is responsible for a that district. Any council member can halt the installation of bike lane. With nothing more than their word, with no requirement for public meetings or input.

Ms. Yemen also has to deal with the aftermath of Andrew Stober, the former spokesman for the Mayors of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU). Who more often than not communicated what the Mayor’s office wanted to do. While doing practically nothing explain and advocate for what the Mayor’s office wanted to do.

I wish her luck and offer my full support to Ms. Yemen. I hope she is able to handle and has the authority to overcome the internal politics that delay and prevent timely problem resolution.

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