Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) Philadelphia kicked off 2015 with its first lunch seminar on January 10th with a presentation by Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s (DVRPC) Shawn Megill Legendre regarding The Circuit (connectthecircuit.org), an initiative launched in 2012 to build out the region’s multi-use trail network.
Legendre, senior research analyst in DVRPC’s offices of Environmental Planning and Energy & Climate Change Initiatives, began by pointing out that “1/3 of workers in Philadelphia depend on active transportation [(walking and biking)] for at least part of their commute.”
Supported in part by a $10 million grant from the William Penn Foundation, the initiative to complete The Circuit is one goal of DVRPC’s long-range plan – Connections 2040. The region-wide initiative – unique in the United States – is a partnership of myriad Philadelphia-area organizations.
To date, the effort has identified 300 miles of multi-use trails and trail segments, including the Schuylkill River Trail, the Lawrence-Hopewell Trail, and the new Penn Street cycle path; 50 trail-miles in progress; and 400 miles of planned trails – including the Spring Garden Street cycle path, the Camden Greenway, and part of the East Coast Greenway, as well as the Manayunk and Gray’s Ferry Crossing bridge projects.
As Legendre explained in response to a question from the audience, the trails in question are used for both recreation and transportation, depending on the locality. DVRPC is tasked with planning transportation investments, thus Legendre’s work is focused on transport (although partnering organizations represent a diversity of interests).
Included in the presentation was a summary of existing trail usage statistics from bicycle/pedestrian counts, showing volume of use and commuting patterns. Data showed the Schuylkill River Trail to receive the heaviest usage while exhibiting the most discernible commuting patterns.
During Q&A, another audience member inquired as to whether the greatest challenges to completing The Circuit were political, monetary, due to local relationships, or to right-of-way acquisition. Legendre explained that these factors vary widely depending on the particular trail and local conditions. Interestingly, Legendre noted funding to be increasingly among the less challenging problems.
Someday Eastern Pennsylvania will have a network of trails and protected bikeways. If the public realm of US post-industrial cities has declined, the creation of safe, useful, human-powered transport is one sign of an adaptive rejuvenation.