Case Study: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Vision Zero Target

2050

Vision Zero Adoption

2016

Community Description

Philadelphia, located in southeastern Pennsylvania, is the state’s largest city with a population of approximately 1.6 million people. It is renowned for its rich historical heritage, notably being the site where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed. The city’s transportation network is highly developed, featuring an extensive system of roads, highways, and public transit options including buses, trolleys, subways, and regional rail services. Philadelphia’s grid street layout facilitates navigation and contributes to its comprehensive urban planning.


Challenges

Philadelphia experiences high fatality rates compared to their peer cities that adopted Vision Zero, especially in neighborhoods where most residents live below the poverty line. Speed is the number one contributing factor in determining if a crash is fatal in Philadelphia, and it accounts for 40 percent of fatal and serious injury crashes in the City. On average, 5 children are reported to be involved in crashes daily in the City, and vulnerable users (people walking, riding motorcycles, and biking) are disproportionately killed in Philadelphia streets (46 percent).


Safe System Focus

Equity, safe speeds, safe streets, safe people, safe vehicles, safety data, and Vision Zero for youth.


Funding

In the Vision Zero Action Plan, the City has a comprehensive list of Vision Zero projects and grants that will be used to fund each project. Philadelphia was awarded Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Implementation Grants in 2022 for the “Philadelphia Vision Zero Capital Plan” application. In 2023, the City was awarded SS4A Implementation Grants for the “Complete & Safe Streets Philadelphia: Vision Zero High-Injury Network Corridors” application.


Lessons Learned

  • In larger cities, having strong leadership from elected officials can help get Safe System efforts started and a multi-disciplinary coalition formed. 
  • Using existing Vision Zero action plans around the country that could provide the basis of a new city’s action plan is important. It is also crucial to start simply rather than overthinking the draft action plan. 
  • Engaging the community during the development of a plan and after improvements are in place is key to overcome resistance to change. Providing electronic and printed resources in multiple languages is effective in providing equal participation opportunities for the entire community. 

  • Working with the media on messaging around traffic crashes has a measurable impact on public support for improvements to make roads safer for everyone. 
  • Sharing accomplishments regularly, such as annual reports, tools for visualization of improvements, in-person project showcases, and website and social media posts helps build community understanding and support of the Safe System approach. 
  • Detailed action items, responsible parties, as well as frequent coalition meetings, are key for sustaining stakeholder collaborations. 

  • A comprehensive data-driven plan provides a strong basis for grant applications. 
  • Understanding that commitment and recommitment to Vision Zero and the Safe System approach are necessary will help cities continue to make progress in the long term.  
  • Making community outreach and education part of the Vision Zero planning process can help address anticipated community resistance to automated enforcement programs. 


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