A study released by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute this month showed that many young Americans say they can get around without a car. They even prefer taking mass transit, hopping on a bicycle, or walking. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has reported similar findings.
For a walkable city that has experienced a downtown residential boom, the studies underscore the value of public and private initiatives to promote cycling and car-sharing services, keep Center City and nearby neighborhoods clean and safe, expand recreational access along the Delaware River and Schuylkill, and upgrade major public spaces, like City Hall's Dilworth Plaza.
Certainly the prospects of the city's planned bike-sharing program look more promising as more city residents eschew driving. Its launch, expected in the fall of 2014, can't come too soon. Some 35 other cities already offer bikes for short-term rental, linking commuters with transit stops and tourists with historic and other sites.
In the coming months, Mayor Nutter's aides should be seeking bids for the bike-sharing system. City capital dollars have been allocated, and there's every reason to expect that state and federal grants are part of the mix of funding needed to assure an ample fleet of bicycles and convenient docking stations around Center City and beyond.
Work also needs to continue on the fledgling bike and pedestrian path along the Delaware to catch up with the Schuylkill River Trail, which is being extended southward.
For all that, the transportation backbone of a city where it's possible to live without a car will remain SEPTA's extensive train, bus, and trolley network. The agency's operating budget and maintenance are facing an uncertain future, however, in the absence of a comprehensive solution to Pennsylvania's statewide transportation funding problem. Plans have been on the drawing board in Harrisburg for several years, so it's long past time for Gov. Corbett and Republican legislative leaders to map out a plan to pay for roads and transit.