Re-Thinking Streets and Public Right-of-Way

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City of Philadelphia - Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability





Organization Overview:

The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (OTIS) directs the policies and practices that improve quality of life in all of Philadelphia’s communities through safe and sustainable infrastructure.

Project Name:

Re-thinking Streets and Public Right-of-Way
Project Type: 
Policy Analysis; Strategic Plan

Project Overview:

The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (OTIS) seeks a motivated Fels MPA student to explore creative funding and maintenance solutions for managing transportation-related improvements in the City’s Public Right-of-Way (ROW).

The City is responsible for overseeing over 2,500 miles of street, 9,500 transit stops, 320 bridge structures, 450 lanes miles of bike facilities, 2,500 Indego bikes, and 140 Indego stations, and 6,500 miles of sewers and water mains. For a city of this age and size, the list of outstanding maintenance obligations and improvements is unsustainable. The City is under-resourced financially and constrained in terms of capacity to adequately address these needs. To fulfill current and future infrastructure obligations, the City must rethink its approach to
managing public ROW space.

The primary goal of this project is to identify new and existing financial tools, such as transportation impact fees, expanding outdoor advertising, and outdoor dining fees to support the management and maintenance of existing and proposed assets within the ROW that contribute to the health, safety, and welfare of the City and its residents. At a high level, the relevant questions are:

  • How can we think about ROW differently than we do now?
  • What are the categories/typologies of assets in the ROW?
  • Who are the typical public and private ROW users?
  • How are they using the ROW (temporary, permanent, recurrent seasonal, etc)?
  • What, if anything, are they being charged to use the ROW?  Is it a one-time fee, a renewable fee, or an as-needed fee?
  • How can current or future fees be collected and used to maintain the assets within the ROW?  That is, how can we ensure that money collected goes toward its intended purpose?
  • Can we treat the ROW as an economic asset that generates greater benefits and economic returns for the City?
  • What are the risks?


Deliverable(s): The project will involve three sequential deliverables:

  1. Research Memo – Conduct comparative research on best practices in peer cities and identify example initiatives and programs in other cities that use public ROW space to generate better societal and economic returns.
  2. Technical Memo – Assess the City’s existing commercialized public ROW programs. Identify existing constraints as well as opportunities for expansion. Using information compiled in the research memo, explore the application of peer city initiatives in the context of Philadelphia. Also examine the legal and policy implications that may impact the example initiatives. If time permits, conduct a high level economic analysis to estimate the revenue potential in each proposed initiative. The analysis will calculate potential revenue streams as well as cost reductions attributed to reassigning ROW maintenance responsibilities.
  3. Final Report – A report summarizing the results of the above research and analysis, along with a series of implementation strategy recommendations and topics requiring further investigation that support possible policy outcomes to outline how the City can generate greater value of public ROW space.

The Fellow will work together with a team of City staff. The primary contact will be Patrick Clark, Transportation Planner & Grants Coordinator. Other professionals who will be actively involved in assisting the effort include Michael Carroll (Deputy Managing Director of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability), Liz Lankenau (Director of Infrastructure Program Coordination) as well as members of the Office of Complete Streets, Department of Streets, and Law Department.

Project Timeline: Ideally, the project would be complete by end of the Spring 2021 semester; however, the August timeline would also work for us.

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326