By Ariel Ben-Amos, published in phillymag.com
Complete streets are huge assets to communities, but they’re not easy for a strapped city Streets department to manage.
Like many future urban planners, I grew up reading The Power Broker, the biography of Robert Moses, the famous chair of the New York’s Tri-Borough Bridge Authority (yes Virginia, even bridge authority chairmen can be famous). Moses built seven bridges, two tunnels and over 400 miles of parkway in his lifetime. I admired his ability to get infrastructure built through sheer will power, and lamented his literal bull dozing of neighborhoods in the name of progress. I also believed in the “big man” theory of urban planning, that big projects were built on the back of big personalities.
When I started working for the City of Philadelphia for my first job out of graduate school, my new role models weren’t the chair of any authority or the executive director of an agency. Rather it was folks like the Assistant Chief Traffic Engineer who became my inspiration. It was because of the unsung people working in the bowels of government, who managed projects and solved administrative problems, that I could take SEPTA everywhere growing up and a testament to the fact that I still don’t have a driver’s license at age 34.