Proposal to Reverse 24th St Sparks Debate
The South of South Neighborhood Association (SOSNA) is encouraging the City to reverse the direction of South 24th St between Bainbridge St and Lombard St
But first! 🐈⬛ A reader of The Fitler Focus has found a friendly black cat near 24th and Spruce, and is trying to find its owner. More here.
By James Young
Since its establishment in 2013, Grays Ferry Triangle has provided residents and visitors alike with a fountain, public seating, an Indego bike rental rack, and a diverse array of greenery.
The Fitler Focus is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Despite these attractions, the City government still views the Triangle as a “temporary” space, though there are no official plans to remove the pedestrian area.
The South of South Neighborhood Association (SOSNA) aims to improve the plaza through a project they call the Grays Ferry Triangles Gateway, which would also cement the plaza as a permanent fixture.
This plan would increase the amount of public space in and around the Triangle, add raised sidewalks, and improve the greenery and furniture in the plaza.
Reversing 24th St
However, one aspect of the proposal remains contentious for residents of Grays Ferry and the surrounding neighborhoods: SOSNA plans to work alongside the City to reverse the direction of South 24th St between Bainbridge St and Lombard St, which they claim would reduce traffic and increase safety for pedestrians.
To determine the viability of this plan, SOSNA requested an official traffic study from the City government to analyze traffic data in the area and predict the effects of the 24th St reversal.
As a result of this study, the City reported: “Reversing the direction of 24th St from one-way southbound to one-way northbound between Lombard St and Bainbridge St appears to have minimal impact. . . this modification appears viable and will allow for simplification of the 24th St, Grays Ferry Ave, 23rd St & Bainbridge St intersections.”
Stephen Rodriguez, a representative of SOSNA, says the current traffic volumes are unsustainable as pedestrian traffic continues to increase. According to him, due to the fact that 23rd and 24th streets run in the same direction, “all the traffic [in the neighborhood] is bottlenecked through the intersection” of Grays Ferry Ave and Bainbridge St. This can cause backups on Grays Ferry Ave that extend “as far as Point Breeze.”
Despite this, some locals remain concerned about the impact of this change; one Fitler Square resident, who wished to remain anonymous, believes that the proposal could “heavily increase traffic on Naudain St, and create a dangerous situation for the Philadelphia School.”
The source also claimed that the City’s traffic study was insufficient, and that SOSNA has not made all data from the study available to the public.
Rodriguez countered this idea, stating that most of the opposition to the plan comes from those who currently live on 24th St between South St and Lombard St. The reversal would substantially increase traffic on that particular block but would benefit all other residents of the area. Due to this fact, Rodriguez believes that the reversal would be fairer to all residents.
On the Fitler Square Neighborhood Association website, commenter Peg Kendrick points out that SOSNA should not be advocating for this initiative in the first place. “We live on the north side of South Street, and SOSNA has repeatedly told us that they don’t represent us,” Kendrick wrote. “How can SOSNA be asking about a change in traffic north of South if they don’t represent that area?”
Changes in street direction are not unprecedented in Center City; in 2020, the Streets department reversed the direction of Cherry St between 21st and 22nd St in an effort to reduce local traffic congestion.
In 2017, the City launched a new program, known as Vision Zero, that aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious accidents by 2030. An average of 104 fatal traffic accidents occur in Philadelphia each year, though according to PennDOT, only one fatal accident has occurred in the area surrounding Grays Ferry Triangle since 2009.
SOSNA is currently raising funds for the renovation of the Triangle; of their $30,000 funding goal, they have currently raised nearly $9,000. The full cost of the construction will total over $3 million, and the majority of the funding will be provided by State and City agencies. If the funding goal is met, construction will begin in 2025, though Rodriguez stated that the renovation of the Triangle and the reversal of 24th St are “not necessarily linked,” and the reversal could take place “at any time.”