Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

Exploring Transportation – Nick Fellowship Update Week 2

Hello again,

First thing I learned, time does not slow down for the busy. This week flew by so fast and the work was flowing. At the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) I have been working on getting parcel data and mapping out the Lower North East Philadelphia District. Just over the course of the week I have gotten so much done and feel like I am exceeding expectations which means that people have been entrusting me with more responsibility and taking me seriously in the office.


There were a few interstitial engagements this week that really helped round out the experience for me and acted as productive breaks. The first was an intern welcome which the office held so people could meet all of the interns in the office and we could mingle. There were two things that really struck me at the welcome. The first is that it is refreshing and rewarding to talk with other people who truly care about and are interested in something you are. I was chatting with a bunch of people in the office and it was apparent that they got it and we could talk at an elevated level without having to inform each other on the history of urbanization or Philadelphia politics. The second thing was that with so many graduate planning students in the office, I could learn a lot about different approaches schools take to teaching planning and which one works best for me. I have more and more been considering going to urban planning or design school and this will be a great summer for figuring out if it is right for me and how it fits into my life and goals.

Another great learning experience was attending the last public meeting for input on the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) 2040 plan. I was able to leave work early one day to attend this meeting and take notes on what might be in store for the region. There was so much information and I think I learned so much by seeing how a different organization handles planning on a totally different scale. Some of the main takeaways are:

– The public does not engage with regional planning at the scale is should (there were seats for 70 and 15 attended)

– There is very little money for progress no matter how much we want it. Over the past 5 years funding for transport has decreased from $60 to 50 billion because funding avenues are drying up. This means all the money will be spent trying to maintain our unsustainable systems instead of investing in transit and density.

– Money is authority. The DVRPC is a funding distributor and an advisory body. It has no direct control over the planning process. The only way they can direct is by providing funding avenues or taking them away.

– The world in so many ways is still run by an older white male demographic and it makes me uncomfortable. Almost every person who was working for the DVRPC was a white male. I am also one and that makes me feel like I am playing into the perpetuation of a messed up system. While I try to learn how to be an ally to many people, I recognize I cannot speak for everyone nor will I try, but my hope is that as I grow, I can work to change this and embrace diversity to have more comprehensive and responsible planning. I was also the only person under the age of 45 in attendance. A 2040 plan should not be drawn out by one demographic of people who cannot speak for all, and in the case of age, will not be around when their plan is complete.

Bottom line, the meeting brought a lot to light and I felt very strongly about what I heard and saw.


Through the Mayor’s Internship Program this week we learned about public safety by hearing from a panel which included the Police, Fire, and Prison Commissioners. I was impressed and learned a lot about not only how the departments functioned, but about how they play in to the bigger city picture. Their approaches to their fields are more progressive than I would have expected as Philadelphia is an old city with old traditions, which was nice to hear about.

I have been told I talk a lot, and I guess that translates to the keyboard as well. Sorry.

Until next time.




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