In 2013, the Economy League and the Philadelphia District Council of the Urban Land Institute released the Global Positioning Strategy (or GPS) for World Class Infrastructure in Greater Philadelphia. This Infrastructure GPS outlines goals, priority strategies, and key indicators to help focus and guide cross-sector collaboration to make our region’s infrastructure more effective and reliable. The GPS is the culmination of a multi-year regional priority setting and strategy development effort facilitated by the Economy League that has engaged more than 1,500 cross-sector leaders across our region.

Infrastructure GPS

Greater Philadelphia has convenient connections to regional, national, and global destinations and efficiently provides the key infrastructure necessary for business success and high quality of life. 

The Agenda

world class strategies

  • Develop Philadelphia International Airport as a world class facility
  • Improve intercity rail connections with
    key metros
  • Enhance capacity on the region's freight
    rail networks

World Class Strategies

  • Bring the region's transit systems up to a state of good repair
  • Upgrade aging roads and bridges in the region
  • Strengthen connections between the region's economic hubs

world class strategies

  • Modernize and protect the region's existing water infrastructure
  • Enhance regional energy infrastructure
  • Preserve and expand the region's networks of parks and open space

The Latest

Enhancing Greater Philadelphia's Global Reach

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What Will New Funding Mean for SEPTA?

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With new state funding in place, SEPTA has moved past a major fiscal crisis. Nick Frontino summarizes the agency's immediate plans for deploying the new resources and highlights key challenges that lie ahead for the region's largest transit operator. 

The Road to Funding

    • Transportation Funding Signing Ceremony Nov 2013

Given the circumstances just a week prior, the fact that on Monday, November 25th, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed into law a $2.4 billion funding package for transportation across the Commonwealth was nothing short of remarkable. Nick Frontino takes a look at the circumstances that led to the passage of this landmark legislation.

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Current Campaign

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Transportation Funding in PA

The 2013 passage of major transportation funding legislation in Pennsylvania marked a watershed moment for infrastructure in the Commonwealth.  The tireless efforts of a broad statewide coalition of transportation experts and advocates, including many organizations and individuals involved in the World Class initiative, were critical to the creation of the state’s…
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Global & National Connections

Passenger Air Connections

PHL provides nonstop international service to 25 countries whose combined GDP accounts for 25% of world economic output. By this measure, Greater Philadelphia ranks last among the 10 largest US metros.

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Combined GDP of Countries Served by Nonstop Passenger Air Service by Metro Area (2014)

Global & National Connections

Intercity Rail Ridership

Between 2011 and 2013, annual Amtrak ridership in Greater Philadelphia grew 6.5% to just under 5.4 million passengers - the third-highest regional total in the United States.

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Amtrak Ridership Growth by Metro Area (2011-2013)

Global & National Connections

Global Port Connections

Greater Philadelphia ranks 4th among peer metros for volume of both imports and exports at its seaports. While imports to the region outweigh exports considerably, the latter grew by 28% between 2008 and 2013.

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Seaport Exports by World Region of Origin and Destination by Metro Area (2013)

Regional Mobility

Transit Ridership

In 2012, the average Greater Philadelphian took 75 trips on public transit, placing our region 5th among the 10 largest US regions. While ridership fell in many peer metros between 2008 and 2012, our region saw modest growth.

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Transit Ridership Growth by Urbanized Area (2008-2012)

Regional Mobility

Transportation Choice

24% of regional jobs are located in communities with multi-modal access. By this measure, Greater Philadelphia ranks 5th among peer metros.

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Share of Jobs in Multi-Modal Communities by Metro Area (2010)*

Regional Mobility

Transportation State of Good Repair

In 2012, 973 bridges in the region were assessed as structurally deficient - a 7.1% improvement over the 2010 total but still short of state-of-good-repair goals.

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Condition of Bridges in Greater Philadelphia*

Sustainable Systems

Water Distribution Efficiency

In aggregate, the distribution efficiency of Greater Philadelphia's drinking water utilities is in line with that of other large providers around the US, though systems in many of the region's older communities face substantial leakage challenges due to aging infrastructure.

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Drinking Water System Infrastructure Leakage Index (2012)*

Sustainable Systems

Electric Reliability

Excluding disruptions caused by major weather events, the duration of the average power interruption for all four electric utilities in our region remained relatively constant between 2008 and 2012. This measure is a key indicator of everyday system reliability.

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Average Duration of Power Interruption by Electric Provider (2008-2012)

Sustainable Systems

Open Space Acreage

Between 2004 and 2011, the amount of protected open space in Greater Philadelphia grew by 29%. Protected acres now account for 23% of total land area in the region.

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Acres of Protected Open Space (2004-2011)*

Making an Impact

PHL and skyline

PHL and skyline

PHL's Capacity Enhancement Program

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is a focal point of travel for residents and visitors throughout Greater Philadelphia, but crowded runways have made delays frequent and limited expansion of international and domestic flights. To resolve this issue, PHL has worked in collaboration with federal, state, and local partners to develop the Capacity Enhancement Program (CEP), a $6.4 billion plan to construct a new runway, extend two existing runways, and expand terminal and cargo facility space.

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photo credit: Rick McMullin, Philadelphia International Airport


Developing the Infrastructure GPS

During the first half of 2013, the Economy League and the Philadelphia District Council of the Urban Land Institute brought together a 44-person Infrastructure Strategy Team to identify and build consensus around a prioritized set of strategies for our region. The infrastructure vision and aspirational goals for Greater Philadelphia presented in the Economy League’s Focus 2026 report framed this group’s work.

The World Class Infrastructure goals evolved from the Focus 2026 report and focus on enhancing Greater Philadelphia’s global and national connections, regional mobility, and energy, water, and open space networks.

To support the Strategy Team’s work, the Economy League summarized current research related to the key drivers of success for each goal and completed an analysis of current assets, challenges, and opportunities specific to our region. Over a period of several months, the team discussed and debated the most promising strategies for Greater Philadelphia to focus on to reach the 2026 Infrastructure goals. The recommendations that emerged from this intensive collaborative work serve as the basis for this GPS.

From a lengthy initial list of potential strategies, the team selected just three within each infrastructure focus area for regional leaders to work together on over the long-run. These priority strategies were viewed as being at the intersection of addressing crucial needs and capitalizing on current assets and opportunities in Greater Philadelphia.

As with organizational strategic plans, this GPS does not go so far as to lay out detailed tactics, but rather identifies the types of strategies and collaborative efforts that offer the greatest impact and “bang-for-the-buck” to make progress toward shared goals. The strategies presented in this GPS point toward opportunities to support and scale existing efforts in our region to maximize impact, as well as areas where new initiatives and investments are needed. It sets the stage for immediate initiatives and campaigns to be taken on by World Class partners and provides a framework for ongoing research, monitoring, and strategy adjustment by the Economy League.

As an open-source regional strategy framework, it is expected that this GPS will evolve over time and serve as a living document that can be updated to accommodate input from additional regional stakeholders or shifts in the education and talent landscape. The ultimate success of the GPS, however, will be measured by the extent to which regional leaders and organizations align behind its goals, metrics, and strategies and develop and implement work plans guided by its recommendations.