If you're riding SEPTA's Regional Rail, here's hoping you're light and limber - and prepared to make a small leap to the platform at your stop. Disgruntled riders of the Trenton line have told us that their commute regularly involves minor acrobatics.
Here's what's going on: Most station platforms are old and aren't level with SEPTA's new trains. To deal with this, SEPTA installed boxes called "step-ups" to the platforms so passengers can step right off the train without a big drop.
But the box system doesn't always work. Sometimes, several Trenton line riders told us, the train doesn't line up perfectly with the step-ups. In those cases, the only way off the train is to jump. If you're lucky (or if you ask), a conductor will help you take the deep step down.
Should tax-exempt nonprofits pay something for city services? Or do nonprofits provide benefits to the community that outweigh their use of city services?
Last year, the city reaped more than $500,000 from "payments in lieu of taxes" from for-profit businesses getting tax breaks. Developers like John Westrum, Dyott Street and Berks Street Corp. are a few of the contributors.
Why would a business pay the city voluntarily?
Pennsylvania gives state and local tax breaks to businesses that set up shop in blighted areas known as "Keystone Opportunity Zones."
Mayor Nutter wants residents and businesses to fork over an additional $90 million in property taxes in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
But many well-known institutions on valuable land have nothing to worry about — like the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Drexel. They're nonprofits, so they don't pay property taxes.
While Councilman Curtis Jones and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell were proposing to legalize those obnoxious "We Buy Houses!" signs last month, the Nutter administration was quietly cooking up some sign-fighting tactics of its own. Its new plan to fight back against so-called bandit signs is two-fold, said Brian Abernathy, chief of staff to the Managing Director: ramp up enforcement with a staff dedicated to tracking down offenders, and get city agencies to focus on taking the signs down.
What was the city previously doing to rid our utility poles of these blasted signs?
Not much. In 2010, the city wrote only eight tickets for illegal signs. When we called the Streets Department and Licenses and Inspections to ask about current enforcement, they both declined to comment.
Last week, Council held a hearing about the city's budget in the heart of a Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood. In today's podcast, reporters Holly Otterbein and Juliana Reyes talk about how the meeting drew lots of smart, passionate residents, and why this proves that events like these should be the rule, rather than the exception.
Currently, Council members hold community hearings like this infrequently. And they still haven't scheduled a single hearing about their own budget.
Philadelphia's property-tax system is undergoing monumental changes.
So was the property-tax system in Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh ... until that plan went belly-up this year.
On Friday, I took to WHYY's airwaves to report on Allegheny County's mistakes, and explore whether Philly can learn any lessons from the debacle across the state.
It's Our Money
The TV show "Parks & Rec" likes to send up the absurdity that can be community meetings, portraying them as long, boring and punctuated by unhinged residents shouting about UFOs and national security.
Here in the Cradle of Liberty, we know better. Maybe because we've been at it for so long, the city's residents are known for being informed, and more importantly, showing up to fight for their beliefs. The latest proof of this: Wednesday night's budget hearing at the St. John's AME Church in Southwest Philly.
More than 70 people crowded into the church's basement. The majority of folks who sounded off on the city's budget — including block captains, union members, civic leaders and developers — were smart and passionate.