Pa. transportation advocate killed on Center City sidewalk

A minivan crashed into a newsstand at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard in Center City on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. Police said the van struck two pedestrians, fatally injuring one, identified as Peter Javsicas, 76, of West Mount Airy.

A 76-year-old pedestrian who died Tuesday night from injuries sustained in a vehicle crash outside Suburban Station was identified Wednesday as Peter Javsicas of West Mount Airy, a well-known advocate on transportation issues.

Javsicas died after a minivan traveling west on John F. Kennedy Boulevard on Tuesday morning tried to switch lanes at 16th Street, but instead struck an SUV, jumped a curb and hit a newsstand. Javsicas and another pedestrian were injured in the melee.

Javsicas founded Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions Inc., or PenTrans, in 2002 and served as its executive director until 2014, said Beverly A. Harper, a PenTrans co-chair.

“Safety was an issue for him, which was ironic,” said Dick Voith, a PenTrans board member.. “He also wanted to make sure there was good public transportation. He wanted there to be balance, for people to have options.”

Even after his retirement, Javsicas still participated and produced the newsletter for PenTrans. “He was the guy that held us all together and he was just a wonderful person, frankly,” said Voith.

While people knew Javsicas for his advocacy and generosity, there were other sides that people didn’t know much about, said Voith. “He was a very funny person. He had a wide and diverse history. He made documentary films. He grew up in New York. He was a great runner. He lived on a farm for a while. He had a very interesting life, and he was a very terrific person.”

Mayor Kenney said in a statement: “Peter devoted his life to improving all forms of transportation for Philadelphia and the region, and so his death from this crash is all the more wrenching to those who knew and worked with him.  My administration, through its Vision Zero initiative, remains committed to preventing all traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by 2030, and the death of Peter Javsicas is a stark reminder of the importance of that mission.”

Javsicas made his mark as a convener, said Sarah Clark Stuart, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. She credited him with being a champion for Act 89, a 2013 gas tax that created funding for transportation in the state.

Act 89 nearly doubled SEPTA’s budget. At the time, the regional transit agency was so financially strapped it was contemplating shutting down a significant portion of its service. Javsicas worked tirelessly for its passage, said Fran Kelly, SEPTA’s government affairs expert. Javsicas brought together legislators, SEPTA officials, businesses and transit users to make clear the agency’s need for more funding.

“He was a pretty fascinating guy to me, because of his very, very calm demeanor,” Kelly said, “but he was always very good at being prepared, and striking the right chord.”

Javsicas saw how transportation required interconnected systems, with public transportation, highways, and routes for bikers and pedestrians all interacting to move people, Kelly said.

“That’s what he really was,” he said, “a transportation man.”

Javsicas, his wife, Anne, and others founded the Northwest Village Network, a group that provides services and programs to help older neighbors live independently, stay active, and be socially engaged in the community through events and other activities.

He was a “founding father and the spirit behind the organization,” said Sara Allen, 75, vice president of the group.

 

Peter Javsicas (left) with State Sen. Art Haywood at a Northwest Village Network event.

Allen, who lives on the same block where Javsicas lived with his wife, said the couple had two children and four grandchildren.

After being struck, Javsicas and the other pedestrian, a 38-year-old man, were taken by medics to Hahnemann University Hospital. Javsicas suffered fractures in his hips, legs, and ankles, and was pronounced dead at 6:25 p.m. Tuesday, police said. The other man suffered injuries to his left leg.

It was about 11:40 a.m. Tuesday when a 25-year-old woman driving a Toyota Sienna tried to change lanes and hit the back of a Hyundai Santa Fe SUV.

Police said the minivan driver appeared to have panicked and lost control of her vehicle, hitting the accelerator as she jumped the northwest curb at 16th and JFK.  She struck the pedestrians, then slammed into the newsstand before the minivan crashed into the front window of a BB&T bank building.

A 35-year-old man who was working inside the newsstand suffered cuts and bruises, but did not need to go to the hospital, police said.

The minivan driver and the 29-year-old man who was driving the SUV remained at the scene and were not injured.

A police captain on Tuesday afternoon said he didn’t expect charges to be filed because the crash was an accident. 

[Updated, June 30: This story was updated to reflect the latest details in the police investigation.]