Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tram Scams and Philadelphia's Aversion to Riverfront Planning

Remember the Delaware River tram? A couple of disparate events this week set me thinking about that mysterious bi-state boondoggle, which squandered $15 million and left the Camden and Philadelphia waterfronts with two towering chunks of concrete. The chilling accounts about the stranded passengers aboard the Roosevelt Island tram made me glad all over again that the hapless Delaware River Port Authority never carried through with its tram scam. None of the New York papers give the height of the Roosevelt Island gondolas, but the Delaware River tram cars would hover 160-feet over the river, where the winds can get pretty gusty. Imagine being stuck in a swaying gondola with no food or facilities for 11 hours while waiting for the DRPA to come to the rescue? Neither the New York Times nor the Daily News spare the details of the ordeal.

The other reason I've been thinking about the ridiculous Delaware River tram has to do with Ed Rendell's announcement this week that he is imposing a moratorium on riverfront development because of insufficient planning. The tram, of course, was conceived by Rendell in a flush of crazed optimism about all the waterfront development that was about to pop at Penn's Landing. Rendell was convinced that he needed only to hook up with a rich developer to get something built there. As for planners - who needs 'em? Unfortunately, despite Rendell's brief liaison with developer Mel Simon, the Penn's Landing waterfront remains a vast asphalt parking lot today, which I suppose matches nicely with the concrete tram tower.

But suddenly Rendell has just got religion on riverfront planning. For reasons that no one can't quite figure out, the governor is worried that the condo-and-casino rush is taking place without adequate planning. He and State Sen. Vince Fumo want to put the brakes on so the city can actually conduct a serious master plan. As I write in tomorrow's Changing Skyline, I'll believe it when I see it.


Blogger vincedean said...

The idea of a tram across the river was always questionable. It is unecassary and unsightly. Finally there is a moton for a design plan! As for the timing of the timing of this moratorium, I find it suspect. It is interesting that it comes directly on the heals of the developers slots palor prposal submissions. It's no secret who Rendell favors and "THE DONALD'S" proposal is nowhere near the banks of the Delaware. This conviently inconviences the other devlopers who do not own the river-bed rights. Leaving only the Planet Hollywood,which has local poltical ties,with ownership of the aforementioned rights. So much for planning,so much for "ethics reform",so much for NOTHING !!!

1:10 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

The tram was a really bad idea, but the moratorium is not—if, as you say, it really happens. I am not holding my breath.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I never thought the tram across the river was a bad idea, and certainly not because it is too high or the fear of it breaking down. I don't think the city should be afraid of building a tram because of one isolated incident that occurred in new york. While the ferry across is efficient, the tram would have provided a nice alternative, especially when the ferry line gets overly crowded on concert nights.

9:56 AM  
Blogger normajean said...

I'm afraid that the moratorium isn't going to amount to much. Unless Mayor Street embraces the idea and pushes for a real master plan of the waterfront, the Governor's plan is only going to stop certain projects. Let's hope the Mayor sees the wisdom of a true moratorium and good planning.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

they need to hire these guys to do a master plan.

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't there a River plan, that included the river road extension of Columbus BLVD and reclaimation of several brownfields released a few years ago?
I have a copy of it that i got from the city...wouldn't this be considered a master plan, since it was rather detailed?

as for the tram, place in the same area of unfinished business as DisneyQuest, the submarine ride at the aquarium and the Laser show that was built for too small of a series of floating platforms...that ones still in storage.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a dream that Penn's Landing was connected to Old City by a Calatrava designed walkway over I-95, with beautiful green spaces and even high rises of Mandeville-like qualities.

If Milwaukee can have a breathtaking museum addition designed by such a phenom, why can't Philadelphia try to employ this innovative designer in a locale that clearly is important to the city, but has defied its corrupt and near-sighted developers/politicians?

9:19 PM  

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